The Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) government led by Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif has been accused of being ineffective on many fronts, now in tandem with the Pakistan Army, the effete response to terror is proving costly for the people of Pakistan with high concerns on deteriorating national security.
Pakistan drew up a 20 Point National Action Plan for countering terrorism and extremism after the Army Public School attack on 16th of December 2014 by national consensus was evolved to come down hard on the terrorists through a concerted effort and approved on 24th of December, 2014 by the parliament. Many features of the plan remain unimplemented despite the passage of eight years.
Believing that the Afghan Taliban who were nurtured for two decades in the sanctuaries in tribal areas and were allowed to target the United States and NATO forces in Afghanistan will turn as strategic allies and provide stability in the harsh landscape across the Western border, Pakistan Army engaged in negotiations with the Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on recommendations of the Acting Interior Minister of the Taliban Sirajuddin Haqqani.
A cease fire was in place which was called off by the TTP in November last year.
As terrorist attacks across Pakistan spiked in 2022, National Security Committee (NSC) — the highest forum for coordination on security issues held two rounds of meetings and reiterated its resolve to have "zero tolerance" for terrorism in the country, according to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).
A press release issued by the PMO after the meeting's conclusion said the NSC reaffirmed its determination to take on "any and all entities that resort to violence", adding that any violence would be dealt with the "full force of the state".
"Pakistan’s security is uncompromisable and the full writ of the state will be maintained on every inch of Pakistan’s territory," the press release reads", adding that a country's sovereignty and dignity are stressed without "self-sufficiency and economic independence," as per the Dawn News.
Yet a concerted campaign against terror did not materialize while there were recriminations exchanged with the Taliban in Afghanistan and threat of launching air attacks across the border by Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah. Tempers gradually quelled but the intent of the TTP to carry out attacks across the Durand Line has continued.
A blast inside a mosque shook Peshawar’s Police Lines area on January 30, with over 60 killed and 157 injured has highlighted how much this inaction is causing heavy loss of life.
The intensity of the blast led to collapse of the mosque roof and many are trapped in the rubble within. The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the blast.
PM Shehbaz and Chief of Army Staff Asim Munir visited Peshawar and were briefed on the blast as per multiple Pakistan media sources. Taking to Twitter after his visit, the prime minister said: “Just returned from Peshawar. The sheer scale of the human tragedy is unimaginable. “This is no less than an attack on Pakistan. The nation is overwhelmed by a deep sense of grief. I have no doubt terrorism is our foremost national security challenge,” he said. “While the pain of the grieving families cannot be described in words, I express my heartfelt condolences and most sincere sympathies. My message to the perpetrators of today’s despicable incident is that you can’t underestimate the resolve of our people,” he said as per ARY News TV.
The irony of the Prime Minister’s statement is that there has been no concerted action to implement the National Action Plan (NAP) against terror which was decided by the NSC as early as on December 30. What more the Army Chief General Asim Munir has been in office now for two months after taking over on November 29th.
Yet it appears that there is no attempt to contain the spurt of terrorist incidents.
The present coalition has continued to accuse former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government of following a policy of appeasement towards the TTP, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said that Pakistan’s new leadership, both political and military, will have no talks with terrorist organizations that don’t respect the country’s laws and constitution. “I am confident that if we can work with the Afghan interim government, which has influence over these groups, we will be successful in maintaining our security,” he said in a wide-ranging interview with The Washington Post’s senior Associate Editor, Lally Weymouth, in Davos, Switzerland where he attended the World Economic Forum.
The Terror Numbers
The numbers on terrorism tell their own story, here is a review of data for 2022 and January 2023
Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies, an Islamabad-based policy research and advocacy think tank claimed 262 terrorist attacks in Pakistan in the year 2022 — including 14 suicide bombings — claimed in all 419 lives and injured another 734 people. 15 cross-border attacks took place13 attacks happened from across the country’s border with Afghanistan in KP and Balochistan. These attacks from Afghanistan killed 34 people, including 20 security officials, and injured 52 others.
A terrorist was killed during an Intelligence-Based Operation (IBO) in the Mir Ali general area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s North Waziristan district on January 28.
Dawn news reported that on January 18, security forces gunned down at least four terrorists during an IBO in Balochistan’s Hoshab.
In the first week of the January, at least 11 terrorists, including a militant commander and two suicide bombers, were killed in an IBO in South Waziristan’s Wana.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Inspector General of Police Moazzam Jah Ansari said the province had approached the centre for signing an agreement with Afghanistan to crack down on extortion demands over phone from the Afghan soil. “Afghan SIM cards are used in 99 per cent of phone calls made to Pakistanis to demand extortion.
Meanwhile residents across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have taken to the streets, demanding that the government should do more in the Bajaur district and Wana.
Will the Peshawar attack be a wake up call for Shahbaz Sharif and the Army Chief Asim Munir remains to be seen?