The attack on Army Public School Peshawar on 16 December 2014 sparked a national outrage that coalesced into the National Action Plan, the military operations, as well as some controversial steps, such as the removal of the moratorium on the death penalty and the establishment of military courts. The one year anniversary is a few days away, and it will be used not only to remember those who have lost their lives, but also to judge the success of the steps taken. The Khyber Pakhtunkwa police, mindful of the significance of upcoming date, arrested over 500 suspected persons on Saturday, including Afghan refugees, in search operations in Swabi, Charsadda and other parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. However, a blast in a winter clothes market in Parachinar which killed 20 on the same day brings home the difficulties, and demonstrated that there is still a long way to go.

Regardless of their success or failure, the police arrests seem more like a wide-ranging sweep as opposed to intelligence led specific raids. People were arrested on suspicion, ethnicity – in the case of Afghan refugees – and chance; a fact the police admitted when it DPO said that the detained persons were under investigation and those found innocent would be released. It is not to say that such methods don’t work. Random scans often pick up things that an investigation might have missed, and in this specific case the police did manage to recover 55 pistols, 16 Kalashnikovs and eight repeaters as well as several hand grenades. Yet such raids are ill-suited to deal with the problem of targeted terrorist attacks – such as blast in Parachinar – and moreover they end up antagonizing the populace if done too often.

These complaints would be forgotten of course if these actions contribute towards curbing terrorism. While it must be admitted that on a relative scale there has been improvement in the security situation of the country, the ease with which attacks like Parichinar still happen, and the devastation they cause to innocent civilians, show that the protection is imperfect. It would unfair to ask the government for complete security given the radicalization that is present in the country, but Parichinar is located in FATA, where the military has been conducting a full-fledged military operation. Lapses in such areas are more culpable.