For the most part, Azad Jammu and Kashmir managed to escape the violence that has engulfed Pakistan in recent years. But the last six months or so have seen a spike in terrorist activity, the most recent being Wednesday’s deadly suicide attack outside a military barracks in Tararkhel.
Security forces in AJK were earlier targeted by a suicide bomber in June last year, an incident that claimed the lives of two soldiers. Then, in November, three men blew themselves up after they were besieged by police and area residents in Muzaffarabad. Luckily, the only casualties were those suffered by the terrorists. About a month later, a suicide bomber killed at least seven mourners participating in a Muharram procession in Muzaffarabad. Wednesday’s bombing was reportedly the first such attack outside the AJK capital.
Clearly, the tentacles of terror are spreading. When the Taliban and their affiliates first turned against Pakistan, their sphere of operations was limited mostly to the NWFP and Fata. But their reach grew under a government that was ostensibly fighting militancy and at the same time cutting peace deals from a position of weakness. The so-called Punjabi Taliban started making their presence felt and various extremist outfits across the country also closed ranks with the tribal militants. The state capital was attacked, as were several towns and cities in the NWFP, Punjab and the tribal belt. But the worst was still to come in the wake of the concerted military offensive launched last year.
Finding themselves on the run for once, they lashed out with attacks on soft targets as well as security installations. Hundreds of civilians were killed by bomb blasts. Peshawar was hit repeatedly. The terror spread to southern Punjab and last month several Ashura mourners died in a blast in Karachi. The attack has yet to be linked to a specific group. It is clear that extremist elements want to so terrorise the nation that public support for the military operation wanes. That hasn’t happened so far — indeed the opposite has occurred. It is now incumbent on all sections of society to ensure that the battle against militancy is taken to its logical conclusion.