Security failure in Pakistan

Where do we go from here?

Pakistan, a country that has long struggled with terrorism is once again reeling from the brutal grip of militancy and radicalism, a grave challenge that requires urgent attention and action from all. The recent mosque bombing in the city of Peshawar, Pakistan has yet again brought to light the menace of terrorism in the country. This incident, which claimed the lives of numerous innocents, is a tragic reminder of the persistent threat of violence that continues to plague Pakistan. It is obvious that the battle against extremism is far from over, and that the nation needs to brace itself for more difficult times ahead. The question is, how did we get here, and what can we do to put an end to this scourge once and for all? This comes at a time when the economy is in serious trouble.

To mention, this terrorist attack that took place in the city of Peshawar in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan on 30 January 2023 resulted in the deaths of more than 100 people and left over 200 others injured. The attack targeted a mosque situated in the highly secure zone of the city, where police and other security agencies are stationed. This is one of the most deadly incidents to have occurred in the city in several years. The responsibility for the attack was initially claimed by the Mohmand chapter of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), but the TTP Central later denied any involvement. The majority of the victims were police officers.

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In recent years, Pakistan has made significant strides in its efforts to combat terrorism. The country has launched numerous military operations, tightened security measures, and implemented tougher laws to crack down on extremist groups. These efforts have yielded some success, with the number of terrorist attacks declining significantly over the past few years. However, the recent mosque bombing in Peshawar is a stark cue that the threat of terrorism remains very real. While Pakistan has made progress in its fight against extremism, the country cannot afford to let its guard down. The neoteric onslaught is a clear indication that more needs to be done to address the root causes of terrorism and extremism in the country.

Not only does this attack point to an utter failure in security and intelligence, but it reaffirms the TTP’s message: “we can kill you anywhere, anytime, including in mosques, and the army and government cannot protect you”. Following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, there has been an 84 percent increase in TTP attacks. This can be attributed to the close ideological, tribal, and operational ties between the Taliban and the TTP, with the TTP having rear bases in Afghanistan to launch attacks into Pakistan. Despite the Taliban condemning the attacks, it is widely believed that their words are insincere. Pakistan has been pressuring the Taliban to shut down TTP camps in Afghanistan, where an estimated 6,000 fighters are located, since the Taliban takeover. However, the Taliban have refused to comply, and it is unlikely that they will do so in the foreseeable future. This confirms that Pakistan’s support for the Taliban’s return to power in Kabul was a flawed decision and is posing a security nightmare for Pakistan.

One of the major challenges in addressing terrorism in Pakistan is the complex nature of the problem. Extremist groups are often deeply entrenched in local communities, making it difficult to root them out.

A day after the Peshawar attack, a police station in Mianwali, Punjab, came under a gun attack by heavily armed TTP fighters. It was the first terror attack of its kind in Punjab province. While the attack was repulsed, it illustrates the extent of the TTP’s present reach along areas of the Afghan-Pakistan border. In November 2022, the TTP announced a unilateral ceasefire with the Pakistani government, but it was short-lived. The insurgent group has frequently attacked police check posts and stations in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and areas bordering Afghanistan since ending their unilateral ceasefire with the Pakistani government in November 2022.

One of the major challenges in addressing terrorism in Pakistan is the complex nature of the problem. Extremist groups are often deeply entrenched in local communities, making it difficult to root them out. Furthermore, poverty, illiteracy, and political instability have created an environment in which extremism can thrive. To effectively combat terrorism in Pakistan, a multi-faceted approach is needed. This includes addressing the root causes of extremism by investing in education, creating job opportunities, and addressing political grievances. It also means strengthening the country’s law enforcement agencies and improving intelligence-gathering capabilities to better identify and neutralize terrorist threats. In addition to these efforts, it is also essential for Pakistan to work closely with its regional and international partners to address terrorism. The recent attack in Peshawar is a reminder that terrorism is a global problem that requires a coordinated response from the international community.

Thus far, all attempts at negotiating with local terrorist organizations have failed. With groups like the TTP growing increasingly confident and carrying out more complex attacks, there has been an increasing demand for a “military solution” to the problem. The military would need to implement a comprehensive strategy to effectively deal with the growing threat posed by terrorist groups like the TTP. At any rate, the military will need to be seen doing something. This means it will need to ruthlessly go after the TTP not only inside Pakistan but in Afghanistan as well. The Pakistan army will be very reluctant to do this, but they have no choice if they want to see an end to terrorist acts throughout the country. Given that bilateral relations with Kabul are already at an all-time low, so that should not be a critical factor in the army’s counter-terrorism calculations. At last, the military could work towards improving community engagement and strengthening local law enforcement agencies to help prevent the radicalization of individuals and disrupt terrorist recruitment efforts.

Eman Mudassar Tarar
Eman Mudassar Tarar
The writer can be reached at [email protected]


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