At least three districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have once again become a target of militant attacks. Two policemen were among six killed in Swat IED explosions, and a grenade attack on a Kohat police station left seven injured — both on September 13. The TTP has claimed responsibility for the Swat attacks. On Wednesday, the death toll in Swat rose to eight. In another incident, three soldiers of the Pakistan Army lost their lives in Kurram during a gun battle with militants from Afghanistan who opened fire on Pakistani troops. In Kohat the target was the police whereas in Swat the attacks targeted a former peace committee head and police officials whose vehicle was struck by a remote-controlled bomb in Kabal Tehsil. The attack in Swat is particularly noteworthy as the head of the peace committee Idrees Khan was on the Taliban target list for the past many years. He had played a significant role in mobilizing resistance against the Taliban after they overran large areas of Swat in 2007-8.

The rise in violent militancy in the region has led to alarm among a people already still reeling from the past nearly two decades of violence they have had to endure. On Wednesday, people in Swat valley staged protests against this rising wave of terror attacks. What is needed is for the government and its representatives to ensure immediate action to forestall any new adventures by militants who have been trying to sabotage the peace in the region. When militants challenge the writ of the state like this there should be no room for any complacency or overconfidence. Right from the time of Mullah Fazullah, peace in Swat has been precarious and despite claims of eliminating militancy from the region, terrorism has been resurfacing off and on — locals once again finding themselves at the mercy of militants.

After the Afghan Taliban took control of Afghanistan, they had promised to not allow Afghan soil to be used for terrorist activities against Pakistan. We are still waiting for that promise to be fulfilled. Pakistan has now reported to have formally written to Kabul, asking the Afghan authorities to arrest Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar. The banned-in-Pakistan organization has been raising its head once again, and some observers believe that Masood Azhar is hiding somewhere in Afghanistan. Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid has however denied this and instead claimed the banned outfit’s chief is in Pakistan. Whatever the realities, the fact is that this whole situation raises concerns among those who live in or near the peripheral northern regions of the country. It is important for the state to be transparent. It is important that the people should know if militants are being resettled, as well as the terms and conditions of any negotiations. If these negotiations do not succeed in the end, will the state not have ceded enough space and time for the TTP to have regrouped and restrengthened themselves? It is worrying that policemen and anti-Taliban peace committee members are being targeted and being killed with impunity. Will the spillover effect of terrorism in Afghanistan not have an impact in Pakistan? Will the Pakistani state forever forget the good-bad militant binary? As the state ponders over what to do, let it be reminded that Pakistan’s constitution, our laws and rules must be applied equally. At a time of economic turmoil, devastating floods and political instability all at the same time, we cannot deal with rising militancy now too.

September 15, 2022
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