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In its "Pakistan Security Report 2017" released on Sunday, Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) notes that militants, nationalists/insurgent groups carried out as many as 370 terrorist attacks in 64 districts causing the death of 815 people, and injuring around, 1,736 others. The number of fatalities is only slightly lower - 16 percent - than the previous year. But the IS has continuously been expanding its footprint in this country, especially in Balochistan and northern Sindh. Over the past one year, the group has taken responsibility for the six deadliest attacks, including the suicide bombings at a Church in Quetta, a shrine in Fatehpur area in Jhal Magsi district, Shah Noorani shrine Lasbela, the convoy of Senate Deputy Chairman, JUUI-F's Maulana Haideri, and Sehwan Sharif in Sindh, causing the loss of 153 lives and inuring scores of others.

It may be recalled that a while ago, the Sindh IG police had told a Senate committee that the men who carried out the Safoora Goth massacre in Karachi were also associated with IS, and that their commander had fled to Syria. Back in 2014, the group had taken credit for suicide bombing at the Wahgah border in Lahore, which left 50 people dead another 100 wounded. Unfortunately, all this while the government has been in a state of denial, strongly contesting any suggestions about the existence of IS in this country. It may have regarded IS as an essentially Middle Eastern group, ignoring the fact that some local TTP militants may also have shifted loyalty to it. As it turned out, from among TTP splinter groups, Jamaat-ul- Ahrar, led by the head-chopping terrorist from the Mohmand Agency, Omar Khalid Khorasani, had declared allegiance to the IS. The violent sectarian outfit, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, too is known to have links with IS- inspired militants. Now that the IS has lost territory in both Iraq and Syria, those who had gone to fight alongside the group are expected to return, ie, if they have not already returned. Other foreign fighters from those battlefields may also accompany them. Together they can pose an even greater threat to peace and stability of this country.

The government is therefore required to acknowledge the reality and takes necessary measures to defeat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. What needs to be done has already been identified in the political consensus-based National Action Plan. It must be fully implemented without any further let or hindrance. In an interview with PIPS, National Security Adviser Lieutenant-General Nasser Khan Janjua (retd) is quoted as saying that the 'national security policy' has been finalized and is under government review. Notably, at a recent meeting of the National Security Council, he was also given the responsibility to prepare a counter-extremism policy. It is yet to see light of the day. There is no time to be wasted in shuffling proposal papers, concentrated action must be taken to eliminate terrorism, root and branch.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2018

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