Bloody battles rage on

Twelve policemen lost their lives on Saturday when two Taliban militants attacked a police station in Dera Ismail Khan. “The attackers were a husband and wife. We will keep carrying out attacks with different strategies,” Ehsanullah Ehsan, a Pakistani Taliban spokesman, told Reuters. There was a five-hour standoff between the police and the two terrorists who were dressed in burqas. During the siege, there were reports that between seven and 20 attackers were involved but as it turned out, only two Taliban militants carried out the attack. Five policemen were shot dead while seven others lost their lives when the couple blew themselves up at the end. The fact that a man wore a burqa to deceive the policemen is nothing new. Maulana Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) fame tried to escape from the mosque in a burqa back in 2007. The Taliban are not getting innovative; they are just following in the footsteps of their fellow radicals. What is worrying though is the frequency of attacks on the security forces. Yesterday, a bomb explosion targeting a police checkpost wounded three police officers in Multan. It seems that the terrorists now have a very good idea of our security forces’ capacity. The audacious attack on PNS Mehran last month showed how a handful of terrorists can wreak havoc in an otherwise ‘secure’ military base.

Most of our police stations do not have adequate weapons to counter terrorism. We saw what happened when the Sri Lankan cricket team was attacked in Lahore two years ago. There were reports that the police did not have enough weapons to come to the rescue. The terrorists are either better equipped in some cases or the weaponry and means available to both sides is more or less equal. On the other hand, despite continuous attacks, there is no sense of urgency and it is business as usual, especially in remote isolated places. These attacks are indeed a lapse in security. Our security forces have now become, in the words of Lord Tennyson, “lotus-eaters”. Not only are we unprepared for the challenges staring us in the face but we refuse to acknowledge that the whole country is at war.

There are some steps that we must take in order to deal with this issue. One, there must be a review and purge of the fifth columnists within the security forces. The process has already begun with the arrest of some jihad-sympathisers within the army but those who are in cahoots with the terrorists within the police forces also need to be taken to task. Two, a general alert should be raised countrywide instead of specific cities/towns. Three, the security forces must not let their guard down at any point. And last but certainly not the least, our intelligence agencies need to sharpen their intelligence-gathering methods. Timely intelligence can prevent many a disaster from taking place. For this, we need to give up our duality of policy. Most terror networks operating in Pakistan were nurtured by our state. Some of them still enjoy overt or covert support of the military establishment. Exporting jihad to other countries in the world, especially in the South Asian region, has now led to internal warfare. If the loss of 35,000 precious lives at the hands of terrorists in recent years is not enough reason for the security establishment to wake up to this grim reality, then there is no hope left for Pakistan.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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