Roman philosopher Cicero had rightly observed that certain signs precede ominous events. It seems we are to see such developments sooner than later - they are perhaps around the corner. Currently, we are in a state of flux. No one can say authoritatively who is coming or going. After all, it is said one week is a long time in politics.
Terrorist attack on Quetta Police Academy was perhaps a precursor to what more is in store. Since many years Quetta has been an Achilles heel for our law enforcers. In August Baluchistan Bar Association’s former President was killed followed by scores of other lawyers in bomb attack. Despite heavy presence of the assortment of security agencies including army, Frontier Constabulary, police, levis and all brands of intelligence agencies infesting the nook and corner of the province since many years — the provincial capital remains to be most vulnerable target.
Terrorist come here on one way ticket, find it easier to carryout indiscriminate mayhems. Sunday night terrorist attack killed 61 cadets in the Police Training Academy with over 115 injured. The four suicide bombers had held 250 cadets hostage for several hours. It is said that one was shot dead while entering the Academy while three others were already inside the building. Later after having done their job, they blew themselves up. Obviously it seems that there must have been some collaboration somewhere to let three in.
While all such killings are appalling Police Academy tragedy is horrendous. It shows how helpless were those people who were being trained to protect others. One must not forget as well that Quetta-nay the entire province of Baluchistan-- has been in the eye of terrorist storm since many years. Mostly terrorists frequently targeted Shia community members and among them that too Hazaras. Every incident was followed by sit-ins and protests by the aggrieved Shia community demanding arrest and punishment of miscreants.
Routinely as what seems to have become part of standard operational procedure (SOP), high ups in the provincial government would condemn the incident in strongest possible words and give an almost believable commitment not to leave any stone unturned in punishing the culprits in a draconian manner that no one in future would dare repeat such carnage. Provincial condemnation would be later orchestrated by the Prime Minister, Army Chief, Corps Commander, Interior Minister, Chief Minister, IG Frontier Corps and other functionaries.
From Him we come so shall we return to Him—is the great healer. The inquiry ordered to wipe the tears of the faces of the aggrieved dries off soon and business of life becomes as usual. Making promises of inquiry, appointment of commissions is all hogwash. Thousands of probes held in the past--from the time of assassination of Pakistan’s first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan to this day including that of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s murder, the killing of 150 school children of Army Public School, Quetta lawyers mayhem, repeated killing of Hazaras over the years—end up like search of a black cat in a dark room with windows wide open.
What makes the case of Balochistan classical example of gross negligence, dereliction of duty, incompetence or collaboration with the terrorist organizations is the fact it enjoys strategic location and interests besides it endemically suffers from recurring insurgency by those who the government calls to be in the pay of our enemies or genuine political dissenters seeking justice and equitable share in power and resources.
Although one would not like to take benefit of frequent inadvertent typographical errors in writing too many cooks spoil the broth, Baluchistan’s case seems to fall in the description of the phrase. I would not dare to replace the word cooks with perhaps more appropriate description—as Balochistan is being run by so many sensitive organisations to make life of Baluchis least nasty, short, brutish and safe. Corps commander is the warlord in the province, followed by Frontier Constabulary IG seemingly over all in charge of law and order and anti smuggling since the illicit operations across the border mean multimillion dollar transactions. Although law and order is provincial subject, the Provincial Interior Minister is more of a parrot trained to repeat whatever he is told since he has in fact nothing much tangible to perform.
Indeed, the job of law enforcers has been made easier these days when those behind an incident rush to claim responsibility immediately. In Quetta Police Academy tragedy ISIL and Lashkari Jhangvi Al Alameen have jointly claimed responsibility. Lashkari e Jhangvi Al Ameen is an international brand of LeJ Pakistan—a favourite strategic asset of Punjab administration and also those who hire its contractual services on assignment basis within and outside.
While that being that, one would not like to add insult to injury in what has already come out in the media in the form of blame game between some leaders on the two sides of the political divide. One would also not like to criticize the law enforcers in the province at this juncture. However, looking at their continuous dismal performance one would recall MNA Mahmud Khan Achazai’s demand following the lawyers bombing incident in August that top of the order law enforcers should be sacked en bloc. Indeed, some heads need to be rolled, not of smaller functionaries but those who really matter. Interior Minister or Baba-e-National Action Plan—the most ineffective contraption ever evolved—would do well to call it a day himself.
Last but not the least, IG Frontier Corps has decisively accused Indian RAW and Afghanistan’s NDS of being involved in the Police Academy carnage so has National Security Advisor Lt General ® Nasir Janjua who briefed the American ambassador in Pakistan that India’s RAW and Afghanistan’s NDS are patronising terrorists groups to attack soft targets in Pakistan. One feels allegations of such serious nature—though 100 pc correct they could be—should not be made especially when some miscreants have already claimed responsibility. Independently law enforcers have been accused of using LeJ for elimination of insurgent leaders or miscreants.
I fear Quetta massacre is a sequel to many more such tragedies which are in store till the time all seminaries and their foot soldiers are neutralised or at least their leadership is eliminated or taken to task. And the best response to all internal and external challenges is to put our own house in order. Perception of an unending tussle between two power centres is not healthy for the nation.
Author is the former High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK, a veteran journalist and long time Adviser to Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.