EDITORIAL: Navy bus bombings - Thursday, April 28, 2011

In two horrendous bombings of Navy buses transporting personnel to work early morning in Karachi on Tuesday, four people were killed and 56 wounded of a total of 85 passengers on both buses. This is the first major attack on the armed forces since the 2004 attack on the Karachi corps commander in which he luckily escaped harm. The modus operandi was to use remote detonators imbedded in cell phones. It is also an eerie reminder of the attacks in Rawalpindi some time ago on an army surgeon and a bus transporting ISI personnel. The police say it seems that the terrorists were in sight of the two buses and detonated the bombs as the buses went by. Since the Navy buses carried commercial number plates rather than official Navy ones, it is obvious that the terrorists not only displayed extraordinary coordination in detonating the two devices within minutes of each other, they had probably been watching and casing out the route and timings of the buses before the incident.

The Taliban have claimed responsibility and vowed more attacks on the security forces on the argument that “...they are killing their own people in Waziristan and elsewhere at the behest of the US”. Taking this argument at face value, what are the Taliban themselves doing? Are they not also “killing their own people”? Whereas Imran Khan and the right wing parties are raising Cain over the drone attacks, one comparison of the lethal toll of bombings and drone attacks shows the former have swallowed up more than 35,000 lives since the terror campaign began in 2007, whereas drone strikes have accounted for less than 2,000. Not that any innocent life can be measured in this grisly game of numbers. But there needs to be some perspective brought to the debate. The greater threat, not only to the armed forces, but also ordinary citizens is from the terrorist bombers. The hullabaloo of the right about the innocent victims of the drones has yet to demonstrate how many of the 2,000 killed in such strikes were terrorists and how many ‘collateral damage’.

The Chief Minister of Sindh, Syed Qaim Ali Shah has revealed that the government had received intelligence reports about a potential terrorist attack. However, he defended the police and security forces on the argument that in a metropolis like Karachi, it is not possible to search every inch of the city. That is reasonable, but it points to the need for better real time intelligence if such attacks are to be pre-empted. That is only possible if timely information is available from within the ranks of the terrorist organisations, implying that pre-emption is not possible without the intelligence services infiltrating the bombers’ groups.

The Karachi bombings are a grim reminder of the caution that COAS General Kayani’s assertion the other day that the terrorists’ “back has been broken” should not make us complacent. Even if, as the COAS argued, terrorism in Pakistan is in its death throes, it still retains the capability of deadly asymmetrical strikes that involve heavy loss of life and property. The terrorists are a formidable foe, not to be taken lightly, even if their formerly safe base areas in FATA have been under military attack with considerable success. Nevertheless, both in FATA and in the rest of the country, the hydra of terrorism still has enough breath to wreak havoc from time to time. This protracted struggle against this Frankenstein’s monster requires many years yet of intense effort before peace can be restored to the country. And achieving that peace is unfortunately tied up with events in Afghanistan and their spillover effects, for which a revisit to the distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban is necessary to reassess the internal nexus between the two sides of this artificial division between those who challenge the writ of the Pakistani state and those who serve its strategic purposes. *

SECON EDITORIAL: Energy protests

The summer heat is upon us but the government has done little to help the people cope with increased discomfort and frustration. Power outages are so frequent and unannounced that they have reached a new record high of 18-20 hours in the rural areas and 14-18 hours in the urban areas. Considering that summer has just started and the electricity shortage is already at a staggering 4,879MW, one shudders to think how bad the menace of load shedding will get once the real brunt of summer bears down upon us in June and July. Once again, the masses have taken to the streets with rallies of the disgruntled being taken out all over Punjab from Gujranwala to Sialkot and Sheikhupura. The public’s ire is directed towards the government and its various energy departments such as WAPDA, PEPCO, LESCO, etc. Members of the textile industry sector have said that if action is not taken by May 1 to end the electricity shortages, they will lay siege to the WAPDA offices. During the protests and attacks on the offices of LESCO, the police did not seem to be anywhere in sight and help lines were not answering when the protests were at their worst. In further incidents, an infuriated electricity consumer fired at a WAPDA official after being presented with an ‘inflated’ bill and students at a university in Karachi were thrashed by baton-wielding police after they protested against unannounced load shedding on the campus due to which their studies were suffering. All in all, the public has had enough because those in charge just do not seem to be doing enough.

In light of the current scenario, President Zardari has taken note and the prime minister has ordered a spate of firing and restructuring in the energy sector hierarchy. However, reshuffling and adding new faces to the fix are no guarantee that things will improve any time soon. The time has come for the government to stop dragging its feet on an issue that has become so debilitating that it is affecting the sanity of the nation. Short-term, mid-term and long-term measures that include energy conservation, transparent rental power projects and independent power generation programmes need to be implemented as promised. The national grid is woefully short of the much-needed megawatts required to satisfy an energy-starved public. It is time the government steps up to the many promises it has made lest the people take matters into their own hands, as recent violent protests portend. 

Source : http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\04\28\story_28-4-2011_pg3_1

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