Though acts of terrorism have become a common occurrence in certain parts of the country for quite some time now, last Saturday marked a strikingly sharp and alarming flare-up. It began with an assault on the Peshawar airport by as many as 10 well-armed militants who, while charging towards the airport gate in three vehicles were stopped, and then ensued a fierce battle lasting for hours and resulting in the death of five of them. Since then, there has not been a day’s respite from this unnerving curse of unexpected bloodshed, with each successive morning bringing tales of indiscriminate bombings and shootings. The day after the attack on the airport, the security forces cornered the remaining five who had escaped and gone in hiding in an under-construction building in the city and killed all of them at the cost of one of their own men. Monday turned out to be a particularly ill-fated day with, most likely, a revenge attack at Jamrud where a car laden with explosives blew up amid a crowd of shoppers and took a heavy toll of 21 and caused injuries to 80 others; and Lukky Marwat saw the death of four manning a military check post when it came under attack by a band of militants. The terrorists hit again on Tuesday, the fourth day in a row, and Risalpur Engineering College became the target but the two hand grenades they lobbed at the gate caused only injuries to four guarding the building and seven civilians – all reported to be out of danger. However, Gilgit was not that lucky where two had to lose their lives. To the south in Karachi, where there never is a dull moment and shooting goes on relentlessly, three lady health workers going out to administer anti-polio drops fell victim to the beastly killers; the fourth lady health worker to die was in Peshawar trying to save humanity from the same crippling, life-long disability.

A feeling of utter confusion and helplessness would take over if one were to try to fathom the causes of the sad state that the country has come to; for they are so many, each with varied strands. Ruthless murders by terrorists apparently out to prove all but themselves “heretics, worthy of death”, as a note found on one of the attackers revealed, are a grim reality we are faced with. The airport attackers appeared to be hardened criminals and aiming, perhaps, at occupying the airport and were armed with not only weapons, but also injections, dates and water. Intelligence concludes that their comrades were waiting in the wings to back up the occupation. Tattoos of a particular artistry, including one that spelt “Yousaf” (the attacker’s name) in Russian, and the Caucasian appearance of the attackers, points to Uzbek terrorist movements, which appear to have made Pakistan a terrorist tourism spot at the behest of the local Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. Religious fanaticism has also to account for the targeting of polio teams. The frightening scenario calls for a plan of action to deal with the extremist phenomenon that seems to be holding sway over much of the land and how to reverse this self-defeating trend.