The blast in Parachinar that led to 25 deaths and injured over 80, brings up the old questions of Pakistan’s fight against terrorism, something we had been distracted from. As is always the case with incidents with high death tolls, the debate surrounding the efficacy of the National Action Plan (NAP) is as pertinent as ever. Is the writ of the state really back in areas such as Kurram Agency, which had so long been plagued by extremism and terrorism? Have groups like the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi-al-Alami really been brought under control?

The TTP spokesperson’s direct admission of targeting the Shia community should give the government pause. The recent statements given by Chaudhry Nisar about sectarianism being a lesser evil than terrorism, and not to be confused with terrorism, now makes the government seem callous and neglectful to the plight of those attacked. The proliferation of attacks based on sectarian differences should be a reminder for those in circles of government, particularly the Interior Ministry, that differentiating between ‘conventional’ terrorists and those motivated by sectarian strife can lead to disastrous consequences and confusion in policy making. Targeting the Shia community on the basis of a war being fought in the Middle East is exactly why groups that promote sectarian hatred should not be tolerated.

This attack in Parachinar is also an indication of why merging the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) into KPK is essential. The extension of the security apparatus and the complete writ of the state in the agencies is paramount for there to be lasting peace. FATA has had a long association with both extremism and terrorism in the past, and eliminating militant hideouts is only one step on the long road of countering the extremist threat.

The tribes must start trusting the state, and that is not likely to happen while attacks such as this are taking place in their marketplaces. There is a long way to go before FATA, or indeed the rest of Pakistan, can be deemed ‘safe’ in absolute terms. IED explosions such as this cannot be prevented by increasing the amount of security forces present in any given area. All it takes is one terrorist with technical know-how of how to make a bomb, and financial backers looking to support the destruction. Preventing attacks will come about through removing the extremist mind-set prevalent in society, and reforming the apologist mind-set of the state institutions towards dangerous organisations.