EDITORIAL: Safety no moreMore than a dozen people — military personnel and civilians — were killed on Friday and several others injured when a suicide bomber targeted the regional headquarters of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in Peshawar. It is indeed quite alarming that a suicide bomber with an explosives-laden vehicle could hit such a sensitive target; that too when there is a high security alert all over the country. Such an attack could not be ruled out in the light of the security situation. Only a few months ago, militants had targeted the ISI headquarters in Lahore. It is now clear that the terrorists have the security agencies of Pakistan in their sights.
ISI’s role in the past as a supporter of militancy is no secret, but now the tables have turned. The ISI is therefore pitted against the militants and vice versa. The security and law enforcement agencies are being targeted left, right and centre by the terrorists in the wake of the military offensive against the militants in Swat/Malakand and South Waziristan. The attack on GHQ last month was the most significant terrorist attack in the history of Pakistan, highlighting the fact that the militants have now declared open war against the state of Pakistan and its military and intelligence agencies. Needless to say, the intelligence agencies are playing a crucial role in the military operations against the terrorists. Without good real time intelligence, no military operation can be successful, especially when the enemy is engaged in guerrilla and asymmetrical warfare. In the past, both the military and the intelligence agencies have tried to pacify the militants by playing the ‘good Taliban, bad Taliban’ card. It has not worked. The penny has finally dropped and the military has realised that there is no such thing as a ‘good’ militant. This does not mean of course that the door should not be left open for those militants who for one reason or another choose to come in out of the cold, abandon militancy, and are desirous of reintegration into society.
Irrespective of this ‘open door’ policy though, it is by now crystal clear that the militants are out for blood, which is why it is doubly unfathomable that no proper security arrangements were made for the regional ISI headquarters in Peshawar. If GHQ and ISI buildings can be targeted so easily, it does not inspire confidence that civilian targets can be kept secure. The modus operandi is almost the same in all major terrorist attacks. Explosive-laden vehicles were used to carry out suicide bombings at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad and the FIA building in Lahore. Under such circumstances, suspect vehicles should not be allowed anywhere near high-risk targets.
The police, too, are being targeted by the jihadis. On Saturday, there was a suicide attack at a police checkpost on the outskirts of Peshawar, while on Friday a police station in Bannu was attacked by terrorists. Such attacks do not end here. Trucks carrying NATO supplies for Afghanistan were targeted at Mach in the Bolan Pass on Friday morning.
Those who have been saying that this is the US’s war should now take a good look at all these events. If it ever was the US’s war exclusively, by now there can be little doubt that this is our war now. The zealots are not only targeting military and security personnel but also ordinary citizens. They have killed scores of women, children and men all over the country. By attacking the Sri Lankan cricket team earlier this year, they made it clear that they would not spare anyone. It is high time that all political parties unite against these barbarians and speak up. It is time that sanity prevails instead of the mad voices that we often hear in the media. No one in Pakistan is safe anymore; not till extremism is rooted out of the veins of the country. *
SECOND EDITORIAL: Nuclear proliferation, once again
It appears that the ghost of the purported proliferation of our nuclear capability returns again and again to haunt us. Only a few days after Seymour Hersh made waves with his New Yorker story (vociferously refuted by all concerned quarters at home and abroad) about the alleged American collaboration in the control and command arrangements of our nuclear arsenal, the Washington Post has chosen to publish a lengthy report about China’s contribution to the build-up of our nuclear programme in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Washington Post alleges that the Chinese leader Mao Zedong and Prime Minister Z. A. Bhutto concluded a broad agreement on nuclear cooperation in 1976. Within that framework, China in 1982 allegedly furnished Pakistan with 15 tons of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) and later 50 Kg of HEU (Highly Enriched Uranium), enough to make two nuclear bombs. The paper reports that Pakistan, in exchange, facilitated china’s access to sensitive uranium-enrichment technology, and then goes on to dub the whole transaction as “a form of sustained, high-tech international horse-trading”.
The source of this latest barrage again is cited as the apocalyptic documents reportedly stashed away by Pakistani nuclear scientist Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan in December 2003 with the British journalist Simon Henderson, including an 11-page narrative, stated to be scribbled by the steward of the Pakistani nuclear programme for our clandestine agencies after his detention in January 2004.
Reassuringly, the spokesperson for the State Department reiterated on Saturday that the US administration is reasonably satisfied with Pakistan’s nuclear command and control system. The timing and the tenor of the Washington Post story can thus be interpreted as a circumlocutory prelude to US President Barack Obama’s visit to China, scheduled to start on Tuesday. President Obama is widely believed to be inclined to press China in his ongoing campaign for accentuated efforts for non-proliferation, especially in the context of Chin’s divergent position vis-à-vis the nuclear programmes of Iran and North Korea. On the face of it, US officials could not have been unaware of the allegations levelled through the Washington Post story, but may choose to extract maximum advantage from it by putting China on the back foot. Seen from this angle, Pakistan appears to be a collateral casualty in a wider theatre.
Having said that, the fact that nuclear issues in so many places frequently drag Pakistan’s name into the imbroglio, should be a point of concern for those who aspire to have Pakistan seen as a respectable and responsible member of the international community.