In what is being described as the first major attack by terrorists following the commencement of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, 12 militants were killed when they attempted to penetrate Pakistan Air Force’s Samungli airbase and Khalid military airbase in Quetta, Balochistan. Reportedly, terrorists fired three rockets which failed to do any serious damage to the installations, three militants blew themselves up once they had been surrounded, and the rest were shot and killed during the episode which started at 8 pm on Thursday and concluded at 10 am the next day. 10 security personnel received injuries during the successful operation. Two groups, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) South Waziristan chapter and Fidaeen-e-Islam, have claimed responsibility for the failed attack.

The response from security forces on this occasion was far more satisfactory if compared with their performance during similar attacks on Karachi airport, Mehran base and Kamra airbase in the past. The bases could not be penetrated and no loss of assets was incurred. Another encouraging development is the unprecedented co-operation extended by common citizens who helped security forces in identifying the location of terrorists. Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif, congratulated the security forces and stated that terrorists are on the run and they will not be allowed to regroup in the future. However, the success of the counteraction and the symbolic value of civilian co-operation in insurgency-hit Balochistan does not mean that victory has been achieved. We won a battle, indeed, but the war is far from over.

It is worth mentioning that while all hell was breaking lose in Quetta, the mainstream media remained fixated on the two marches headed towards Islamabad. The Quetta incident itself, and the dismissive fashion in which it has been covered, aptly highlights the predicament faced by the country at large. There are grave issues ranging from the law and order situation in Balochistan and Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan to the fallout in the form of hundreds of thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) residing in Bannu and other parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. With the Azadi March and Inquilab March in full flow, the media as well as the people are distracted from serious problems which require our immediate and constant attention. KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, whose government has a critical role to play in the rehabilitation of IDPs, is currently in Islamabad and trying to bring about a revolution. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his government is busy tackling marchers at the cost of real issues. No one is talking about anything but the marches. The media, the people and the politicians – everyone is distracted by the ultimately inconsequential. It is foolish to assume that the country will not pay the price for regretful political adventurism.