Monday, January 25, 2016

Daily Times Editorial Jan 25, 2016

Attack investigations Director General Inter-Services Public Relations Lieutenant-General Asim Saleem Bajwa updated the media on January 23rd on the ongoing investigations into the attack on the Bacha Khan University. He revealed that the attackers had entered Pakistan through Torkham. The four facilitators of the attack arrested so far and the main facilitator (code named Target A) helped the terrorists clear the Torkham check post and then transported them to Mardan, where they stayed at the house of one of the facilitators called Adil. This gentleman, a mason, made a map of the university while he was doing some work there. He then briefed the attackers on the layout of the campus. His son was also one of the facilitators. The other two facilitators, Riaz and Noorullah from Mardan hired the rickshaw they used to take the attackers from Mardan to the Bacha Khan University, Charsadda. While all this has been gathered from the four facilitators in custody, the main facilitator, Target A, is still being sought. Interestingly, Target A's wife and niece purchased the weapons the attackers used from Darra Adam Khel and surreptitiously transported them to Mardan. Target A and his wife and niece are now on the run and being pursued through intelligence-based operations. The Director General also informed that 'Khalifa' Umar Mansoor and his deputy Qari Zakir of the Geedar group of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan made 10 calls to the attackers on the day of the assault. Lieutenant-General Bajwa took pains to clarify that the Afghanistan government was not being blamed. All the investigations show only that the operation was planned and controlled from Afghan soil. As to the identity of the killed attackers, the ISPR Director General said one of them had been identified as Amir Rehman from South Waziristan, while the identities of the other three were still being investigated. Bajwa also revealed that the results of the investigation had been conveyed by Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif to President Ashraf Ghani. Meanwhile Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif presided over a high level meeting of the military top brass in Peshawar to review progress in the investigations and ponder over the management of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border to prevent cross-border terrorism. Getting to grips with the Bacha Khan University attack, its similarities to the December 2014 Army Public School Peshawar massacre, and the emerging threat to all educational institutions all over the country points to the new challenges and transformed dynamic of the counter-terrorism campaign. While some midnight oil may have to be burnt to get our head around this conundrum, it is instructive to look back at events and developments since the Army Public School incident. Even more than the Bacha Khan University atrocity, the Peshawar massacre was much more shocking for being the first of its kind and given the scale of the bloodshed. Some sought comfort in the fact that the death toll in Charsadda was only 21 killed, whereas the Peshawar butchery had slaughtered 150 people, most of them students in both cases of course. What bears reflection though is whether the 'successes' of Operation Zarb-e-Azb in clearing North Waziristan in particular and FATA in general of the terrorist presence and the relatively long lag (six months) before the terrorists struck in Peshawar had not induced some complacency. Claims of having broken the back of the terrorists and General Raheel Sharif's (overoptimistic?) prediction that terrorism would be eliminated by the end of the current year point to a failure to realistically assess the situation. We have consistently warned in this space against being lulled into complacency and letting our guard down because of the relative length of time taken by the terrorists to regroup and mount ripostes. So long as they can call upon their cadre ensconced in safe havens across the border and their underground cells within the country, it was always going to be a protracted war. In fact the authorities, civil and military, need to prepare the public for the protracted nature of the fight against terrorism, appeal for the people to become the eyes and ears of the anti-terrorist drive, and fashion the missing counter-narrative to the fanatics' wild and woolly ideas that still find some resonance in certain circles.

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