Terror re-visits Quetta

The latest terror attack in Quetta in Balochistan, which killed around 60 people, is yet another grim reminder of the rising jihadi threats in Pakistan. According to reports, Al-Alami, a faction of the Pakistani militant group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), had conducted the raid in cooperation with the Islamic State (IS). Though the IS and the Al-Alami are not in direct contact, as the latter revealed, the growing influence of the global jihadi elements in Pakistan will have a serious impact on the security scenario of the entire subcontinent. It shows Islamabad will have to pay for the safe havens it offered to radical Islamists for years in its backyard. Currently, Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, is in a near-siege situation as he needs to find a way out to handle Imran Khan’s planned march to the capital along with cleric Tahirul Qadri on November 2. Simultaneously, he is in a fix, as his Government grapples to find a successor to Army chief, General Raheel Sharif, who is retiring next month. Meanwhile, constant criticism of the civilian Government, aired by both the print and the electronic media, is seen as upsetting the Government. According to reports floating in the media, the Government believes that it is an orchestrated campaign masterminded by the country’s intelligence agencies. The recent crackdown of the military on certain terror outfits and supposed freezing of their bank accounts, can invite lethal attacks on various Government establishments and security forces, such as one that happened in Balochistan. Thus, Sharif is getting ominous signals from many crucial fronts. It is a testing time for the democratically elected leadership of the country. The civil-military relationship has also come into question.
This is the third such attack on the Quetta Police Training College; it was attacked in 2006 and 2008. Quetta has become an easy target for the jihadis, and the north-western Province is facing a renewed security threat along with sustained demand for secession from the mainland. Islamabad’s continued exploitation of the local resources without providing the basic services to the far western Province, has aggravated the ground situation in the past. A strong feeling of alienation has already grown among the Balochs. This provides a fertile ground for numerous militant groups to raise popular sentiments, despite a strong presence of the military across the Province. But the military itself is not poular there because of its atrocities. Though military operations launched by the Army since 2014 have seen the fall of militant activities in the Province, the capital city of Quetta has become a nerve centre for militant strikes this year. As there is no strict regulation on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, militants have generally found Balochistan as their safest destination so far. The situation is going to be more serious as the establishment in Islamabad has always patronised a section of the separatists in Balochistan. It is time now for Pakistan to avoid distinguishing between good terrorists (that target India) and bad terrorists (that attack Pakistani interests). They all must be tackled with an iron hand. The civilian Government should not let the situation go out of hand. Unfortunately, Prime Minister Sharif appears to have lost the will.

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