Pakistan’s army and paramilitary force are carrying out operations across Punjab province after a suicide bomb attack killed at least seventy-two people in a park in Lahore (Dawn), military officials said. Police have already arrested several suspects in at least five raids in three cities across the province, officials said. Meanwhile, police identified Muhammad Yousaf Farid as the perpetrator of Sunday’s attack (Express Tribune), which was claimed by Taliban splinter group Jamaat ul-Ahrar. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif traveled to Lahore Monday, where he met with government officials and vowed to “eliminate terror infrastructure” and the “extremist mindset” (NYT).
“While the civilian government has been able to deploy thousands of troops in the sparsely populated northwest, especially the tribal belt, it is obvious that a similar approach cannot be adopted in the urban centres of Punjab. In such areas, operations would have to intelligence-driven and rely more on civilian law enforcement agencies. Already, Pakistani social media users are commenting that the Lahore attack will, like the Peshawar massacre, be forgotten after a few days of angst. It remains to be seen whether Prime Minister Sharif will begalvanised by the latest terrorist outrage to taken on the militants in his backyard,” writes Rezaul H. Laskar for the Hindustan Times.
“I don’t think the state often propagated sectarian discrimination as policy, but it realized it was a byproduct and they were more than comfortable with it because they wanted to recruit people for the Kashmir jihad and the Afghan jihad. I think over the past seven or eight years they realized that this particular arrangement was unsustainable. They realized that the byproduct that comes with these militant networks is something that they can’t possibly be comfortable with. They can’t possibly let them continue in the way that they are because they’re clearly causing a lot of problems for them domestically,” says Umair Javed in an interview with Slate.
“The blast therefore marks a further escalation in Pakistan’s battle against extremism. In the past Mr Sharif’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has been suspected of striking deals with various sectarian jihadist outfits operating out of Punjab, particularly in the south of the province near the Indian border. Some of Pakistan’s terror groups had for years been nurtured by parts of the army, which found them useful in agitating in Afghanistan and against India. But in June 2014 Pakistan’s army moved against the Pakistani Taliban’s sanctuaries bordering Afghanistan, leading to a dramatic fall in violence. The campaign was expanded into an ambitious ‘national action plan’ against extremism, following the massacre in December 2014 of around 130 schoolchildren in Peshawar. More than anything, that massacre convinced many Pakistanis that the terror fostered in their midst needed to be confronted,” writes the Economist.
CFR-Daily News Brief