Sunday, January 22, 2017

Pakistan - Parachinar blast

In the first major terrorist attack of 2017, at least 20 people lost their lives at the Eidgah Market in Shia-majority Parachinar. Early reports have not confirmed whether an IED or a suicide bomber were responsible. Images of grieving families have once again reminded us of the serious threat that terrorist outfits continue to pose to the country. Being the first major terrorist attack in the tenure of new Army Chief General Bajwa, this is a reminder to our security forces that the challenges of terrorism is by no means over. The target of that attack was Pakistan’s Shia community, emphasising the fact that religious and sectarian minorities in the country remain vulnerable to the grossest forms of terrorism. The proscribed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alami claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that the group, along with TTP splinter Shehryar Mehsud group, had carried out the attack. There is little solace that solidarity statements from the prime minister and president can offer to communities that have been targets of terrorism for far too long.
Divisions remain deep within Pakistan’s own social matrix over domestic and international affairs which continue to provide a readymade breeding ground for terrorist organisations of all ilks. The fact that the same market was targeted in a similar attack in December 2015 points to a serious security failure. Coming days after the new head of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Asif Chotu, was killed in an encounter, the element of retribution cannot be discounted. If indeed the TTP’s statement is to be heeded, recent attempts to disassociate sectarian groups from terrorist groups must be seriously questioned. Government officials continue to give confused signals about different militant groups as tragedy after tragedy continues to plague the country. General Bajwa recently reached out to Afghanistan to propose stopping the blame game for terrorism. That is a positive signal. Tackling terrorism in Pakistan will require a coordinated approach. The failure to implement key parts of the National Action Plan has been pointed out repeatedly. While one may accept that there is no easy solution to terrorism, there is certainly more that can be done to protect the country’s most vulnerable communities.

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