It was perhaps to be expected that the terrorists would strike in the run-up to Eid. They didn’t disappoint, hitting both Quetta and Parachinar at the weekend. It was also perhaps to be expected that the increasingly infamous Jamat-al-Ahrar claimed responsibility for the attacks.
The militant outfit has in the past expressed spiritual support for the Islamic State and its former spokesperson, now a reformed asset, has told tales of Indian funding aimed at destabilising Balochistan. All of which works in favour of the Pakistani state apparatus. From the security establishment’s rehearsed perspective — it explains somewhat the lack of substantial gains on the counter-terrorism front, while carefully circumventing that most awkward of questions on our own state’s record on sponsoring home grown militants. It is time for Pakistan’s military establishment to stop hiding behind this rhetoric.
The same goes for the civvies.
Meaning that the political set-up must redress its systematic neglect of Balochistan and FATA. The state remains the primary arbiter of the social contract with the citizenry. And the nexus between failure to invest in the people of these vast areas and the radicalisation of local populations there cannot be underestimated. Repeated changes to financial formulations of the National Finance Award Commission (NFC) as well as delays in economic distribution have not helped. Nor have the failings of the Council of Common Interest (CII) — the dispute resolution body for federation-provincial power sharing. Then, too, there is the now protracted deliberation of the Tribal Area Rewaj Bill, 2017, that may or may not end up repealing the draconian Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR).
It is this breakdown in catering to all provinces on an equal footing that explains why the Punjab, for example, remains disproportionately under the media’s spotlight. This is not healthy and has, in turn, led to bombings in urban centres such as Islamabad and Lahore prompting paroxysms of grief far greater than other areas in this country. It is not enough to simply outsource responsibility to CPEC — as if this is a one-size-fits-all panacea for every occasion. No, the Pakistani state must get its own house in order. And that means not only focusing on the front lawn seen mostly by visitors. But that back garden, too. For both fall within the picket fencing of national borders. *
Published in Daily Times, June 25th, 2017