The deportation order has brought to the fore the recurring debate in the South Asian region regarding illegal/undocumented migrants and refugees, as states have not ratified the International Conven- tion of Refugees.
Just when Pakistan was just trying to recover from the trauma of the deadly suicide attack of Peshawar barely two weeks ago that claimed more than 100 lives after a lethal breach of the well-fortified Peshawar Police Lines, the Karachi Police Office (KPO) came under a fierce terror attack on 17 February, killing seven and injuring scores. Sig- nificantly, both targets were police specific. Peshawar and Karachi are more than 1,500 km apart, yet both saw blatant breaches of security and both acts were carried out by Tehreek- e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) or the Pak- istani Taliban, as claimed by this dreaded terror outfit.
The daring terror attacks have drawn large-scale condemnation in Pakistan, for they expose the abject failure of security forces. Ordinary cit- izens are seeking answers and assur- ances from the government; if such highly-protected police locations are so insecure, then what is the state of security and safety of ordinary peo- ple? Clearly, the security establish- ment is rattled, and the army and the all-powerful ISI are on the defensive. Intelligence officials do not rule out more such attacks on high-value tar- gets in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Quetta and Lahore.
Authorities have formed a five- member probe committee to look into the causes of the recent attack on the KPO. The Counter Terrorism Depart- ment (CTD) and the intelligence set ups look clueless as despite working overtime, they are unable to deal with the terror menace. The alarm set by the audacious terror raid has led secu- rity professionals to revisit their Counter Terror policy while many leading media outlets have questioned if Pakistan any terror policy in place? Politicians, meanwhile, are trad- ing charges, questioning the compe- tence of the government and the secu- rity agencies. They have blamed the soft approach in dealing with the TTP for the attacks. Shireen Mazari, a lead- ing member of the Pakistan Tehreek- e-Insaaf (PTI) recently alleged that then COAS, Gen Qamar Ahmed Bajwa had wanted resettlement of TTP fami- lies soon after the Taliban takeover of Kabul in August 2021. PTI being the chief political adversary of the present government is exploiting the fresh ter- ror raid at KPO to the hilt to put the current regime on the backfoot. It has joined hands with the media and aca- demics in criticizing the government and the security/intelligence machin- ery for the repeated terror acts that have made common people even more vulnerable.
Experts say that there is a tussle between hardliners and moderates within the Taliban. Hardliners want to stick to their old style of governance while moderates insist they must adhere to the Doha deal and address the international community’s con- cerns. But as of now, it is evident that hardliners seem to be winning the battle. Pakistani officials say that the country has other options on the table if the Afghan Taliban refuses to tackle the TTP. Other options possibly include striking at the TTP inside Afghan territory. If this is done, it will have its own consequences. Pakistan’s best hope perhaps is for the Afghan Taliban to tackle the TTP issue with- out Islamabad needing to carry out cross-border raids. But that may just be a wish since the Afghan Taliban are unlikely to drop their support to the TTP.
According to a US think tank, United States Institute of Peace (USIP) Afghan Taliban will not withdraw their support to TTP as Pakistan may not be able to launch any military offen- sive because of the prevailing eco- nomic crunch. It also says that amid Pakistan’s economic crisis and the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan, the Pakistani Taliban have reemerged as an increasingly potent threat. What has compounded the Pakistani challenge is the precarious economic situation. The USIP report says that the deterio- rating economic situation has put limits on Pakistan’s military options. Pakistan can carry out raids and undertake defensive actions inside the
country, but it doesn’t have the resources for a sustained high-inten- sity campaign.
Pakistan is suffering a negative image internationally following these serial acts of terror. The global frater- nity may not be kind towards this ter- ror-stricken and economically belea- guered country which unfortunately does not seem to be doing enough to rein in home grown terrorists.
Pakistan must unshackle itself from the grip of terror or at least it should display its sincerity in doing so for the confidence of its own people in particular and the world commu- nity in general. Lamentably, it is not seen to be doing so.
(The writer is Adviser, NatStrat, a security analyst and a former National Security Advisor in Mauritius. The views expressed are personal.)