Monday, February 8, 2016

Daily Times Editorial Feb 8, 2016

Quetta blast Quetta experienced another suicide bombing on February 6 in which a Frontier Corps (FC) patrol was targeted. According to the details, a suicide bomber on a bicycle blew himself up near one of the vehicles in an FC security envoy, killing at least 10 people, including four security personnel, a woman and a child, while 23 others were wounded. The security convoy consisting of a truck and two other vehicles was on routine patrol on Adalat Road near the premises of the heavily guarded Quetta district courts. DIG Imtiaz Shah stated that around 12-15 kilograms of explosives were used in the blast. Eight of the injured are said to be in critical condition in hospital. The blast was so powerful it destroyed five vehicles, four motorcycles, three rickshaws and shattered the windows of buildings in the area. Inspector General FC General Sher Afgan, while talking to the media, employed strange logic to argue the terrorists were attacking soft targets as the anti-terrorist operations have destroyed their capabilities. While there is no doubting that successes have been achieved, and though the logic may fit attacks such as those on the Army Public School Peshawar and the Bacha Khan University Charsadda, it hardly applies to a deliberate targeting of the FC, as in this instance. The fact that the authorities have to get their head around is that the terrorists' tactics are flexible, ever changing, and intended to create fear, insecurity and destabilisation. Balochistan government spokesman Anwar ul Haq Kakar underlined that 250 intelligence-based operations had been carried out in the province and the suicide bombing is a reaction aimed at demoralising the security forces, which they will not succeed in. Balochistan Home Secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani ascribed the bombing to attempts to sabotage the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). While these 'explanations' may all have a grain of truth to them, what needs to be understood and reiterated is that by its very nature, asymmetrical warfare, of which terrorism is a part, relies heavily on the impossibility of preventing each and every attack. The terrorists wait and watch, create new ways to deliver their deadly loads, and inevitably try to inflict the heaviest losses of life and property possible. If proof of the changing, shifting nature of the terrorists' tactics is sought, consider that on the very day of the suicide bombing, a police van was fired on by motorcyclists, killing the driver and wounding four others, including a civilian in the Sariab area of the city. The Khorasan group of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has claimed responsibility for the attack. The anti-terrorist campaign is hampered to some extent by the mushroom growth of factions and groupings within the TTP, each operating autonomously while claiming allegiance to the umbrella TTP. That makes the task of the security forces' intelligence-led operations harder because of the fluidity of these groups and their amorphous, constantly changing nature. For this very reason, whether in Balochistan or the country as a whole, the authorities need a centralised coordinating organisation that can collect and collate a database for all the groups and factions operating under the umbrella of the TTP and monitor and trace their shifting alliances thereby. This is the biggest gap in the anti-terrorism architecture. The National CounterTerrorism Authority (NACTA) remains for all practical purposes a dead letter, despite recently boasting of 'resurrecting' its website. It should be remembered that NACTA was supposed to be the overarching centre of the National Action Plan (NAP), which too appears so far to be an 'orphan'. It is for the prime minister and the federal government to put their own anti-terrorist house in order and bring the provincial governments on board for a coordinated and efficacious anti-terrorist campaign against an elusive, intelligent, flexible and creative menace.

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