A fresh attack on a security check post near the Karachi airport just a day after the brazen strike has forced the Sharif government to go into a huddle and come up with an action plan against terrorists and militant organisations. Questions are being raised about the government’s ability to protect the airport and the feasibility of its overall security plan.
The meeting of the Cabinet Committee on National Security was held in Islamabad on Tuesday evening with PM Nawaz Sharif chairing the session. It was attended by cabinet ministers, the service chiefs and the head of the ISI. Interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan made recommendations on how security could be tightened at airports and other installations.
Earlier in parliament, opposition members attacked the government for its inability to respond effectively to the terror threat. An MP from the Pakistan Peoples Party said that the government priorities were muddled and that “it was friends with some militant groups and enemies with others.” The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf accused the interior minister of “having no clue about what is happening.” While the interior minister was briefing parliament about the attack on the Karachi Airport, PTI MP Shah Mehmood Qureshi informed him that another attack was taking place as he spoke.
The media has also questioned how the attack took place. “The terrorists used the access that was used when the Pan-Am aircraft was hijacked in the 80’s,” recalled aviation expert Rashid Malik. Malik, himself a former head of the Airport Security Force, said that security at the airport was compromised because of frequent VIP movement where protocols were not followed.
Pak begins airstrikes
For its part, the army started aerial bombing in the Tirah Valley, as part of its operation against militants. Army spokesman Major General Asim Bajwa said that nine terrorist hideouts were destroyed in the operation in which over 35 militants were killed. It is, however, unclear which militant groups the army has been targeting and which groups will be under fire when a comprehensive plan is devised to take on the militants.
Within the TTP, there are groupings with some against the government and others advocating peace talks. The claim for the attack on the Airport was made by the TTP loyal to Maulvi Fazlullah whose spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid, took credit. But some analysts say that the attack may have been carried out by a splinter group.
The Sajna group within the TTP, which has support within the Punjabi elements of the Taliban, is seen to be closer to the establishment, say some analysts. It is unclear whether the attack originated from Waziristan or from a new outfit in Karachi, where the TTP has also spread its wings.
Already there is an operation being conducted against militants in Karachi by the para-military Rangers force. This has resulted in limited success for the government and there are expectations that the operation will be resumed with extra force in the coming days.
However, analysts like Aisha Siddiqa say that any move against terrorists in the country will come to naught given that some groups are aligned to the military while others are political allies of the Sharif government.