The year 2016 was supposed to be the year of final defeat of terrorism in Pakistan if the statements of high state functionaries of the country were to be believed. According to this narrative operation Zarb-e-Azb has broken the back of terrorism. Similarly if the figures quoted by Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the Interior Minister and some ministers of the Punjab government about the successes of the “thousands of targeted operations” after National Action Plan are to be given any credence, 90 percent of terrorism has already been eliminated. People of Pakistan were told time and again that repetition of the tragedy of APS Peshawar of December 16, 2014 will not be allowed. But the gruesome murders of innocent people in the growing number of terrorist attacks during the first month of the new year clearly indicate that terrorism in Pakistan is returning with a vengeance. It is true that the military operation did disperse terror networks from their virtual capital but their recent resurgence clearly indicates their capacity to strike at will after regrouping. If there was any doubt about it, the Taliban attack on Bacha Khan University on January 20 has decisively removed it. The blood bath has clearly demonstrated that far from being close to elimination, the terrorists are staging a return with a bang. 

Unfortunately there is still a dangerous double speak in the anti-terror policy of the state. For example, after the approval of National Action Plan on December 24, 2014 it was categorically stated by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army Chief General Raheel Sharif that no distinction shall be made between good and bad terrorists. But soon after it became clear that the state has no intention of acting against private militias kept by Lashkar-e-Taiba (now working as JuD), Jaish-e-Mohammad and Afghan Taliban. Now these are the major networks and a number of smaller outfits work under their shadow. They are the real edifice of the terror syndicate. Moreover, although the aforementioned networks are based in Pakistan but they have a regional and international outreach. The large scale fighting in Afghanistan during the last year and a half and the recent attacks in Pathankot, India is a testimony to this fact. TTP and other smaller networks that murder innocent people (Pashtuns on both sides of the Durand Line bearing brunt of these attacks) are closely associated with these major organizations. Let’s take the case of the TTP. It is an open secret that after military operation in North Waziristan their top leadership has crossed over into Afghanistan and is based in the border areas of Nooristan, Kunar and Nangrahar. These days Pakistani media is full of the success stories of the Afghan Taliban in every nook and corner of Afghanistan including the capital Kabul. Now the question is that why do the Afghan Taliban, who are supposed to be close friends of Pakistan and a shield against anti Pakistan forces in Afghanistan, allow a handful of TTP leaders to sit in the border areas and attack Pakistan? The answer is that Afghan Taliban and TTP work hand in glove with one another. TTP provides bases, logistical support and recruits to Afghan Taliban and they in return do not disturb them in border areas in Afghanistan.

Unfortunately discussion about the presence of major “Jihadi” networks inside Pakistan is a taboo. There is a mistaken belief among some official circles that if we don’t talk about them they would remain invisible. But by their very nature terrorist outfits are designed for creating terror and when they “act” they make their savage presence felt in a horrible way by shedding innocent blood. They have time and again brought themselves on the map with a bang by striking at hard and soft targets inside Pakistan and in the region. Very often they create huge embarrassment for Pakistan, as she has to concede their illegal presence after living in denial for quite some time. Action against JeM after terrorist attack in India is a case in point. As far as Afghan Taliban are concerned their presence in Pakistan is not even officially denied. For example on January 19 some credible national dailies in Pakistan carried an AFP report about Taliban’s demand from Afghan mobile phone companies to pay them “ protection money”. But the most disturbing part of the report for Pakistani readers was the fact that meeting between representatives of Afghan mobile phone companies and Taliban Shura took place in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province of Pakistan. It means that Quetta remains a seat of the Taliban who pose to be a parallel government of Afghanistan.

This report has not been denied by the Taliban or the Government of Pakistan.

Be that as it may, Charsada attack is a rude reminder of the fact that anti-terror campaign in Pakistan is running out of steam, basically because the state policy is systematically differentiating between good and bad terrorists, the pious noises made to the contrary not withstanding. Will Pakistan renew her anti-terrorist campaign by ultimately going after all militant organizations or will it continue to move in circles is the real question.

The concern about peace in the region deepens with the failures of all the stack holders in evolving a roadmap for peace in Afghanistan during the meetings held so far. Afghanistan has seen growing bloodshed in terrorist attacks. It goes without saying that strategic and ambitious economic initiatives such as CPEC and TAPI can’t have bright prospects in the presence of such a large scale terrorist problem in the region. The terrorist chose the date of Bacha Khan’s death to launch their attack on the students and teachers in a university named after him. They wanted to express their hatred against the legacy of peace and non-violence left behind by him. But the aforementioned legacy that has survived colonial repression and tyrannical despotism will not be vanquished by terror. In fact by their criminal act the terrorists have unintentionally diverted international attention to Bacha Khan’s life and struggle devoted to peace and non-violence that remains to be a source of inspiration for people around the world.