A new wave of militancy
However, Pakistan seems to have managed to eliminate the menace of terrorism, a new untoward incident takes place. There is no respite from terror in Pakistan. Militants of every stripe have shown that they can strike at any time. On Friday, gunmen armed with explosives targeted the Chinese consulate in Karachi in an attack that took the lives of two police officers and two civilians. It is certain that the attack was an attempt to sabotage the relationship between the two countries. It was possibly intended to warn China that Pakistan is still not safe to operate in. Nevertheless, the support shown by China should be highly lauded as they assured that no hindrance in the CPEC project will occur, following the attack.
The attack on the Chinese consulate presents a new challenge. The seeming ease with which heavily armed attackers were able to reach their intended target has raised a number of questions from a security perspective.
The quick reaction of the Sindh police and the paramilitary Rangers has been praised by government officials, and security personnel may have prevented more casualties and a nightmarish hostage scenario. But that should not obscure intelligence and security failures that may have allowed the attackers to arrive at their target undetected.
If disaffected or separatist Baloch militants are responsible for the attack, it would be yet another sign that the state’s policy in Balochistan is not delivering the intended results of peace and security. Baloch separatists have been targeting foreign workers in Balochistan for years. Indeed, before CPEC came to fruition, China had pulled out all of its workers from the province after multiple attacks on its engineers. Such attacks need to be strongly condemned and those responsible brought to justice. Still, the government should also consider why so many Baloch – who have no connection to separatism or such attacks – are far from happy with Chinese-directed development in Balochistan. The longstanding complaint that Balochistan’s resources are exploited by the centre and the Baloch people themselves do not get their fair share has never been adequately addressed. China’s involvement, especially in places like Gwadar, has heightened the feeling of exploitation.
Nonetheless, a common thread is that the state’s responses and strategies in fighting militancy will have to continue to evolve. The PTI federal government has been firefighting on the economic front and is mired in familiar political tensions with the opposition, as a result of which it has not yet turned its attention to the serious business of improving the capacity of the civilian side of the security apparatus nationally.
The one lesson we should have learned from years of battling militancy is that the public generally is opposed to the extremism of all kinds but the only way to get the people on the government’s side is by addressing legitimate grievances.