Eliminating the scourge of terrorism

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Ikram Sehgal

SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association)

Success creates its own problems. A gross misperception created by the outstanding Operation Zarb-e-Azb is that terrorism has been dealt a decisive blow and we have little to worry about. Nothing can be further from the truth! The loss of training camps, hideouts, military dumps, ammunition and bomb manufacturing factories, medical centres, etc, has been devastating for the insurgents once in almost total occupation of North Waziristan. Previously roaming around with impunity, mostly on 4 x 4 vehicles, the biggest impact of the army operation has been their loss of freedom of movement. They are now footing it in very difficult terrain, like the Shawal Mountains. Their logistics chain, being badly disrupted, has certainly emasculated their potential for wide ranging blowback in the Pakistani hinterland, diminishing their capacity somewhat but, given the extensive infrastructure established over years, only limited their capability for targeted mayhem.
The horrific suicide atrocity at the Wagah border barely five days ago was its most visible demonstration. The attack resulted in more than 60 dead — mostly women and children — and many more critically injured; among the dead were three Rangers personnel on duty. The brutal mindset of the terrorists is exposed by their choice of a soft target to accomplish their evil objective of spreading death and devastation. A regular festive event evoking patriotic fervour, people come from all over Pakistan to see the flag-lowering ceremony and extravagant ceremonial drill by the paramilitary Pakistan Rangers and Indian Border Security Force (BSF).
Despite the mind-searing tragedy, the suggestion, mainly from the other side of the border, not to have the ceremony the next day was turned down. It was vital for public morale to have the ceremony as usual. A clear-cut message of unity and defiance needed to be sent to the terrorists. A newspaper headline, ‘The day after; bombing fails to damper Wagah border pageantry’, and the news item attached said it all: “The ritual flag-lowering ceremony still took place 24 hours later undeterred by the carnage. Hundreds of men, women and children filled the spectator stands chanting ‘Death to terrorists’ and ‘Pakistan zindabad’.” While this patriotic fervour graphically displayed the inherent resilience of the Pakistani public, the ‘show of force’ by the military was outstanding. 
Corps Commander Lahore, Lieutenant General Naveed Zaman, did the uniform and country proud by his presence along with two of his General Officers Commanding (GOCs), Major General Fida Hussain Malik and Aamir Abbasi and Director General Rangers Major General Khan Tahir Javed Khan. The Lahore police was represented by the capital city police officer (CCPO), Captain (retd) Amin Wain. Naveed Zaman spoke for all Pakistanis in no uncertain fashion: “Today’s ceremony proved that terrorists cannot lower the spirit of the nation or the morale or zeal of our countrymen by their cowardly activities.” It would have been nice to see some of our rulers and opposition politicians at Wagah when the chips were down. A representative segment of our society, including women and small children, came in droves without fear, right into harm’s way, to join our military hierarchy and be counted as Pakistanis.
Coordination in intelligence failure despite the early warning signs was a major security lapse. Any public venue attracting large numbers daily is always vulnerable and almost impossible to protect even when well secured. The fact remains that the suicide bomber did get through the first round of security screening with disastrous consequences.
Consider the escalation of violence the Indians have contrived by their belligerence on the working boundary adjacent to Sialkot over the past month. Should we kid ourselves about the timing? Was this was not a well thought out manoeuvre meant to achieve multiple objectives to keep the Pakistan army fixed in one place and divert them from their primary mission: defending the frontiers of the country? The army could well acquire counterterrorism capability but it should not be used in the urban areas except in dire cases of emergency as a last resort. Their involvement in the cities would be tailor-made for a public relations disaster. Special police powers over an extended period have their own inherent problems; incidents are bound to happen. The Rangers in Karachi are subjected to motivated and adverse propaganda. Despite doing an excellent job they are quite often targeted by civil society and sometimes by the superior judiciary. 
The protection given to hardcore terrorists by some politicians on the deluded pretext that they have sworn off their penchant for murder and mayhem must stop. Let us not confuse freedom fighters — those who fight to rid an occupied country from oppression — with terrorists who target their own country and countrymen in cowardly attacks pursuing a vicious agenda of imposing their own perverted version of ideology. The government needs to implement the well-crafted National Security Policy, presently lying in cold storage. They must differentiate between a successful counterinsurgency and our counterterrorism operations being successful only intermittently. Without a dedicated counterterrorism force we will keep fighting for a 100 years. 
An umbrella homeland security command must be created to combine all available resources of logistics, manpower, intelligence, communications and operations from both civil and military resources. Our counterterrorism force, or whatever else you may like to call it, must quickly come into play to eliminate the scourge of terrorism. Unfortunately, those who should listen to good advice act deaf, dumb and blind. This country has suffered miserably because of people acting stoic while making money for themselves.

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