The carnage in Quetta


The >suicide bombing at a hospital in Quetta on Monday that left at least 72 people dead is yet another violent reminder of the security challenges Pakistan faces. What makes matters complicated this time is that the attack in the Balochistan capital has been claimed by two terrorist groups, the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA), >a home-grown faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), and the Islamic State (IS). But irrespective of the organisational links of the bomber, it is apparent now that militant groups that suffered a setback after the army’s heightened counter-terror operation two years ago are striking back whenever they get the opportunity. Take the case of the JuA. Founded in 2014, it has already emerged as one of the most potent terrorist groups in Pakistan. It remains loyal to the TTP, but had earlier declared support to the IS leadership. Over the last two years the JuA had carried out a number of deadly attacks, including the Wagah strike of 2014 and the Lahore park bombing in March this year. If the JuA is behind the Quetta blast, it is yet another warning to the Pakistani establishment. The IS connection too is worrying. The authorities say the IS does not have any organisational presence in the country, but Pakistan actually faces a high risk of IS-linked terror. The group has already established a foothold in eastern Afghanistan, close to the border with Pakistan. Also, Pakistan’s jihadist underworld, largely based in the northwestern region, is a potential recruiting ground for powerful terrorist groups. Besides, the IS’s proximity to groups such as the JuA and the fact that both groups have claimed the Quetta attack raise questions on whether the TTP factions are cooperating with the IS.

For the Pakistani army and civilian government, this is the new reality they have to come to grips with. The rising number of terror attacks and the entry of new outfits into the region’s jihadist map show that whatever the army and the government have been doing in the fight against terror has simply not been enough. A large part of the problem is with Pakistan’s anti-terror strategy itself. Though terrorism cannot be eliminated overnight, governments need a comprehensive strategy to counter it. Pakistan has a history of supporting groups fighting Afghanistan and India, while cracking down on those operating within the country. The military’s close ties with the Afghan Taliban, for instance, have compromised its fight against the TTP, which now refuses to pipe down despite military action. If Pakistan is serious about tackling this jihadist complex, it should first stop categorising them as good Taliban and bad Taliban, or as good terrorists and bad terrorists.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 7:25:29 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/The-carnage-in-Quetta/article14562309.ece

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