How long will we let our fear paralyse us?
The recent terror incidents have jolted the security apparatus and created uncertainty about law & order situation in the country. Since terrorism is a dynamic process therefore the perpetrators of terror keep on changing their approaches and strategies to blunt the counter terrorism operations at sub national level.
There are many reasons for these attacks
First, it is an attempt to shatter the security perception among the citizens. A lot of effort has been made to create a security structure since the start of military operation in North Waziristan. These include new initiatives to enhance a secured environment perception among the masses.
Second, the terror groups or organisations having been pushed back due to recent counter terror actions are making another effort to demoralise and discourage the government functionaries to belittle the effectiveness of military operation.
Third, different anti-state splinter elements operating from the border areas and actively supported by external intelligence agencies have re-energised different sleeper cells to conduct a coordinated terror operation in Pakistan. The recent terror attacks in Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta appear to be well organised and focused on specific targets. Their main aim is to send a message to national and international audience that the country is still insecure and terrorists can strike anywhere at will.
Fourth, it is also an asymmetric effort to force civilian and military intelligence institutions to review and revise their security policy.
Tackling the problem head on
Interestingly, our National Security Policy is based upon principle of mutual inclusiveness and integration including dialogue with all stake holders, isolation of terrorists from support system and deterrence capacity of security apparatus to neutralise threats to internal security. The recent terror attacks may also engender a change in thinking of provincial and national security apparatus to start concentrating on dismantling local terror support networks in the country.
Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its affiliated groups have accepted the responsibility of majority of these attacks. Jamat-ul-Ahrar (JuA), in a video message, has stated that they have launched operation “Ghazi” after the name of Muhammad Abdul Rasheed Ghazi who was killed during operation “Silence” in 2007 when Special Operation Commandos (SOCs) cleared a madrassa affiliated with Lal Masjid, Islamabad. They have also vowed to target all legislative bodies in Pakistan and Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) including military and paramilitary bodies who are providing active support to law enforces. They have also maintained that Pakistani Judiciary and its affiliated bodies would also be their targets. Moreover, they will also attack those political parties who shall provide strength and support to anti-Islamic system along with providing guidance to anti-Jihadi foreign forces. The leadership of Jamat-ul-Ahrar has also affirmed that they would go after the crusaders of prophetism. They have also assured their audience that they would attack all those persons who consider Khulfa-e-Rashiden and other companions of the prophet as infidels. Furthermore, all media personalities who propagate negative reports for the benefits of enemies of Islam would also come under attack. They will also target those educational institutions which promote un-Islamic ideology in the country but they will not conduct any operation at public places including processions, rallies, funeral prayers, mosques, madaris and playgrounds.
Moreover, all structures for public welfare will not be targeted as well. Similarly, all religious places of worship of minorities shall not be attacked unless anyone of them is utilised by anti-Islamic forces. They will also not strike against those individuals who were formally associated with un-Islamic institutions but have now given up their association with it and are ready to inform JuA about their activities.
About the JuA
Jamat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) is a militant Sunni Deobandi group which is one of the splinter factions of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). It has also announced to support Islamic State (IS). However, the manner of its cooperation with IS is ambiguous and unclear.
The group has claimed attacks on Wagha border, twin bombing at Roman Catholic Church and Christ Church in Lahore, Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park attack and terror assaults in Mohmand Agency. Most of its members are also affiliated with TTP and their loyalties depend upon number of factors including tribal affiliation, sectarian connections, monitory benefits and financial gains.
Interestingly, in August 2016, two key leaders of JuA were caught in an intelligence led operation in Lahore.
These JuA leaders were running sleeper cells in Punjab for terror operations. Perhaps one thing which adds to the lethality of these splinter groups is their ability to hide among the population with ease and comfort. Most of the members of these groups remain in an idle state till they start the operation in which they become highly dynamic and flexible.
The State needs to respond
The attack in Hayatabad, Peshawar on February 15, 2017 was aimed at judiciary in which two people including a driver of Civil Judge was killed while four judicial officials sustained injuries. Similarly, the attack in Lahore was directed against police officials, in which fifteen people were killed and more than a hundred were injured.
It is essential that the government should react to these terror attacks with composure and circumspection. A three pronged approach should be adopted to confront with the present situation.
First, all civilian and military intelligence agencies should search out sleeper cells and expose local terror support networks in the province.
Second, Afghans living in Pakistan, legally or illegally, should be properly documented and registered. A clear policy about their stay in the country should also be enumerated. If the alien agencies can use them for their objects why can’t we employ this human resource for our benefit?
Lastly, the terror attacks are directly linked to our Afghan policy. Any terror activity in our border lands will have an impact on internal security of the country. In modern warfare, such attacks are an effective tool to bring about a policy shift in critical areas of national security. It is up to the civilian-military leadership to decide what changes can be made in our regional approach to have a minimum impact on national security.