A city that has seen bloodshed to last a hundred lifetimes seems to be back in the middle of a terror onslaught. At least 44 people were martyred and 157 injured in a suicide attack inside a mosque in Peshawar’s Police Lines area yesterday. There are fears that the number of casualties may increase. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for what seems to have been a suicide attack, one of the deadliest this year. It is no secret that ever since the fall of Kabul in August 2021, there has been a sharp increase in terrorist attacks in the country. From Chaman to Bannu to Islamabad to Peshawar, the TTP has brazenly carried out attacks against Pakistan’s security forces – the police, the military or other security personnel. At a time when Pakistan is facing political and economic uncertainty, an increase in terrorism can lead to serious repercussions for a country that has bravely fought a long and hard battle to eliminate terrorism, losing thousands of lives in the war on terror.
And yet our Taliban policy has been confusing for a long time. This is why the first step must be a consensus that there are no good or bad Taliban; and an acknowledgment that some parties and politicians may have been far too quick to celebrate the return of the Afghan Taliban – who till now have not proven the ‘allies’ they were being seen as. In fact, Af-Pak experts have been consistently saying that the Afghan Taliban will not take action against the TTP. It is thus imperative for Pakistan to make it clear to the Afghan government that cross-border terror activities will not be tolerated. The state also needs to clarify how and why it had been ‘talking’ to the TTP and whether and how TTP members have been resettled here, as well as what steps are being taken to make sure they don’t take up arms against the state and the people.
In all this, let us not forget that the people of Swat as well as those of the former tribal areas have been raising their voice to demand the elimination of anti-peace and anti-state elements from these areas. The people of Swat have borne the brunt of Taliban rule and fought bravely against them. Their coming out on the streets to demand that the state protect them should have raised alarm bells. It is also imperative that the National Action Plan (NAP) be finally implemented in letter and spirit. If we keep appeasing the Afghan Taliban and TTP, we will continue to suffer. There should be no confusion on this issue. Politicians of all stripes and our security forces need to sit together and build a joint plan to defeat the terrorists before they cause further destruction and death in Pakistan. There is no doubt that there is a national crisis of security. If ever the state needed a national policy regarding security that was jointly owned and implemented at the federal and provincial levels, the time is now. It cannot be a security policy that differs from province to province other than in minor details to accommodate local conditions, and there has to be ownership of that policy right down to the individual. Now is the time for inspired leadership, and for bold and difficult decisions that get implemented. As things are, there is a sense of drift, of uncertainty and an unwillingness to grapple with uncomfortable realities. That needs to change – now.