Once-tolerant southern Punjab has become a base for jihadist groups. Socio-economic grievances, political alienation and poor education provide a near endless source of recruits. To reverse the tide, the government must end a climate of impunity, block hate speech, improve rule of law, and refocus counter-terrorist action to target all jihadist groups.
Wave of attacks on state, sectarian and other targets cast doubt over efficacy of military’s recent counter-terrorism operations against jihadist networks, while govt’s accusations that Afghanistan was harbouring attackers and launch of cross-border attacks on alleged sanctuaries of militants further exacerbated tensions with Kabul. Islamic State (IS) 16 Feb carried out suicide bombing at prominent Sufi shrine in Sehwan Sharif, Sindh province, killing at least 88 and injuring more than 200; security forces claimed to have killed over 100 alleged terrorists in security crackdown day after attack. Pakistani Taliban (TTP) faction Jamaat-ul-Ahrar 14 Feb carried out suicide attack on protest outside Punjab Assembly in Lahore, killing at least fifteen including six police. At least six killed in 21 Feb suicide attack outside court in Charsadda, Kyber Pakhtunkhwa province. TTP claimed suicide bombing targeting administrative tribal HQ in Ghalanai in Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA)’s Mohmand agency 15 Feb killing five; one killed in suicide attack targeting judges in Peshawar same day. Several police and soldiers killed by IEDs in Balochistan’s Quetta and Awaran district and in S Waziristan mid-month. As terror attacks escalated military vowed revenge, accusing “hostile powers” of directing them. Govt 17 Feb accused Afghanistan of harbouring terrorist groups including IS, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and TTP, demanded arrest of over 76 terrorists allegedly hiding in Afghanistan and closed border indefinitely. Military carried out airstrikes in FATA and shelled alleged Pakistani militant positions in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar and Kunar provinces. In “sweep operation” in Punjab 18-19 Feb law enforcement agencies reportedly arrested over 200, mostly Afghans. Punjab’s civil-military provincial Apex Committee 19 Feb agreed to requisition assistance of paramilitary Punjab Rangers to provide security. Govt launched new military-led nationwide counter-terrorism operation Radd-ul-Fasaad (End to Chaos) 22 Feb, with particular focus on Punjab.
This report examines President Trump’s emerging counter-terrorism policies, the dilemmas his administration faces in battling ISIS and al-Qaeda across the Middle East and South Asia, and how to avoid deepening the disorder both groups exploit.
Ethnic, political and sectarian rivalries, jihadist groups, criminality and heavy-handed security policies are turning Pakistan's biggest city into a pressure cooker of tensions. Feuding politicians must set aside their conflicts or Karachi's law-and-order crisis may further worsen.
Pakistan remains the greatest impediment to a polio-free world. The link between the disease and Islamist anti-immunisation campaigns is clear but without an appropriate political response. The authorities must tackle extremist networks, step up health services, and make sure that health workers are safe.
Pakistan’s six-month-old counter-terrorism strategy has failed to end the operations of violent jihadi groups, while military-led measures continue to undermine the civilian government. A winning strategy will have to include structural and governance reform, both to stop jihadis exploiting the absence of rule of law and to address the root causes of extremist violence.
In Pakistan, women’s security and political, social and economic status are under attack by religious extremists, undermined by discriminatory legislation and unprotected by the state. The government must stand by its pledge to end gender inequity and violence against women, especially in the conflict zones of north-western Pakistan and the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.
The recent wave of attacks within Pakistan is the result of Pakistan’s historical reliance on militant groups to promote its foreign policy agenda, which seems to be biting the country now.
With the reestablishment of Afghanistan’s national air force, we’re seeing the Taliban being driven into the mountains more than previously.
Originally published in Política Exterior
As the world marks Polio Day today, Pakistan remains the greatest impediment to a polio-free world.
Originally published in Lowy Interpreter
Originally published in The Boston Globe