Umpteen reports about the foiling of terrorists’ designs by the CTD, raids on hideouts followed by arrests of militants and suspected terrorists killed in encounters, and still we have what could turn out to be one of the major attacks in Lahore. With at least 14 dead while over 100 are injured, there is a likelihood of a rise in the number of mortal casualties. During January and February terrorist attacks were confined to Karachi, FATA and districts in the vicinity of Afghanistan or the agencies like Quetta and DI Khan. The Lahore attack comes 11 months after the disastrous Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park suicide attack.
The number of terrorist attacks had come down in 2016. The TTP had suffered heavy casualties on account of the army operation. This further strengthened complacency in the Interior Ministry. As was later pointed out in the annual report of Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS) for 2016, there was a marked increase in the attacks by Jamaat-ul-Ahrar during the year. The Interior Ministry simply failed to realise the gravity of the new source of the threat. When Balochistan government asked it in August to ban the network, the letter left the ministry unconvinced despite Jamaat-u Ahrar having owned the terrible attacks it had conducted and the US having already put its name in the list of specially designated global terrorist outfits. NACTA sought confirmation from ISI and delayed the ban till November.
The failure to implement the NAP has helped terrorist networks like Jamaat-ul-Ahrar Lahkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alalami as they continue to receive finds and get volunteers Sectarian violence lingers on because the Interior Ministry is not convinced of treating banned sectarian organisations as terrorist outfits. This explains the reluctance to take action against the Lal Masjid cleric and seminaries encouraging sectarian violence. Hate crimes continue on social media while political exigencies create pressures for taking a lenient view when seminaries are involved. The government needs to shed its complacency and implement NAP in letter and spirit before the monster starts playing havoc as before.