Editorial : A new wave? - Saturday, February 12, 2011

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/02/12/a-new-wave.html

THERE can be no doubt that Thursday’s suicide bombing at the Punjab Regiment Centre in Mardan represents a serious security lapse. Dressed in the uniform of the Major Aziz Bhatti Shaheed Army School and College, the teenaged bomber entered the centre’s parade area where the explosives detonated by him killed some 28 army personnel and injured 40 others. The Taliban have reportedly claimed responsibility and threatened “bigger attacks” in the coming days in order, they say, to avenge military operations by the Pakistan Army in the tribal belt and US drone strikes. Neither of these grim realities is likely to change, so security forces must prepare their defences against any possible attacks and close loopholes in security. In Thursday’s incident, how was the bomber able to penetrate a centre that is supposed to be heavily guarded? That military training centres are at risk is well known. The Punjab Regiment has found itself in the militants’ crosshairs before, when its training area in Dargai was attacked in 2006, killing 35 soldiers. And in Mardan, militants targeted a paramilitary training centre last July. That attempt was botched, and five militants — including three suicide bombers — were killed. Similar attacks on training centres for law-enforcement personnel have been witnessed elsewhere, notably Lahore’s Manawan police training academy in 2009. There is need to extend adequate security cover to all law-enforcement installations, including training centres, since clearly the motive behind targeting them lies in discouraging people from joining law-enforcement bodies.

The larger question that must be asked, meanwhile, is whether the recent escalation in militants’ attacks represents a new wave in such violence. Recent months have seen a relative slowdown in the military’s operations against the militants. In some areas troop withdrawals have been initiated and the repatriation of displaced people is being encouraged. The militants’ show of strength through such attacks indicates that this slowdown may be allowing them space in which to regroup and consolidate. This may be the time to sound the alarm bells for a bigger military operation in the conflict zones. The pockets of militants’ strongholds that remain must be neutralised.

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