While Pakistan Army is on the offensive to eradicate the safe havens of terror in the northern areas of Pakistan, the target killing of Shias continues unabated in the cities of Pakistan. During the last two days a renowned scholar and his father were shot dead in Abottabad, whereas two young Shia men were killed in Karachi. In order to ensure that its strong offensive and the ensuing sacrifices in fighting the terrorism are an abiding success, the Army needs to make sure that the State undertakes coordinated efforts for stopping the terrorists from melting away in Madrassas and other sleeper cells in the cities of the country.The country’s policies over the years have paved an environment in its settled areas that is ripe for extremist acts to be committed with impunity; an unfortunate legacy of the notions of Jihad and Strategic Depth that remains with Pakistan’s successive “democratic” governments. The state has also connived far too long at the merciless genocide of Shias all over Pakistan. It is about time to stem it, as sectarianism provides the most fertile ecosystem to breed terrorists. Without eradicating sectarian armed brigands, the terrorism cannot be defeated.
It is imperative for the Army to make sure that the very Jihadists it is fighting are also deprived of a permanent foothold in the urban areas of Pakistan. The real success can only come when the country is able to prevent terrorist attacks and Shia-killings in its cities. The entire State apparatus has to be aligned for this purpose and law enforcement agencies and intelligence organs have to adopt kindred counterterrorism strategies. The government needs to make sure the country’s byzantine security and law enforcement system, dominated by competing fiefdoms and myriad jurisdictions with overlapping responsibilities, works seamlessly together to combat terrorism. Instead of working on a disjointed basis they have to set up fusion centers to screen threats and monitor secret intelligence and information, including sectarian madrassas and radical internet sites, and to identify and protect likely targets such as Shias. Such centres need to be monitored to check how and where people get together, how the new recruits are indoctrinated, what they do to arm themselves, where they hide, where they are trained, how they raise funds etc. Undercover agents have to be able to infiltrate violent sectarian groups such as ASWJ and LeJ to identify their covert warriors, terrorism related conduct, and other details of their operations and logistics.
The key way to crush urban terrorist cells and thwart terrorism is to use local people and follow locally generated leads, which is something where the Army is clueless without efficient police departments. A wholesome anti-terrorist policy needs to be designed and applied consistently and proactively instead of following the post factum approach that we have seen so far. We have to learn from the past and plan for a terror-free future and the institutional resources for implementing anti-terrorism strategies need to be empowered and strengthened.