Sunday’s attack at Wagah border killed over 50 people and injured hundreds. It was the worst attack since months in Pakistan, and serves as a terrible warning of the direction the country is headed if the existing national security strategy is not radically changed.
Over 25,000 Pakistanis have been killed by jihadi terrorists since 2003. Since the past 11 years, our civilian and military leaders have been trying to stop the bloodshed by using a failed anti-terrorism strategy.
Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif appealed to Taliban as ideological brothers, announcing in 2010 that, “the PML-N opposed [Musharraf’s anti-terrorism] policies and rejected dictation from abroad and if the Taliban are also fighting for the same cause then they should not carry out acts of terror in Punjab.”
Imran Khan parroted the same line, arguing that Taliban are ‘our brothers’ and attacks in Pakistan are only a response to Army cooperating with America in Afghanistan. According to Imran Khan, Taliban have no interest in imposing Sharia in Pakistan. Taliban, of course, say the exact opposite.
These attempts to appease the Taliban have proven a miserable failure. Worse, they have opened the door for jihadi groups to spread their propaganda and recruit new members to carry out attacks.
While politicians are appealing to Taliban as ‘brothers’, Army has taken a different strategy by attempting to bury the Taliban in press releases. Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel said in August that terrorists were ‘on the run‘, and the next month DG ISPR issued an official statement declaring victory against terrorists by announcing that ‘the Taliban capacity to carry out terrorist attacks have been neutralised’.
In this latest attack, jihadi suicide bomber detonated his explosives at the third Rangers checkpost, around 500 metres from the border.
DIG Operations Dr Haider Ashraf said the crime scene implied that the suicide bomber was carrying around 15 kilograms of explosives and a bag.
Media reports are praising spy agencies for averting more deaths by preventing the jihadi bomber from entering the parade venue, but the question no one seems to be asking at this time is how the attacker managed to carry 15–20kg explosives past multiple checkposts – especially if our intelligence agencies had ‘picked up plans for an imminent strike on their Wagah land border ahead of a suicide blast that killed 57 people’.
The deadly blast on Sunday proves that our existing national security strategy is a failure. Jihadi militants will not be pacified by sympathisers, and they will not be discouraged by press releases. Jihadi groups have responded by recruiting even from within the military ranks who help them carry out attacks against sensitive national security targets. Yesterday’s attack was a warning: If we do not stop the spread of extremism, we will not stop the attacks.