Pakistan is going through a bad patch and it’s really quite disturbing, essentially because general elections are scheduled in the not-so-distant future amid a deteriorating law and order situation.
Only last Sunday, the Interior Minister of Pakistan, Ahsan Iqbal escaped a daring assassination attempt in Narowal, Lahore while addressing a corner meeting. Daring in the sense that the assassin pulled out his fire arm in full public view and fired a few shots before getting overpowered by security personnel.
Even in terrorist-prone Pakistan, it’s an abject failure of the law and order machinery if it cannot ensure the safety of its interior minister who is considered to be one of the most important dignitaries and whose security is thought to be the best, guarded as he is by specially trained commandos round the clock.
Intelligence failure apart, the on-ground security failed to see how the assassin could walk up to the meeting venue with a deadly fire arm. The culprit, 22 year old Abid Hussain, presently under custody and interrogation, disclosed to the Lahore police that he had a dream that he had to eliminate Minister Iqbal. Meanwhile, security has been tightened and VIP movements are “adequately” covered.
Against the backdrop of these developments, it looks very likely that the coming months will see more election-related violence at different public meetings with candidates and their supporters being the targets. In Pakistan such possibilities remain high as the availability of arms and ammunition is plentiful and virtually unchecked.
Secondly, terrorists find it easy to unleash attacks as and when they desire. Although the omnipotent armed forces, including the Pakistani Rangers are likely to be pressed into service when election canvassing peaks, the terrorists, in many cases in connivance with elements in the power hierarchy, will aim to get the better of security forces making the targets more vulnerable.
As the bad patch continues, the State Human Rights Commission has come down rather heavily on the government for rampant human rights abuses. In its latest report as recent as on May 7, it has highlighted rather glaringly the frequent disappearances of persons thought principally to belong to two segments.
First, those who criticise the military, which is virtually running the country and second, those who openly advocate better relations with India. This part is very important signifying that there is a committed lot in Pakistan who nurture a pacifist approach for improved relations with India.
On India’s part, it is imperative to identify these elements and encourage them to build a robust pro-India public opinion. This would defeat the ugly plans of the terrorists and particularly those who act at the Army’s behest.
The 296-page report prepared by the human rights body is dedicated to late human rights activist, Asma Jahangir and also goes on to draw the attention of the international community to the increasing trend of highhandedness perpetrated on minority communities. It specially flags the recent lethal attacks on Christians when they were at a mass.
Similar excesses are unleashed on Hindus, Shia Muslims and Ahmediyas. Intolerance is on the rise and it is alleged that Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) are also covertly responsible for abetting violent attacks on minority groups. Also, they (the ISI) are steadily encouraging religious bigotry. The outlook is grim when an arm of the government is so engaged.
The human rights group’s report notwithstanding, the election campaign period, upto its culmination in July this year and even its aftermath, will be extremely critical.
The 2013 election was marred by violence. It saw 148 terror attacks (coincidentally in the months of April /May) that killed 170 people and grievously injuring 743. Figures are alarming.
The sad part is that no one wants to learn from history and this time – with a prevailing dismal security scene that saw even the interior minister being targeted – a repeat of 2013 is a strong possibility. This calls for a close watch by Indian authorities so as to preempt any negative impact on Indian security interests.
The writer is a security analyst and former National Security Advisor to Mauritius. The views are personal.