WEB DESK: The terrorist strike at Quetta’s civil hospital that left over 70 people dead, 55 of them lawyers and two TV cameramen, and wounding at least 100 others two of whom later succumbed to their injures in hospital, has cast a pall of gloom over the entire nation.
So many lawyers were there because the President of the Balochistan Bar Association (BBA) had been shot dead and his body brought to the hospital. The terrorists’ modus operandi was the same as in five previous bombings in the city: first kill somebody important, let them be brought to the hospital where their associates would gather and then send a suicide bomber to cause maximum loss of life. Still, the thought that killing of the BBA president could be a trap to kill more did not cross anyone’s mind – neither the security people nor those who came to be at the side of their fallen colleague. Clearly, no one suspected lawyers could be a target.
Violent extremists acting in the name of religion are merciless killers. They have massacred innocent children and staff in the Peshawar Army Public School, men and women along with children in bazaars, a recreation park, mosques, hospitals, Sufi shrines and all sorts of other public places. A TTP splinter group, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, along with the Islamic State (IS), has claimed responsibility for the present horror.
Notably, after breaking away from the TTP the Ahrar had pledged allegiance to the IS, hence the joint claim. The group is said to have no support base in Baluchistan though it has had links with the Laskhar-i-Jhangvi which is active in the province. But then there is also the fact that in the past, TTP people have claimed credit for deeds that later turned out to be the handiwork of other groups. The Ahrar may or may not be involved in the Quetta massacre.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and CoAS General Raheel Sharif have pointed the finger at the usual suspect. The PM said he had “no doubt in my mind that enemies of Pakistan are after the CPEC” and, according to ISPR, the Army chief saw the attack as an attempt to undermine improved security and sabotage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Although they named no names, it is not difficult to see who they mean: India. Given the Modi government’s anti-Pakistan credentials, its attempts to isolate this country, and open opposition to the CPEC project they may well be right.
Not without significance is also the reality that a senior Indian intelligence operative, KulbhushanYadav, whom India officially owns, was caught in Baluchistan. He admitted that his mission was to create instability in Baluchistan and Karachi through violence, and based on his interrogation as many as 400 people have been arrested for links to his terrorism network. However, the Afghan intelligence agency, NDS, known to be hostile to this country, has also been working in Baluchistan.
Until a thorough investigation establishes the facts no one can say with certainty as to who might have been at the back of the massacre in Quetta. What is known though is that the perpetrators, the suicide bomber and his handlers, came from within. That brings to the fore the government’s failure to provide peace and security to the people.
The government’s allies have been laying the entire blame for the carnage at the door of the intelligence agencies. Terrorist attacks in European countries amply demonstrate that even the world’s most efficient intelligence agencies cannot always prevent such incidents. The agencies’ task in this country is even more complicated considering that Pakistan is teeming with all sorts of extremist outfits and Afghan refugees, which provide support and sustenance to terrorists.
As per usual routine following such incidents, the PM Sharif and General Sharif arrived in Quetta to see the injured and afterwards held meetings with civilian and military leaders. Vowing to address the “international terror threats through maximum effort”, the PM told a joint civil and military meeting “we will make a make a functional mechanism of federal and provincial law enforcement and intelligence agencies.” It has been more than two years since following the APS massacre a political consensus-based 20-point National Action Plan (NAP) was devised.
The NAP, among other things, called for regularisation and reform of madressahs; disallowing banned outfits to operate under new names; dealing firmly with sectarian organisations in Punjab; revamp and reform of the criminal justice system; and revival of the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA)-all of which remain unimplemented. As per the plan, NACTA was to serve as the nerve centre of civilian and military intelligence sharing and also house a special rapid deployment force to take on the terrorists. It is still not fully functional because the finance ministry wouldn’t release necessary funds for it. Turf issues are believed to be the hindrance. The question of control has turned out to be more important than confronting violent extremists.
The PM has now suddenly remembered there was something called National Action Plan and a ‘functional mechanism’, NACTA. May one ask where has he been during the last two years? Why did he not take necessary action against terrorist sanctuaries such as various proscribed extremist outfits functioning under new names and the madressahs?
His failure to act has created space for the military to step in and do what is essentially a civilian area of responsibility. The Army chief, say press reports, has directed the intelligence agencies to carry out combing operations and “go anywhere in the country to target anyone linked with these terror acts.” This could lead to arbitrary arrests and detentions, and may not sit well with the rights groups’ sensitivities.
From the people’s perspective, however, it matters little who does what as long as it helps protect lives of their loved ones. Instead of resorting to a blame game, the political class needs to do some soul-searing.
Source: Business Recorder