Violence and terrorism are increasingly making their presence felt across the country. Karachi saw a terrifying example of that on Tuesday afternoon, with a van blown up near the Confucius Institute at the University of Karachi. Four people, including three persons of foreign origin, were killed and four others injured. The attack seems to have targeted Chinese nationals. The police have confirmed this was a suicide attack, carried out by a female suicide bomber; and the Balochistan Liberation Army’s Majeed Brigade has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Back in November 2018, there was an attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi, which was also claimed by the BLA. In 2020, the BLA claimed responsibility for the attack on the Karachi stock exchange. Baloch militants were also said to be behind a 2021 attack in Dasu, targeting a bus carrying Chinese nationals — the attack killed nine Chinese nationals. That too was said to be a suicide attack. Pakistan has already seen the TTP brand of terrorism making a comeback in the country. And now attacks targeting the Chinese are an added security concern. It is also no secret that CPEC has led to resentment in many countries, which see any kind of progress on the corridor as a threat.
The Shehbaz Sharif-led government has a lot on its plate with a struggling economy and now a precarious security situation. We already have a National Action Plan (NAP) that needs to be implemented in letter and spirit. With the country already on the FATF grey list, NAP needs to be revitalized so that there is a combined well-thought-out plan on how to deal with the hydra-like terror situation in the country. Thousands of lives have already been lost in the war against terror. It is important that NAP be reassessed in order to fight the terror threat staring us in the face. Pakistan cannot afford to go back to the 2007-08 time, when terrorism was at its peak. It took many years to reach a place where there is far less insecurity regarding daily terror attacks. But attacks such as the one at Karachi University shatter the fragile peace that has been maintained the past few years.
Such attacks are also an unwelcome and stark reminder of just how much of the battle against violent radicalization and terrorism is still left. The fact that Tuesday’s suicide attack took place in a university makes it even more disturbing. While terror and violence in any form must be condemned, attacks at places of learning need to be condemned even louder. A university should be a safe space, regardless of what is going on outside its gates. We have unfortunately not seen that, with even schoolchildren not spared in terror attacks over the years. Given that the coalition government in place has spoken of Balochistan’s issues, perhaps this is the time to open a dialogue with those elements that are open to debate and reason, so that violent groups are starved of the recruits they get from disillusioned, radicalized young men and women.