Troops have been deployed in various districts across Southern Punjab to assist the local administration in securing “sensitive” sites following the commencement of Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan. Inaction and callousness on the part of the state till now has allowed militant groups to establish a countrywide network. Several attacks launched by terrorists during the ongoing insurgency would have been almost impossible to execute if not for the sleeper cells and enablers within cities. There are also reports which point towards the collusion between various militant groups. Their co-operation encompasses intelligence-sharing, exchange of equipment and even delivery of foot soldiers. The TTP-LeJ nexus is just one example. Southern Punjab has been in the news for quite some time now with regards to the prevailing lawlessness and presence of sectarian and other terrorist groups in the region. Some blame the state for being completely absent or looking the other way. Others go a step further by suggesting direct patronage. Moreover, poor governance and poverty provide perfect conditions for terrorists to settle and recruit individuals belonging to these areas. Either way, we have a problem on our hands and it needs to be dealt with sooner rather than later.

Setting up checkposts and pickets across districts in anticipation of possible attacks makes sense. But, that’s the least we can do. A far more proactive approach is essential to successfully counter the menace. How about going after them rather than waiting for them to strike? Our intelligence and law enforcement agencies may not know everything, but they do know plenty. But of course, knowledge is not the only prerequisite for action. Allowing ‘good’ militants safe havens will leave us vulnerable for the future. If there is anything that the state ought to have learnt from the security crisis which threatens Pakistan today, it is that it doesn’t take long for good terrorists to turn bad. Its salvation lies in complete rejection of the policy of using non-state actors to secure strategic objectives. Murderers of Pakistani citizens must no more be shielded by those sworn to protect and serve. For far too long, the security of citizens, especially minorities, has been consciously compromised for bigger games.

Speaking of bigger games, the country is still dealing with the aftermath of Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. To this day, several Afghan refugees remain unregistered. Having learnt from previous incidents involving Afghan refugees providing shelter and assistance to wanted terrorists, a decision to conduct a survey for the purpose of collecting relevant data has been made. For now, the exercise is focused on Afghan settlers in Gujarat and Sargodha to deny terrorists possible hideouts. District governments elsewhere should follow suit. The concerned authorities, while leaving no stone unturned during the process, should also ensure fair treatment of innocent civilians regardless of their origin.