In an inspirational and touching song released by the ISPR on the 1st anniversary of the appalling APS incident, Pakistani school children vowed to avenge the massacre by educating the enemy’s children. But regrettably, after the deadly terror attack on Bacha Khan University in Charsadda last week, one thing is now crystal clear that our enemy looks in quite a serious mood of not letting our children get education. In a recently-released video, the Taliban leader Khalifa Umar Mansoor, a close ally of TTP chief Maulvi Fazlullah, has pledged to further target more schools throughout the country, calling them ‘nurseries’ for those who challenge Allah’s law. Thus it looks as if the evil spirt of Nigeria’s notorious anti-education terrorist organization Boko Haram has also somehow managed to stay in the TTP’s body, making the ‘resident evil’ appear even more nasty, horrible and gruesome.

Generally, after every major terror incident in the country, a typical blame game always starts, criticizing the government for ‘security lapse’, ‘intelligence failure’ etc. At the same time, the institutional capacity of our security and civilian law enforcement agencies are also openly questioned. So we observed similar things after the ghastly BKU Charasadda attack last week. The federal and KPK governments came under severe attack for the insufficient or non-implementation of National Action Plan in the country. Besides this, the security agencies were also somewhat ridiculed in the context of various statements made by the COAS, pledging to eliminate the menace of terrorism in Pakistan in the year 2016, after having ‘broken the back of terrorism’. Similarly, the propriety, utility and efficacy of Operation Zarb-e-Azb were also thoroughly discussed and debated.

One should preferably be objective and realistic while criticizing the armed forces for their current counter-terror military strategies in Pakistan. We should always keep in mind the very state of national security, and the ‘growth rate’ at which terrorism was growing when our security establishment decided to launch Operation Zarb-e-Azb in June 2014. In this operation, thousands of miscreants were killed, their network was dismantled, their command and control structure was broken, and their hideouts were destroyed in the Fata areas. Despite the recent major terror attacks, the overall security situation is still by all means better than the pre-operation period in Pakistan. Had our armed forces not launched this military operation, the monstrous terrorism would have damaged the country beyond redemption.

Over the past couple of years, the so-called Afghan factor has somehow become one of the most crucial points in Pakistan’s ongoing war against terrorism. Owing to its unique geographical location and prevailing geo-strategic realities in the region, now Afghanistan occupies the pivotal position in Pakistan’s evolving security paradigm. Presently Afghan soil is being extensively exploited for harmonizing and coordinating various terrorist acts in Pakistan. An Afghanistan-based Taliban faction, led by Khalifa Umar Mansoor, has claimed the responsibility for the recent deadly terror attack on BKU in Charsadda, KPK. The same Taliban group is also believed to be the mastermind of the APS Peshawar massacre. The DG ISPR has also officially confirmed that the Charsadda attack was planned and controlled from Afghanistan.

> Both the most volatile and terror-hit provinces of Pakistan, the KPK and Baluchistan, jointly share a porous border with Afghanistan.

Taking advantage of this porous and unguarded border, all high-profile militants readily flee to Afghanistan whenever Pakistan’s security forces launch any major military offensive against these militants on Pakistan’s soil. Following the 2009 Swat military operation, TSNM’s prominent leader Maulvi Fazlullah along with other militants fled to Afghanistan. Having re-organized there, he again appeared in Pakistan and became the chief of TTP after the death of Hakimullah Mehsud in 2013. He, once again, escaped to Afghanistan when Pakistan’s armed forces launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb in June 2014. Now, he, along with other TTP operatives in Afghanistan, is planning and executing various terrorist acts in Pakistan with impunity.

As soon as Operation Zarb-e-Azb was launched, Pakistan formally requested to the Afghan government to effectively seal its border to prevent the militants from entering the Afghanistan. But disappointingly, the Afghan government only turned a deaf ear to Pakistan’s genuine demand. Instead, it let these militants roam freely inside its territory, enabling them to get re-united to launch terror attack on Pakistan afresh. Substantially undermining Pakistan’s counter-terror measures, the so-called Afghan factor has become a serious concern for it. This very single factor is now observably jeopardizing the strategic victory gained by Pakistan vis-à-vis the militants and extremists in various military operations in the country. This is the one reason that now the institutional capacity of our armed forces against the terrorists is being harshly questioned in the country.

Making a knee-jerk reaction to the allegations levelled by the DG ISPR against various non state actors in Afghanistan in connection with the recent Charsadda terror attack in Pakistan, the Afghan government has readily termed these allegations ‘baseless’. In fact, Kabul has become quite habitual of responding to every single terror incident in either country in a rather mechanized fashion. It generally denies Afghan involvement in any terror incident in Pakistan. On the other hand, it always instantly and unthinkingly blames Pakistan for every terror attack in Afghanistan even without sharing any credible evidence. In fact, when it comes to Pak-Afghan relations, the current Afghan regime has become only a mouthpiece of its intelligence agency NDS, which has firmly undertaken to serve the Indian interests in the country.

Presently India is the largest regional provider of humanitarian and reconstruction aid to Afghanistan. It has actively collaborated with the US for training and equipping the Afghan National Army and Afghan intelligence agency NDS. Over a period of time, the ‘strategic partner’ of Afghanistan and the ‘strategic ally’ of the US has consolidated its position in Afghanistan to the disadvantage of Pakistan. It is quite ironic that the very country which was supposed to provide Pakistan a ‘Strategic Depth’ is now being exploited by India to advance its policy of ‘Strategic Encirclement of Pakistan’ in this region. At times, Pakistan has pointed its finger at India for initiating a proxy Fourth Generation War against it through various non state actors in the region. Logically, participated by thousands of armed militants, such a large scale insurgency cannot be maintained without an extensive logistic support, which can only be provided by another state.

India’s boarder national and strategic interests in the region necessarily demand a political as well as administrative status quo in Afghanistan. Being the ultimate beneficiary of this status quo, India will hardly be interested in stabilizing Afghanistan through the current so-called quadrilateral peace initiatives. Previously, the Murree Peace Process initiated by Pakistan was also deliberately sabotaged by the Afghan intelligence agency. Last year, unnecessarily objecting to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s diplomatic efforts to make peace with Pakistan, the Afghan NDS chief Rahmatullah Nabil has also resigned. This incident simply indicates how the anti-Pakistan lobby in Afghanistan has established its complete control over current Kabul administration. Now, holding Pakistan responsible for all current woes and miseries of Afghan people, India has also evolved a strong anti-Pakistan narrative in Afghanistan through hostile propaganda.

Presently, all the ongoing counter-terror measures in the country are being judged on the very touchstone of National Action Plan, which has also somehow become a “Bible of counter-terrorism in Pakistan.” Undoubtedly, this plan comprises a lot of practical measures which will go a long way in curbing the menace of terrorism in Pakistan. But at the same time, it will hardly help us completely overcome the particular form of terrorism, which is being currently experienced by the country. In order to effectively curb menace of terrorism, Pakistan has to offset or neutralize all anti-Pakistan elements in Afghanistan. Therefore, in the absence of a proactive external counter-terror strategy in the region, I am afraid all the current domestic counter-terror plans would eventually result in a frustrating fiasco.