Following Monday’s horrific suicide attack on Charing Cross which claimed 13 lives and left over 100 people injured, the wheels have started turning once again to launch a crackdown on banned militant organisations still active in Punjab. Two days later, Peshawar was the target of terror on Wednesday, as at least two people were reportedly killed and 18, including two women and a civil judge were severely injured after a bomb exploded, targeting a van of judges near Hayatabad Medical Complex. As the country is gripped in fear and violence after a period of calm, it is a great failure of the government that the National Action Plan could not be enforced despite the army’s efforts to launch a crackdown almost a year ago, and the people continue to suffer at the cost of the relapse in the security situation.
The Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA), an offshoot of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, which claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement, also claimed the attack on Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park 11 months ago. Security forces had launched operations against members of banned outfits in various cities of Punjab in April 2016, arresting over 350 suspected terrorists and their facilitators.
Have any of the suspects arrested actually been convicted of any crime in these eleven months? Police have now arrested at least 50 suspected persons during raids in different parts of Punjab, half of which belonged to Lahore. What will the outcome of these arrests be?
Perhaps the PTI chief was in the right to condemn the ruling party for displaying reluctance in implementing NAP in Punjab, especially considering the attitude of the chief minister, who insisted that there was no need of purging operations in Punjab. The ruling party was hesitant to shake up the delicate balance it shares with some of these organisations at play in the province, but perhaps now it will review the law and order situation and back the army for an operation against militants in south Punjab as Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa directed on Monday.
The army chief demanded that local army commanders and intelligence agencies provide all assistance to the civilian administration and to apprehend those responsible for the Lahore attack. But the real question is, will the civilian administration extend the same will and grit to purge the nation of these terrorists? In the aftermath of this terror and grief, it would be highly imprudent not to.