There could be several reasons behind the latest attacks as Pakistan Navy is playing an important role to stop the arms and narcotics smuggling as well. Sucide attacks against the security forces are not new and are carried out to demoralize them but these attempts have further strengthened the determination of the guardians of our borders. Pakistan armed forces had risen to the occasion in war and peace in the past and we have no doubt that they have the will and capacity to defeat all conspiracies against the motherland. The need however is to show greater alertness and bring an end to the attacks as we witnessed in Karachi. For this the intelligence agencies must redouble their efforts and unearth the hideouts of the militants, the planners and executioners of dastardly acts and those financing them.
In two horrendous bombings of Navy buses transporting personnel to work early morning in Karachi on Tuesday, four people were killed and 56 wounded of a total of 85 passengers on both buses. This is the first major attack on the armed forces since the 2004 attack on the Karachi corps commander in which he luckily escaped harm. The modus operandi was to use remote detonators imbedded in cell phones. It is also an eerie reminder of the attacks in Rawalpindi some time ago on an army surgeon and a bus transporting ISI personnel. The police say it seems that the terrorists were in sight of the two buses and detonated the bombs as the buses went by. Since the Navy buses carried commercial number plates rather than official Navy ones, it is obvious that the terrorists not only displayed extraordinary coordination in detonating the two devices within minutes of each other, they had probably been watching and casing out the route and timings of the buses before the incident.
The Taliban have claimed responsibility and vowed more attacks on the security forces on the argument that “...they are killing their own people in Waziristan and elsewhere at the behest of the US”. Taking this argument at face value, what are the Taliban themselves doing? Are they not also “killing their own people”? Whereas Imran Khan and the right wing parties are raising Cain over the drone attacks, one comparison of the lethal toll of bombings and drone attacks shows the former have swallowed up more than 35,000 lives since the terror campaign began in 2007, whereas drone strikes have accounted for less than 2,000. Not that any innocent life can be measured in this grisly game of numbers. But there needs to be some perspective brought to the debate. The greater threat, not only to the armed forces, but also ordinary citizens is from the terrorist bombers. The hullabaloo of the right about the innocent victims of the drones has yet to demonstrate how many of the 2,000 killed in such strikes were terrorists and how many ‘collateral damage’.
The Chief Minister of Sindh, Syed Qaim Ali Shah has revealed that the government had received intelligence reports about a potential terrorist attack. However, he defended the police and security forces on the argument that in a metropolis like Karachi, it is not possible to search every inch of the city. That is reasonable, but it points to the need for better real time intelligence if such attacks are to be pre-empted. That is only possible if timely information is available from within the ranks of the terrorist organisations, implying that pre-emption is not possible without the intelligence services infiltrating the bombers’ groups.
The Karachi bombings are a grim reminder of the caution that COAS General Kayani’s assertion the other day that the terrorists’ “back has been broken” should not make us complacent. Even if, as the COAS argued, terrorism in Pakistan is in its death throes, it still retains the capability of deadly asymmetrical strikes that involve heavy loss of life and property. The terrorists are a formidable foe, not to be taken lightly, even if their formerly safe base areas in FATA have been under military attack with considerable success. Nevertheless, both in FATA and in the rest of the country, the hydra of terrorism still has enough breath to wreak havoc from time to time. This protracted struggle against this Frankenstein’s monster requires many years yet of intense effort before peace can be restored to the country. And achieving that peace is unfortunately tied up with events in Afghanistan and their spillover effects, for which a revisit to the distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban is necessary to reassess the internal nexus between the two sides of this artificial division between those who challenge the writ of the Pakistani state and those who serve its strategic purposes.