Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Business Recorder editorial July 27, 2016

Karachi attack Two army soldiers have been killed in a gun attack in one of Karachi’s busiest areas on July 26. The two soldiers were shot in their vehicle by gunmen on motorcycles who managed to escape after the attack through the narrow, crowded lanes of the Saddar area. The law enforcement authorities say the attack appears to be by a banned group but add that it is too early to confirm any specific group being responsible (especially as there is no claim of responsibility so far by any terrorist organisation). As it is, the plethora of banned terrorist groups that afflict the country makes it difficult to pin down responsibility in the absence of any claim of responsibility or evidence to clinch any conclusion. While the law enforcement authorities immediately cordoned off the area and carried out a forensic examination of the soldiers’ vehicle that hit a wall after the shooting caused the driver to lose control, they were hampered in their investigation by the fact that the CCTV cameras installed in the area were found to be non-functional. This is a serious breach of the security protocol, especially since this is the fourth such attack in this very area. There are similarities with the attack on December 1, 2015 that left two military police personnel dead in a shooting on M A Jinnah Road, the lobbing of a chemical bomb into a Preedy police mobile that killed three policemen, and a few months later, three more policemen being killed in the same area. Whether the same group was behind all four terrorist incidents is not known at this juncture. The crowded area offers terrorists opportunities to meld into the teeming traffic, strike and make good their escape in expert fashion amidst the choked streets and alleys of the area. The fact that three earlier incidents were known to have occurred in the area should have alerted the security and law enforcement agencies to the fertile soil for terrorism presented by the peculiarities of the area. However, the pattern does not appear to have sunk home. And the icing on the cake is the dysfunctional CCTV cameras in this sensitive locale. The other significant aspect of this latest terrorist attack is that it was not directed at the police or, logically, the Rangers carrying out an operation against terrorists and criminals in the city, but regular army soldiers. Whether this is owed to the fortuitous (from the terrorists’ perspective) circumstance of randomly having discovered the military vehicle traversing the area or was the result of a well prepared ambush on the basis of prior information is also not known. However, the security and law enforcement agencies need to wake up to the terrorists’ ‘happy hunting ground' that the Saddar-Preedy area seems to have turned into and take well thought through, stringent steps to prevent a recurrence of such incidents. The fact that the toughest component of the country’s defence and security forces was targeted this time could be indicative of a mounting riposte by the terrorists to the operations being conducted against them in the city. As it is, reports speak of a surge in random attacks all over Karachi in recent weeks. This could be the start of a more aggressive campaign by the terrorists. That spells bad times again for the citizens of Karachi, who had barely heaved a sigh of relief at the improved security and law and order situation in the wake of the Rangers’ operation. It is a common error to perceive the relative quietude of terrorists when under attack by the security forces as an indication of their defeat or elimination. By its very nature, asymmetrical warfare follows the guerrilla principle of retreating and lying low while the security forces are actively campaigning, wait for the apparent lull to produce a level of complacency and then utilize the gaps in the security architecture to renew their attacks. We may well be witnessing such a development in Karachi at present. The lesson to be derived from this see-saw urban battlefield is that we cannot afford to let our guard down, irrespective of seeming ‘peace’ having been restored. In fact, if anything, all such sags in terrorist actions should be treated as the lull before fresh storms.

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