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Keeping focus


  /DAWN: Published January 18, 2024    


WITH elections around the corner, there are understandable concerns regarding the safety of various candidates on the campaign trail as well as the general public participating in poll activities. Recent statistics on terrorism-related incidents and accounts from KP security officials paint a grim picture of the overall environment in the province. However, senior law-enforcement officials believe that the situation there is still ‘manageable’. Everything must be done to ensure things remain that way, if not improve considerably. There is no denying that the institutions responsible for internal security have their task cut out for them: it is their duty to ensure peace despite all challenges. There have been repeated attempts to argue that elections ought to be postponed further due to the adverse security situation [passive voice using 'ought to be postponed']. However, Pakistan’s law-enforcement and security agencies are adequately equipped to deal with all challenges, and will undoubtedly deliver if given the requisite resources and support from the government. Elections are a routine occurrence in any normal country. Seeking for them to be delayed because certain inimical forces could be planning to disrupt them seems more like a surrender than a responsible decision by a self-respecting state [Subject starting with a GERUND and followed by a passive voive form of the verb 'be'].

The enemies of Pakistan have repeatedly attempted to assert themselves during pivotal periods in its sociopolitical history. They must be shown once again that their evil designs do not dictate our lives [passive voice using 'must be shown']. The 2008 elections had gone ahead under the shadow of far worse violence than what we are witnessing now. Over the years, much of the violence abated, thanks to the many sacrifices made by our brave soldiers, police forces and other security personnel. Consequently, the elections for 2013 and 2018 were held in progressively better conditions. There is no doubt that terrorism-related incidents are once again on the rise, but we have persevered in the past amidst such adversity and must resolve to power ahead once again. Of course, this will require all front-line security forces to remain extra vigilant and be more proactive in identifying and neutralising threats. But, given Pakistan’s extensive experience running counterterrorism operations and achieving a great degree of success in the war against terrorism, our security institutions are also much better equipped than they were in 2008. As long as they can keep their focus on domestic security, they are quite capable of turning the tables on any hostile elements.

Published in Dawn, January 18th, 2024

Iranian strikes

 /DAWN  Published January 18, 2024   

RELATIONS between Pakistan and Iran stand at a very delicate juncture after the latter struck targets inside Pakistani territory on Tuesday.

While Tehran has claimed it hit “strongholds” of the Jaish al-Adl terrorist group in the air strikes, Pakistan says two minors had lost their lives in the Panjgur attack.

On Monday, Iran had carried out similar strikes inside Iraq and Syria, hitting what it said were “spy headquarters” and “terrorist” bases in these states. The Foreign Office has reacted with a sternly worded statement, condemning this unjustifiable violation of Pakistani sovereignty and warning of “serious consequences”.



Indeed, the attack, as it said, is “completely unacceptable” — and Tehran should take note. The situation is deteriorating rapidly, as on Wednesday Pakistan recalled its ambassador from Tehran and suspended all high-level bilateral visits. The Iranian envoy in Pakistan, currently in his home country, will also not be allowed to return to Islamabad.

The violation of Pakistani territory is totally indefensible; such unilateral actions — especially resulting in the loss of innocent lives — may do irreparable harm to bilateral ties.

The activity of militant groups on both sides of the border is one of the biggest irritants in the bilateral relationship, and Pakistan and Iran need to address this issue in a mature fashion to ensure the situation does not worsen further.

There were several terrorist attacks last year, with the last major incident occurring in December 2023, in which 11 Iranian law enforcers were killed in an ambush on a police station.

Iranian officials had claimed the assailants entered from Pakistan. Meanwhile there were also two attacks last year, apparently originating from Iran, in which several Pakistani troops were martyred.

Border security, particularly the elimination of safe spaces for terrorist groups, is an area both states must work on jointly, instead of pursuing unilateral actions. The immediate need is to prevent a rupture in ties. China, which enjoys cordial relations with both states, and has urged “both sides to exercise restraint”, can perhaps use its good offices to help resolve this sensitive matter.

Meanwhile, it is also true that various foreign actors would like to see a permanent break in Pakistan-Iran ties; the capitals of both countries must, therefore, prevent an escalation and work to restore calm.

After matters have cooled down, the mechanism that exists for border security management should be actively used to target militants threatening either state’s security through joint operations.

Under no circumstances should either state’s sovereignty be violated through unilateral actions [Pssive voice]. The Iranian authorities must particularly work to prevent a repeat of such attacks.

At a time when the fires of conflict threaten to consume the region, both sides must act with restraint and statesmanship to prevent this crisis from growing.

Published in Dawn, January 18th, 2024

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