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February 22, 2017

Charsadda attack


February 22, 2017

In the latest incident in the current spate of terrorism, the police foiled an attack at the Charsadda sessions court on Tuesday. The police were able to kill three of the attackers before a possible hostage situation. But seven people still lost their lives in the attack. The police officials who stopped the Charsadda attack should, no doubt, be praised. But even then these terrorists should not have been able to reach the courts in the first place. Charsadda itself has been at the centre of much action after the closure of a JUI-F affiliated madressah in the city this month under NAP. Four suspects had been arrested around the same time – with reports that a terrorism plot had been foiled. Despite unrestrained action around the country against Jamaatul Ahrar hideouts, the Charsadda attack was also claimed by the same terrorist organisation. This means that, if intelligence-based action is underway against the Jamaatul Ahrar, there is a need for the state to guard against retaliatory attacks. It should already be clear that the organisation has been able to build a network of terrorists around the country and is able to undertake a coordinated set of attacks in major cities. Breaking such an organised network will require intelligence-based action as well as a regional approach to fighting terrorism.

There is no doubt that major terrorist leaders are based in Afghanistan, so action against them also necessitates Afghan cooperation and realisation that Afghanistan too, as a country facing terrorism, will find it in its best interest to stand with us and not against us. Despite tensions with Afghanistan having increased in the recent days, the Pakistan Army has indicated readiness to work together with the country against terrorism. This was made clear in an ISPR statement after a high-level GHQ meeting led by the COAS. For its own part, Afghanistan has provided Pakistan a list of 85 Taliban leaders and 32 alleged terrorist training centres for concrete action. Pakistan had earlier provided a 76-person list to Afghanistan. One can see the now traditional blame-game between the two countries becoming intense, but, looked at positively, it may point to the path forward as well. Both countries must act in good faith and begin action against those deemed to be security threats by each other. The two countries are not on one page over how to proceed on the question of the Afghan Taliban. Afghanistan’s own internal confusion over whom to talk to and who to take action against needs to end before any steps can be taken. Moreover, there is a question over how Afghanistan will respond to Finance Minister Dar saying that the prime minister has authorised the military to take action against terrorists ‘wherever they are’ – implying cross-border raids could be on the table. What must be repeated though is the importance of joint action and regional cooperation. Internally, for our part, the Charsadda incident – along with others of its kind – shows that our security forces and intelligence agencies need to be two steps ahead of terrorists in this war.


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