Quetta terrorism: No lessons learned by Abdul Q Kundi

A heart wrenching terror incident in Quetta has once again reminded us that all is not well. I am always amazed when we are surprised by a terrorist attack as if it is something unusual that we have not experienced before. A country plagued by inefficiency, nepotism and corruption usually face such man made calamities which will continue until the whole nation wakes up to change. After reading comments and reactions of politicians, military leaders, opinion makers and social media activists it seems we have not learned any lessons so the unfortunate truth is that more such events will happen in Pakistan.

Before we talk about our reaction in Pakistan to terror incidents let’s see how French and German’s dealt with recent terrorist events. Within hours homes of suspected terrorists were raided to collect information about the network and accomplices. Written material and computers collected from their homes is then analyzed quickly to identify facilitators, abettors and planners which were in most cases apprehended within few days. Not only that those that were found negligent were relieved of their responsibilities as well. Security procedures are reviewed and amended to stop further events. This does not mean that any system can be made fool proof but at least the barriers were raised to have a creditable deterrence against future failures. Another attitude exhibited was that no politicians called each other unpatriotic or questioned each other intentions although policies especially related to war on terror and immigration were criticized.

The reaction in Pakistan after Quetta terrorism was business as usual. First was the wave of condemnation not only from people like you and me who have no political authority but also those that are supposed to hold executive powers. This was another confirmation that our elected politicians, both government and opposition, are incapable and inept to lead this nation to a better future and are clueless about how to run a government. Politicians of all stripes as well as military leaders visited hospital to sympathize with injured but the only outcome of it was selfies to feed social and traditional media. Condemnation was soon replaced by allegations. Opposition politicians and their social media trolls did not waste time in trying to establish that all parties in government are agents of RAW, untrustworthy and unpatriotic. Supporters of government were not far behind and their trolls were quick to suggest that opposition leaders are also unpatriotic and agents of other countries. In other words it was suggested that none of the politicians and political parties are patriotic. Some even suggested that somehow government planned these terrorist attacks to derail the opposition agitation movement. But that is not the end of the story soon supporters of Aab aa jao Raheel Shareef were out to suggest that only military installed technocrats is the solution and that tenures of military dictators were golden eras of stability and growth. They conveniently forgot that the menace of fundamentalism, extremism and terrorism was brought on us by the wrong policies of military dictators of the past. In other words everyone tried to engage in point scoring, political opportunism and increasing space for their own political power rather than find tangible solutions to the problem.

Now the question would be what could be done? Many steps can be taken by those that really want to find solutions and implement them. For starters there are many reports published by international newspapers and think tanks that Balochistan is infested with agents of intelligence agencies from all over the world not just India. The question then is who is responsible to deal with counter espionage. The answer to the best of my knowledge is ISI. Theoretically ISI is under Prime Minister but practically Chief of Army Staff (COAS) controls it. So both PM and COAS should review why our counter espionage and counter terrorism is failing and take necessary steps to cleanse country from it, especially Balochistan, because failure would mean no initiative can succeed whether it is CPEC, regional stability or containing separatism. It is understandable that amateur social media activists point fingers at Indian agency RAW to be the master mind of terror but when elected politicians make such reckless statements without proof it makes our nation a laughing stock and reduces impact of our diplomatic case to gain support. Politicians should be more careful in their statements and allow proper dossier to be build that confirms involvement of foreigners in these attacks.

The fact is that whoever is the master mind, local or foreign, the executioners of terrorist acts are local. It is important to deal with local sanctuaries to contain them from recruiting that carry out such horrendous terrorist acts. It is a mistaken notion that only kids of poor are target of the recruiters. Safoora Goath and some other terror acts were committed by young men belonging to educated and well to do families. The narrative of the recruiters is succeeding because of failure of our social contract.

Final piece of a good security is a capable and resourceful police. There have been many reports about police reforms but so far no concrete actions have been taken by any province except Khyber Pakhtunkhwa which recently introduced a police ordinance. A key area that needs immediate attention is coordination between federal and local intelligence and ability to perform forensic analysis. Another important thing to look at is performance of first responders which are ambulances and emergency wards in hospitals. Many lives are lost because of lack of protocol and procedures adopted by these emergency staff. Capability and resources of emergency wards have to be improved to save some precious lives. Although the Quetta terrorist incidents was horrible but it is also a fact that terrorism has gone down in the country since the launch of operation zarb e azb. Quetta is a reminder that despite some success there is still lot of work that needs to be done.

Failure of politicians, military, intelligence, police, judiciary and bureaucracy has reached epic levels in Pakistan. It is about time we take collective actions to improve our society. If we fail to act there will be many more Quetta like incidents in the country and the cycle mentioned about will be repeated again without learning any lessons.

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