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The Quetta Terror Attack Through the Eyes of the Pakistani Media

It wasn’t the first terror attack, it won’t be the last, but Pakistan has had more than enough of this.

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Pakistan is mourning yet another terrorist attack – this time by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) at the New Sariab Police Training College in Quetta. The attack resulted in the death of 61 police cadets and injured over 150 others. The country’s editorial voices immediately reacted to the carnage. Most of them called out the government and the security forces for their lack of preparedness despite knowing the dangers that Pakistan faces in terms of terrorism.

One of the most poignant statements about the frequency with which these attacks are occurring and how many lives are lost to this mindless violence was made by The Nation’s editorial:

So dire is the condition of the city that the phrase “Quetta attack” has lost its significance – it needs to be followed by a place and date to specify which tragedy it is actually referring too.
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Lack of Preparedness

Dawn called the ease with which the militants managed to carry out their attack just as shocking as the high death toll. This reflected the general sense in the Pakistani media. Many asked if Pakistan was living in denial about a disease that has plagued it for decades.

By now, the state and its army should have been able to destroy these groups and identify those who recruit people to them. The failure to do so has resulted in hundreds of deaths over the years. Are we still in denial about the extent of the homegrown militancy problem?
The News International

The Express Tribune called the attack an intelligence and security failure and pointed out that “it reportedly took almost half an hour for a military response to reach the location once the attack was underway.”

Daily Times questioned why Quetta keeps falling victim to terrorist attacks while also acknowledging that there are limitations to the kinds of security apparatus that can be put in place.

When it comes to intelligence failures, it must be accepted that complete surveillance is not possible, and intelligence agencies effectively play their part in minimising intelligence failures. However, when intelligence failure does occur, it results in horrific attacks such as these. This points to the inadequate security arrangement of such installations, which allow terrorists to breach into them and wreak havoc inside.

Taking on the security forces for their certainty about Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s involvement in the attack, The News International asked why, if so much intelligence was already available to them, no action was taken.

The finger of blame has been immediately pointed towards Afghanistan, and we have been told that the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Aalmi, which has claimed responsibility for the horrendous act of terrorism and the snuffing out of so many young lives had been in touch with groups in that country. The contact has apparently been traced through telephonic calls. The question is that if so much information had been gathered, why was it not put to better use and a greater effort made to detect these men of violence before they struck?

Far less willing to make allowances of any kind was The Nation which stated that both, the military as well as the government, needed to answer to the people.

This is not the first attack, nor second or even the fifteenth; if the state fails every time in protecting it’s citizens, then the state – which includes the civilian government and the military establishment – needs to answer for its failure.
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It wasn’t the first terror attack, it won’t be the last, but Pakistan has had more than enough of this.
The attack killed 61 and injured over 150 others. (Photo: AP)
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Blaming Afghanistan and India

On the Pakistani politicians who pointed the finger of blame for the attack towards Afghanistan and India, the editorial pages had a lot to say. There was less consensus on the issue and various points of view, but none of these seemed to reduce the pressure on the Pakistani government to fix its fatal security flaws.

Dawn criticised those who immediately jumped into the blame game but also said that external interference in Balochistan is not a figment of anyone’s imagination:

After more than a decade of near-total control of the security policy in the province, all that seems to have changed is who is automatically blamed for particular acts of violence. Where earlier Baloch separatists were principally blamed, now alleged Indian- and Afghan-sponsored militants are reflexively accused. To be sure, Balochistan remains a hotbed of armed Baloch dissidents and hostile foreign interests. It is not a figment of a febrile imagination that outside elements continue to not only support some Baloch insurgents, but also seek to destabilise Pakistan in a murky tit-for-tat strategy. However, none of that changes the reality that much of Balochistan is effectively a vast no-go area for most Pakistanis and that security strategies are unable to establish normality, let alone peace, in the province. Part of the problem is surely the knee-jerk reaction to major incidents, typified yesterday by yet another high-level security meeting in Quetta, where once again old talking points appear to have been rehashed.

However, Tariq Butt, writing a column in The News International, was far more scathing about international interests in Pakistan:

Kabul, New Delhi and Washington want Islamabad to continuously bleed for furtherance of their greater agenda.
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It wasn’t the first terror attack, it won’t be the last, but Pakistan has had more than enough of this.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan (Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)
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Politicising Death

Imran Khan and his political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) have been threatening to shut down Islamabad on 2 November as a protest against the current ruling Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) government. The Quetta attack has not reduced his resolve and this hasn’t gone down too well with many. He also called the attack a conspiracy between India and the PML-N, to which Pakistan’s Defence Minister, Khawaja Asif, called it a nexus of Afghanistan, PTI and India.

Whichever group may be behind the attack, this was a time when we needed to demonstrate unity and resolve to defeat militancy and terror. That, unfortunately, is not how things panned out with Imran Khan feeling not an iota of shame in feeding the dead bodies of young cadets into the grind mill of his ambitions to power, by quickly implying that India and the PML-N together were behind the attack and that it was no coincidence that it took place so close to his planned shutdown of Islamabad. Defence Minister Khawaja Asif thought it necessary to join Imran in the gutter by suggesting that a nexus of India, Afghanistan and the PTI was to blame. It is no revelation any more that our politicians have become incapable of dealing with each other with a sense of honour. Can they at least try and mourn our dead with dignity?
The News International

At a time when the country should have rallied together, Khan’s bid to turn a tragedy into a political point in his favour backfired.

To even insinuate that the ruling party, the Prime Minister or any Pakistani citizen for that matter would cause the death of the people all over a pointless march is preposterous and tells us that PTI has an inflated sense of its own importance.
The Nation
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There are no ‘good terrorists’ or ‘bad terrorists’ and the Quetta attack is a fundamental policy failure in large part caused by the inability of the Establishment and assorted politicians to read off the same page. Or even work to the same playbook.
The Express Tribune

This wasn’t the first such attack in Pakistan and, sadly, it probably won’t be the last but it’s clear that the people of the beleaguered nation have had far more than enough. There can be no two ways about it, as Dawn points out:

Zero tolerance is the only way ahead – a policy both in principle and in practice when it comes to taking on militant groups.
Dawn

(Sources: Dawn, The News International here and here, The Express Tribune, Daily Times, The Nation here and here)

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