Akbar Jan Marwat
Terrorist struck again in Quetta with their full ferocity, amidst claims by the state that: “Their back has been broken”. Over 70 innocent people died in the gory incident. Our civilian defence establishment believes, that such terrorism in Balochistan is largely due to the nexus between Afghanistan and Indian Intelligence operating across the border in Afghanistan. Even if this assumption is true as was reiterated at the core commander conference at GHQ on Tuesday, the important question which begs an answer is: Does the involvement of foreign hand exonerate our own intelligence and law enforcing agencies from their responsibilities, in which they have miserably failed. The answer to this question has to be a resounding no.
It has to, however, be remembered, that foreign agencies can only succeed when there are internal fault line and fissures present in the society of host country. Instable Political situation, weak state authority, and inability of the state authority to maintain its authority over its territory, and protect the lives of its citizens; provide a conducive environment to foreign intelligence agencies to succeed.
The latest blood letting is proof of the continued terrorist attack, despite the clear success of Zarb-i-Azab in the tribal areas. It seems we are losing the counter narrative to terrorism, which is an import component of our national action plan, and to which most of our political parties had agreed, after the Peshawar School incident in 2014. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JUA), a splinter group of TTP, which has pledged allegiance to the so-called ISIS, claimed responsibility for the attack. JUA has been involved in several attacks in KP and tribal areas, but this is the first time that the group has made a claim of an alleged attack in Balochistan, which represents an expansion in its sphere of operation. Most of leaders of this group are said to have taken refugee in eastern Afghanistan after fleeing kinetic operations in the tribal areas.
The Quetta hospital blast had all the hallmarks of ISIS attacks. Such attacks are carried out in crowded places, to create maximum mayhem. The sad thing in that it was not the first time that terrorists have targeted a hospital in Quetta. The security personnel should certainly have been more vigilant in stopping the bomber from breaching the security at the entrance. In fact, the security should have been reinforced considering the overall security in the province and especially Quetta. The factor, which makes the terror maze so complex in Balochistan, is the presence of a large number of militant groups. These militant groups range from the sectarian to the separatists. The footprints of Al-Qaeda and ISIS are also now evident in Quetta. Militant groups like ISIS have found natural allies in Suni sectarian militants like Lashkar-i-Jhangvi.
A significant number of Pakistani Taliban groups are certainly present in Quetta, but the city has also become a major hub of Afghan Talibans, fighting against the Afghan government. Quetta is also home to the “Afghan Taliban leadership council known as Quetta Shura”. This deadly brew of militant outfits makes the city vulnerable to terrorism. Both our civilian as well as military leadership accuses foreign intelligence agencies namely RAW of India, and NDS of Afghanistan largely responsible for the terrorist attacks as part of a conspiracy to sabotage, the “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project”. There certainly seems to be more than a grain of truth in these allegations. The new great game being played between India and Pakistan, the arrest of Kulbashan Yadav, and the very inimical attitude of NDS towards Pakistan, are certainly points towards the involvement of Indian and Afghanistan Intelligence agencies is our travails’.
The Bloch separatist seems to be the main weapon in the hands of the Afghan and Indian spy agencies. Sufficient material evidence of such involvement has been found many times. The swarming of all kinds of desperados, make it easy far RAW and NDS, to penetrate and breach our defenses. The presence of Pakistani Taliban like Mullah Fazallullah et al in Afghanistan also point towards Afghan unhappiness and animus towards Pakistan. Afghanistan on the other hand claims, that Pakistan has given a sanctuary to Afghan Taliban, who are causing havoc in Afghanistan and fighting a legitimate government. India also has similar grievances’ against Pakistan, —— which it blames to be using non state actors against its interests.
A cardinal principal which all the three countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, need to understand is that terrorism has gone global by transcending state boundaries. The only way of effectively combating it is also to have a global and regional collaborations and pooling of resources both military and intelligence – to overcome this existential menace. This can only happen if all the three countries rise above their petty quarrels and jointly face the existential threat. This off-course is easy said them done. The realistic prospects of this actually happening are very low.
Before concluding this article, a few words about our moribund “Nation Action Plan” (NAP). It seems that our national leadership was never serious in implementing the 20 point agenda to counter terrorism and religious extremism. It has been more than 18 months, but no meaningful implementation of (NAP), has been done. The entire focus has been on kinetic operations by the Army in the tribal areas. No doubt the military operations in FATA, especially North Waziristan has driven the militants out of their sanctuaries and dismantled their terror networks. But to effectively combat militancy and religious extremism, we still need a comprehensive counter terrorism strategy, which we obviously lack.
—The writer is author, citizen journalist and entrepreneur based in Islamabad.