ISLAMABAD - The military establishment and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government are not on the same page on the counter-terror arrangements in the province, in an underlined indication that security situation in the province may keep posing challenges in the wake of apparent reluctance from both the sides to shoulder responsibility while passing the buck to each other.

In their background interactions with journalists, the security officials sound vocal in shifting the blame of continued security lapses’ spree to the KPK government, saying some provincial government functionaries were opposing the anti-terror drive and were creating hurdles in the conduct of related operations by the security agencies.

On the other hand, the KPK government rejects this contention to argue that the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) that is the breeding ground for terrorism, is under the military’s complete security control and that the terrorist attacks in the KPK are emanating from the tribal region.

It is mentionable here that two brazen attacks in the ongoing Ramazan, one each in Parachinar, Kurram Agency and Dera Ismail Khan, a settled district of KPK, saw the respective killings of 57 persons and release of 253 hardened Taliban militants.

KPK Information Minister Shaukat Yousafzai labels the terrorist activities, particularly the suicide attacks, as a ‘legacy’ inherited from the previous regimes. But asked if the security lapses were justified on any pretext, he said, “Of course not. But the military, its security agencies and the federal government have to share equal blame.”

The minister pointed to the suicide attack in Parachinar to ask as to who was responsible for the security lapse there? “Isn’t FATA under the direct military control? We don’t have any jurisdiction over tribal areas,” he told this correspondent on Friday.

He said, due to ineffective security measures in FATA and the frontier regions (FRs), terrorists were moving from the tribal areas to unleash violence in KPK. “If you talk about the DI Khan jail break incident, you have to find out why the military and its paramilitary wings failed to stop the terrorists from fleeing?”

Yousfazai said the KP police needed to be equipped with counterterrorism security equipment and training. “Averting this kind of incident was far beyond the police’s capability. Other state institutions are also to be held accountable.”

The military officials, however, come up with an opposing view. “Our terms of engagement in FATA are quite different from KPK. The FATA comes under the federal government’s ambit that provides us the necessary support in our operations but the same is lacking in KPK. Some powerful government functionaries often play negative role in sabotaging our efforts to take on terrorism,” officials said to allege that two incumbent ministers in the KPK government were directly instrumental in opposing and even disrupting the military’s anti-terror actions on several occasions.

The officials recalled the background briefings given to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during his visit to the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) headquarters last month in support of their stance. Reportedly, the military command had informed the PM that strong opposition to military actions from political leaderships in KP and Balochistan was seriously hampering the army’s counterterrorism and counter-insurgency drives resulting in no let up in violence. It was purportedly recommended to the PM that ‘surgical cleansing’ was necessary to take to task the non-state elements sponsoring terrorism in different parts of the country.

Referring to these briefings, the details of which were exclusively published in The Nation on July 12 and 13, the military officials said, “We are having the support and cooperation from the Centre, particularly the interior ministry. But unless the provincial political leadership plays its role, the terrorism would remain unabated whether it’s FATA, KPK, Balochistan or Karachi.”

When questioned on this count, Shaukat Yousafzai referred to the last year Bannu jailbreak incident, which saw the escape of nearly 400 Taliban militants. “That time the KPK security was completely in the hands of military because the ineffective political regime was virtually non-existent. Who is to be blamed then? Political opposition to military action can never justify the security lapses.”

He furthered, “Our provincial government has inherited this mess and we’re trying to fix it. The suicide attacks started in Musharraf’s era against the dictator’s wrong policies that threw the entire nation in war on terror. And the last government was too ineffective to respond to the challenge of terrorism. As a result, we’re bearing the brunt.”

The military has launched two large-scale operations in Khyber and Kurram Agencies that have caused the respective displacements of around or over 80,000 and 60,000 residents from these tribal agencies. While the United Nations seeks funds for humanitarian assistance to the conflict-affected people, their sufferings seem to stay for long due to adverse security situation in the areas they come from.

Moreover, the Parachinar incident appears to have negated the security officials’ claims of retaining control over central parts of Kurram Agency while highlighting the security challenges still prevalent in the tribal region.