May 29, 2023

Security challenges far from over

On March 4, a suicide bomber blew himself up during Friday prayers killing 62 people and injuring over 150. The attacker first shot the security policemen outside mosque and then ran into mosque. 

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Inspector General of Police Moazzam Jah Ansari said: “Around five to six kilograms of explosive material was used.” However, the more important thing, he insisted, was that there was no prior information about the attack. 

Critics say this is a grave concern for Pakistan and its security that the militants planned and executed such a deadly blast and security agencies didn’t have any prior knowledge about it. 

Interior minister Sheikh Rasheed said the attacker has been identified and “investigation agencies have reached close to the suspects and hoped that they would be arrested in the next two to three days.” However, analysts insist that not knowing about the attack beforehand is the core of the problem. 

Islamic State (ISIS) has claimed the responsibility of the attack as Amaq-ISIS affiliated news agency, said in a statement: “a suicide bomber trained by the militant group had carried out the attack, which struck the mosque during Friday prayers.”

Militancy has been on the rise in Pakistan for the last couple of months especially in Balochistan. In January, militants attacked a security check-post in Khech district of the province, killing 10 soldiers. Before this, there were three attacks on security personnel in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, resulting in death of five soldiers. 

After the fall of the Ashraf Ghani government in Kabul, and the hasty evacuation of US from Afghanistan, Taliban took over the reins once again. Now, in Pakistan, Taliban are considered an ally and many analysts were hoping that the cross-border terrorism will further reduce. However, it hasn’t panned out that way. 

Since the Taliban came to power, there have been regular incidents of cross border firing on soldiers and terrorist attacks in Pakistan. It appears that the Taliban don’t hold the strength or military power to control the outfits like Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and ISIS. And these attacks are happening despite the erection of border fence by Pakistan, which is on verge of completion. 

Although, the Taliban takeover has forced the anti-Pakistan elements to leave Afghanistan, but it has also presented them an opportunity to regroup and even merge. 

On the one hand, Noor Wali has united the TTP faction, while on the other, Baloch militants are now united under Baloch National Army (BNA). This alliance consists of Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), Baloch Republic Army (BRA) and other splinters. 

Furthermore, the hasty departure by US army has left a massive amount of ammunition and arms for the militants. 

Experts insist Islamabad needs to immediately take up this issue with the Taliban and even Iran government. According to sources, Pakistan did raise the issue with Iran’s Interior Minister Dr Ahmad Vahidi during his visit to Pakistan in February. 

Experts maintain Pakistan can do cross border intelligence operation and information sharing with regional powers – just like Islamabad did with the US during its invasion – and take concrete steps to eliminate militant outfits. 

Analysts insist the race for Pakistan against militancy is still long and far from over. The country still needs to be extremely vigilant and increase cross-border trust, especially with Iran and Afghanistan to control the menace of terrorism. 

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