Never was the necessity for political consensus more desperately felt than in recent days. The attack on a strategic site like Karachi airport was symptomatic not only of the rejuvenated zeal of the anti-state terrorists but also of the state’s inability to effectively secure important locations.
Even though TTP has accepted responsibility for the attack, the terrorists are said to be Uzbeks belonging to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, having close nexus with al-Qaeda. So far nothing has been heard of al-Qaeda getting involved in such an act of terrorism per se. This has been, more often than not, the sole preserve of the TTP operatives.
The attack on Karachi airport must have come as a shock to the few who thought that with the bulk of the jihadis having gone over to Syria, the human resources of the terrorist outfits inhabiting Waziristan must be substantially depleted. On top of this, the army air strikes in Waziristan would have reduced their numbers as well. Hence, the attack must have jolted many from the smugness that had overtaken them.
Worthy of our concern is the fact that urban spaces like Karachi rather than the relatively open terrain of Waziristan are seemingly set to become hubs of terrorist activity. It will, therefore, certainly be quite a challenge for our law enforcement agencies to track the terrorists. Nabbing them will be even harder. Such forces as those that the Pakistani state seems to be up against, if not weeded out at the earliest, present ominous threat not only for the region but also far beyond.
It is really worrisome to think of the Iraqi town of Mosul having fallen to a purported al-Qaeda splinter group named ISIS (Islamic State for Iraq and Sham). Whether the attack on Karachi was an act in isolation or part of a broader strategy by al-Qaeda is not yet clear. One may surmise that if ISIS manages to hold on to Mosul for a little longer, the possibility of Karachi coming under al-Qaeda attack yet again can hardly be ruled out. The success of any group or faction subsumed under al-Qaeda in securing a foothold in Iraq will certainly have a multiplier effect on its other affiliated groups and factions.
The question that is troubling the minds of the concerned citizens of Pakistan is whether or not the Pakistani state is well equipped to respond to such a daunting situation. Whatever lies ahead for the beleaguered state of Pakistan is far from comforting. In a sprawling city such as Karachi, portentous events can easily occur. With the weakness of the state apparatus so clearly visible, the terrorist bands would undertake any sort of adventurism they fancy. The myriad manifestations of the state’s ineffectiveness include: the inability to provide security for its citizens, to put a stop to religious extremism (by regulating the madrassa system), to provide uniform but decent education and healthcare, to generate resources from its own sources and to produce an effective system to dispense justice.
The fast erosion of the writ of the state in Pakistan leads one to equate Pakistan with the state of Lebanon in the 1980s, the classic example of anarchy. Sectarian and ethnic fissures in both the polities at two different times make them comparable to each other. Both of them have failed to ward off foreign influences which have played havoc with socio-economic and political structures. Lebanon had been falling prey to the intrusion of Israel, Syria and Egypt whereas Pakistan throughout was beset with American but more so with Saudi Arabian and Iranian influences, along with the assortment of different nationalities inhabiting the North Western region.
These influences, in conjunction with internal contradictions, have resulted in an extreme polarisation in Pakistan. As this process grows, Pakistanis seem like the multitude of citizens herded together in a space that is prone to all sorts of adversity, an adversity that originates from human incapacity rather than from nature’s ferocity. So atomised are they that the ‘nation’ as a category fails to encompass them. Remorsefully religion instead of providing glue to the disparate social entities, has in fact divided the people.
Consequently, a cynicism has crept into the very core of the Pakistani social formation. The much-needed change in the policy towards addressing terrorism, or giving currency to an all-inclusive national narrative is, seemingly, considered superfluous and so no heed has been paid to that at all.
Our political leadership is plagued with indecision and devoid of showing even a semblance of political will. Political consensus is conspicuously missing on vital issues. In view of the audacities, perpetrated with utter impunity by anti-state operatives, our political forces ought to be on the same page with regard to the security of the state. And yet the greatest impediment to dealing with terrorists appears to be the stark discrepancy in the prescribed methods of political stakeholders.
With the country riddled with problems, political consensus should be the first step with the final aim to address those problems. Public vindication of brutes in the public arena should be stopped. Those people eulogising the ‘heroics’ of the terrorists at the expense of the state of Pakistan need to be condemned in earnest. Instead of squandering time in holding negotiations with the terrorists, they ought to be dealt with force. In hindsight, the route of holding negotiations with the TTP has proven to be nothing but political tomfoolery.