Scale of the chal­lenge

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL - Muham­mad Amir Rana

PAK­ISTAN'S in­ter­nal se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion has shown con­sid­er­able im­prove­ment over the past few months. That has not only cre­ated a sense of op­ti­mism across Pak­istan but also boosted the con­fi­dence of law en­force­ment agen­cies in ur­ban ar­eas.

The killings of some high-pro­file lead­ers of Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ) in Quetta, Karachi and Punjab, since the start of 2015, and ex­ten­sive search-and­hunt oper­a­tions against mil­i­tants have also low­ered the threat of sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence, at least for the mo­ment.

Mil­i­tary oper­a­tions have sig­nif­i­cantly weak­ened mil­i­tants' in­fra­struc­ture and net­works in the North Waziris­tan and Khy­ber agen­cies. Most mil­i­tants from these two re­gions have ei­ther re­lo­cated to Afghanistan or other parts of Pak­istan, in­clud­ing neigh­bour­ing agen­cies of Fata.

Pak­istan must con­tinue dis­rupt­ing the terror net­work and not al­low the groups the space and time to re­or­gan­ise.

Yet, mil­i­tants' pres­ence in parts of Fata and Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa poses a po­lit­i­cal chal­lenge and se­cu­rity threat. For in­stance, mil­i­tants con­tinue to show their pres­ence in all of Fata's tribal agen­cies. Ac­cord­ing to data pro­vided in the Pak­istan In­sti­tute of Peace Stud­ies data­base on se­cu­rity, be­tween May and July this year, mil­i­tants car­ried out 39 ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Fata, in­clud­ing eight at­tacks each in Ba­jaur and North Waziris­tan agen­cies, seven at­tacks each in Mohmand and South Waziris­tan agen­cies, six in Khy­ber Agency and three at­tacks in Kur­ram Agency. In Orakzai Agency, where no ter­ror­ist at­tack took place dur­ing these three months, mil­i­tants tried to re­group dur­ing the last month but se­cu­rity forces thwarted the plan.

Sim­i­larly, although ter­ror­ist at­tacks have de­creased in Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa, dis­tricts of the province bor­der­ing North and South Waziris­tan agen­cies re­main vul­ner­a­ble to ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­i­ties. It is feared that mil­i­tants from North Waziris­tan and Khy­ber agen­cies have also re­lo­cated to these ar­eas, where they could carry out at­tacks in the com­ing weeks and months, mainly in Bannu and DI Khan.

The pace of im­prove­ment in Balochis­tan is slow. Some se­cu­rity an­a­lysts be­lieve that the gov­ern­ment's amnesty scheme, which of­fers par­dons, fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion to those who quit vi­o­lence, will help bring the sit­u­a­tion un­der con­trol. The pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment also seems se­ri­ous in start­ing a process of po­lit­i­cal rec­on­cil­i­a­tion in the province. But there are cer­tain hur­dles along the way, which can only be re­moved through con­certed ef­forts. A high-level del­e­ga­tion of the Balochis­tan gov­ern­ment re­cently met the Khan of Kalat in Lon­don, but failed to per­suade him to end his self­im­posed ex­ile and re­turn to Pak­istan. Later, it was re­ported in the media that the Khan of Kalat said that only the Baloch Grand Jirga had the right to ask for his re­turn. Some media re­ports in­di­cated that the Balochis­tan gov­ern­ment was mulling over us­ing that op­tion, too.

Karachi has been com­par­a­tively peace­ful in re­cent weeks and months. Ap­par­ently, sur­gi­cal oper­a­tions against mil­i­tants and crim­i­nal el­e­ments have sig­nif­i­cantly weak­ened the in­fra­struc­ture of ter­ror­ists and crim­i­nal gangs. Ac­cord­ing to a re­port com­piled by the Sindh po­lice and sub­mit­ted to the pro­vin­cial home depart­ment, "the mur­ders and tar­geted killings in Karachi are all-time low­est [sic]." On the other hand, the po­lit­i­cal cri­sis con­tin­ues in Karachi and Sindh, which does not bode well for the fu­ture of se­cu­rity and peace there. While the killing of Ma­lik Ishaq was de­scribed by many as a se­vere blow to the LJ, it also in­di­cated that the Punjab gov­ern­ment, which has long been crit­i­cised for its al­leged in­ac­tion against sec­tar­ian groups, is be­com­ing se­ri­ous in elim­i­nat­ing mil­i­tant groups op­er­at­ing in the province.

Ma­lik and his aides' death will not only weaken the LJ in Punjab and Balochis­tan, but also af­fect the oper­a­tions of the Tehreek-i-Tal­iban Pak­istan (TTP), Al Qaeda and Ja­maatul Ahrar in Punjab with whom the group had op­er­a­tional nexus. The LJ was al­ready fac­ing prob­lems in Balochis­tan af­ter the killing of Us­man Sai­ful­lah Kurd, who headed another lethal fac­tion of the LJ that tar­gets Hazara Shia Mus­lims. The group is now headed by the sec­ond-in-com­mand of Kurd, Da­wood Ba­dini, who has been in hid­ing for a long time. Two main fac­tions of the LJ in Karachi - the Asif Cho­too and the Naeem Bukhari groups - have also been weak­ened mainly due to se­cu­rity oper­a­tions. But the history of the LJ sug­gests that it has many tac­tics to sur­vive, in­clud­ing a po­lit­i­cal cover. Yet one thing is cer­tain: it will not be as strong in the fu­ture as it was in the past.

The mil­i­tary oper­a­tions in Fata have sig­nif­i­cantly dam­aged the TTP. Ma­jor sec­tions of the group, in­clud­ing its splin­ter groups, have re­lo­cated to Afghanistan. There is no prob­a­bil­ity that the group will be al­lowed to re­group in Pak­istan. How­ever, it will con­tinue to cre­ate trou­ble in Pak­istan's ar­eas bor­der­ing on Afghanistan, as well as in other parts of the coun­try through its small pock­ets and al­lied groups.

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