Category: Articles

No Time to Exhale 
for Pakistan Yet — Faryal Leghari

By Faryal Leghari

These are critical times for Pakistan. Days before the launch of a massive ground operation in the epicentre of Pakistan’s Taleban insurgency, the rugged and indomitable Waziristan agency adjoining the Afghan border, terror attacks have been unleashed across the country.

From the military headquarters in Rawalpindi to the UN World Food Programme offices in Islamabad, from the Frontier — where a series of suicide attacks and bombings have wreaked havoc in Peshawar, Bannu, Kohat and Swat — to Punjab’s capital Lahore, these attacks have targeted the security establishment including the military and police institutions and personnel.

While terror is not a new phenomenon in Pakistan given the series of extremist attacks over the past few years, these recent attacks are notable in their nature and pattern. Especially, since these attacks occurred after the killing of Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of Tehrik-e-Taleban Pakistan considered responsible for the spiralling violence and suicide attacks, including Benazir Bhutto’s assassination in December 2007.

The TTP, having claimed responsibility for the recent attacks had been issuing warnings against the Waziristan operation, and now seems to be delivering on its word. In retrospect, it was wrong to presume that the insurgency would lose its lethal capability after Baitullah.

So far these attacks have not targeted soft (civilian) targets, though this may change sooner than supposed. The main purpose behind the attacks is to trigger adverse public opinion against the Waziristan operation and to deter political backing for the military strategy. Though the government has vowed not to back down, its determination to continue the military initiative will depend on its ability to cope with the rapidly unravelling security situation.

With the army poised to launch a full-scale operation in the already besieged Waziristan and air strikes already targeting suspected hideouts and insurgent strongholds, the operation critically needs public support, just as in Swat. The reason for success of the last operation in Swat was because of concurrence of political and military strategy and popular support. The military plans to wedge Waziristan and dry outside support has obviously irked the insurgents. Drawing on their ties with extremist groups in Punjab, the TTP has successfully initiated a pre Waziristan-launch terror campaign.

A few distinguishing features of these recent attacks throw light on the evolving doctrine of terror. First is the involvement of women. The reported involvement of at least three women in the multiple coordinated attacks on police training centres in Lahore on October 15 is very disturbing. A day later a woman in burqa reportedly carried out one of the two coordinated suicide attacks targeting a police investigation cell in Peshawar that killed at least 
13 people. More disturbing is the news that a 13-year old boy was used to carry out last week’s lethal suicide attack in Shangla, Swat that killed more than 
40 people.

The use of teenagers in carrying out terror attacks, though not new, is extremely abhorrent and is obviously continuing. Second is the choice of targets; in choosing the high profile and high security targets—the Federal Investigation Agency’s regional headquarters in Lahore, the Manawa and the elite police training centres on Bedian road— the terrorists have made a significant point.

As for the October 10 attack on the GHQ, the attackers have demonstrated their capability, successfully infiltrating the high security area and holding more than 40 people hostage in a 22-hour siege. In the process, scores of army personnel including two high-ranking officers were killed.

The attackers, of whom nine were killed, are believed to have received direct training from Al Qaeda. The involvement of Al Qaeda in high calibre terror attack is not new as it has been previously involved in several major attacks but does speak volumes for the terrorist group’s strong ties with local terror outfits.

The fact that sympathisers within the military may have facilitated the attackers has only fed the hawkish lobbies in the West that have been clamouring for control of Pakistan’s strategic assets under the pretext of these falling in hands of extremists.

While US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was quick to arrest a rekindling of the above debate and expressed confidence in the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, the episode is bound to generate embarrassment for the country’s security agencies. The big question being asked by just about everyone is how such unacceptable security lapse occurred?

This brings us to a third factor, that is, the failure of the intelligence agencies in preventing these attacks. Apparently, the GHQ attackers had been residing in a house nearby for some time from where they finalised the operation. Similarly, the attacks in Lahore against previously hit high level targets only further undermine public confidence in the state’s security apparatus. These attacks have undermined the human intelligence factor that is left reeling under the onslaught of systematic and well-coordinated attacks.

While suicide attacks are extremely difficult to prevent even in places barricaded with the highest level of security, the issue here is why intelligence and security were not beefed up? Especially when the state has seen disproportionate violence in recent past and has been warned of such attacks on the brink of a massive counterinsurgency operation.

The security threat is bad enough with the fallout from the war in Afghanistan and the ensuing internal militancy that poses a huge challenge. For this reason Pakistan’s security forces need unhindered internal and external support. Undermining the confidence of the security forces by exploiting differences with the political establishment will only deteriorate the situation and perpetuate instability.

This is only going to hinder international efforts in fighting terrorism. As for Pakistan’s security establishment, efforts to boost its intelligence capabilities and deploying immediate deterrence measures should be the top priority right now, for it would impact the looming challenge of flushing out the insurgents from Waziristan and other restive areas.

- Faryal Leghari is KT’s Assistant Editor and can be reached at [email protected]

{Source: Khaleej Times}

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2 Responses to “No Time to Exhale 
for Pakistan Yet — Faryal Leghari”

  1. Ishrat Salim says:

    And still we have the cheek to deny that all of these attacks where due to ” intelligence failure “….we have an inept govt & ministry of interior who do not have the guts to accept these failures even on ” moral ground “…..but have shame to blackmail us ” emotionally ” to support the sacrifies of our poor law enforcement agencies & Armed forces…..& trying to prop-up them & their families by dolling out meagre amount…which cannot replace them….instead of using the same amount to improve their efficiency in intellengce gathering / providing better training & equipment etc;…these officers & ministers have accepted these brazen day-light attacks as ” normal “, hence they have gone into sleeping mode by default…waking-up only to find more bodies & carnage & than start playing national songs to calm public fury… is high time our govt to wake up & face realities….unless we face the truth we cannot succeed….& that is what is the root cause of this daily carnage….intelligence reports obtained via interrogations etc; are not circulated & even if done so is not taken-up seriously…..this is called ” intelligence failure “…..& than our interior minsters does not accept it as ” intelligence failures “…pls ask him the proper definition of ” intelligence failures “…..

  2. Ishrat Salim says:

    With due respect …we lack intelligence to be intelligent enough to work with proper intelligence……hence ” intellingence failure “….but unfortunately we & our inept govt especially the ministry of interior is always in the state of denial against such lapses & we are ” emotionally blackmailed ” to give moral support to our poor law enforcement agencies & the Armed forces who are dying everyday for the lapses on the part of our govt agencies….there is no proper co-ordination between any govt dept / intelligence dept etc; at federal or Provincial level which could have avoided such carnage in the federal & 2 Provincial capitals at a continous stretch of 10 days….is this not a intelligence failure ? apathy & lethargy on the part of our govt who after all this has no ” business ” to stand in front of the people who have elected them……it is a shame…& the minister of interior ( both at federal & Provincial ) have the cheek to continue with their jobs…..they should take a lesson from the resignation of Home minister of India ( state minister for Maharashtra ) who accepted intelligence failure for ” Mumbai Attack “….& resigned the next day…..this is called ” accepting moral responsibility “


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