Three consecutive days of deliberations, and the result was the creation of another high-level task force to monitor progress on implementation of NAP. This additional task force will comprise of senior representatives of all concerned departments and agencies of the Federal Government and the Provinces—another bickering forum.

It is not like security is not present all over Pakistan; however, it terribly lacks in substance. Security is on exhibition in shopping malls, airports, road barrier etc. Police, military and paramilitary personnel are everywhere, alongside innumerable private security guys. Those who carried out Quetta attacks must have deceived many such barriers or scans; why and how?

The Supreme Court directed the provincial authorities on August 11 to evolve a mechanism for screening out private security guards. “There may be some agents of RAW or Taliban,” CJP Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali observed. Referring to the recent killings of more than 70 citizens in Quetta, the top judge made eye-opening remarks ,that although 75 security guards were posted at the civil hospital, none of them had actually undergone training to cope with such incidents.

Bombs and their carriage and detection are a concern for everybody. The Government of Pakistan has just invested in a bomb detection device that was proven to be a scam many years ago— completely ineffectual. The ‘inventor’ of this bogus bomb detector and his accomplices are currently serving long prison sentences in the UK for fraud. They made millions of pounds marketing their ‘devices’ worldwide, including in Pakistan. The nonsense is now being compounded by the government still going for manufacturing these dummy devices. These scanners are still employed at airports, government installations and the most sensitive facilities under the rationale of deterrence! Even though it is acknowledged that potential attackers are as aware of their ineffectiveness as those doing the buying and usage.

The government may take solace behind the arguments that large-scale attacks, like the one against Quetta Hospital are a manifestation of the reaction by militants after the state began to go after them; in reality it was such attacks that prompted actions like Zarb-e-Azb. Those responsible for countering terrorist attacks are in a habit of finding excuses for such terrorist attacks that invariably carries embedded praise for their earlier efforts. Something is certainly missing somewhere, that’s why we keep arguing in this circuitous manner to cover the inadequacies of our counter terrorism effort.

However, such attacks disprove the tall claims by security forces and law-enforcement agencies that they have reigned in terrorism through intelligence based operations. The real challenge of course, is how the problem is to be solved; and, of course, there are no easy and instant solutions. Though we have come a long way in reducing the frequency of such attacks, the finish line is still far away—warranting perseverance, professionalism and political acumen.

Balochistan has all along been a trouble-prone province for one reason or the other. Equally ghastly incidents have been haunting its urban centres much before the entry of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) factor. There are multiple powerful faultlines capable of igniting the tinderbox on the slightest pretext. Moreover, incidents like the one at Quetta Hospital are not specific to Balochistan, such events are happening in all provinces and territories of Pakistan.

During his address to the National Assembly, the Prime Minister stated that the mindset behind the Quetta attack was the same one that had targeted Pakistanis in numerous earlier attacks. The PM, praised national security institutions, saying: “They were securing the borders and protecting the people from enemies and terrorists inside.” Earlier, Pakhtoon Khawa Milli Awami Party Chief Mahmood Achakzai had harshly questioned the performance of intelligence agencies and termed the Quetta attack an intelligence failure. Achakzai demanded to identify who was responsible and asked the PM to sack officers if they fail to trace out elements involved in the deadly attack. Similar sentiments were aired by JUI Chief, Maulana Fazal-ur-Rahman, though in a milder tone. Certainly, there is merit in their argument. Interior Minister said that while most political parties were against the introduction of harsh laws, stricter laws were needed to reign in terrorists. In fact ,adequate laws are in place, we are indeed an over legislated nation. Where we lack is will and efficiency of Law Enforcing Agencies with regard to implementation.

Certainly, such security lapses are the fault of the security agencies, and too many lapses have happened to continue giving them the benefit of doubt. Had any other government department failed with such frequency and with such shattering consequences, heads would have rolled long ago. Beyond doubt, it is time for our intelligence agencies to be held accountable for such lapses, after all it is their duty to neutralise foreign intelligence agencies’ efforts before they materialise into such attacks. At the same time one must admit that implementation of National Action Plan (NAP), has at best been half-hearted, lacking political will. Protection of Pakistan Act (PPA) lapsed without timely follow-up for its continuation. Employees of National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) have not been paid salaries for the last seven months, and so on and so forth.

While it would be naïve to believe that certain foreign forces would not take advantage of a crisis in the region to cause further instability, ascribing blame on RAW has become an easy scapegoat for our state failures—especially in Balochistan. Let’s not forget that a similar incident took place in Punjab on Easter. We wake up from our slumber on every major tragedy of this type, and then go into a deeper slumber — or coma. Again and again, same lessons are learnt—and forgotten. Comments and reactions by various segments of leadership indicate that we have not learned any lessons; so the unfortunate truth is that more such events are likely to happen.

Though the political leadership managed to compose the usual message of sorrow, deterrence and resolve, crouched in strong phrases and staunch words. Unfortunately, their words were hollow, the phrases had little impact – such articulations had since been heard umpteenth times.

To stay viable, terrorist entities have to conduct one such attack in a while, followed by a long pause, so that they retain this capability for later. And, over and above, such entities are in sufficient number, so even if each carries out an activity once in a while, those at the receiving end are poised to face it quite often. At the same time, to stay credible, those responsible to counter such attacks must be able to intercept each potential attempt before it culminates in to a blast. Each blast is a failure of those tasked to prevent it, that’s what professionalism dictates. The question is who is responsible to deal with counter espionage? And why isn’t it being done in a professional manner? There is need to take stock as to why our counter intelligence is failing again and again.

The reaction in Pakistan after Quetta Hospital attack was business as usual. Everyone was grinding his own axe—point scoring, political opportunism and increasing space for his/her respective organisation. Many cynical looking cartoons adored the media in the aftermath of Quetta tragedy. Though ironically yet aptly, most of these projected the prevailing attitudes fairly accurately. One such cartoon depicted a stiff necked bureaucrat directing his staff, in a couldn’t-care-less manner, to “just change ‘APS School’ with ‘Quetta Hospital’ and issue this statement to the press”.

Failure of politicians, military, intelligence, police, judiciary, media and the bureaucracy has reached epic levels in Pakistan. It is about time we take collective action to improve our efficiency. What we need is concrete implementation and not just photo-op focused security huddles. Pakistanis certainly deserve better!