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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Wave of Terrorist Attacks Leaves Pakistan on Edge

By Ayesha Tanzeem February 17, 2017

Pakistan's security forces claim to have killed more than 100 suspected militants in a massive nationwide security operation Friday in the wake of a deadly suicide bombing at a Sufi shrine that left more than 80 dead.

The spokesman for Pakistan's military, Major General Asif Ghafoor, tweeted that the killings, along with many arrests, were a result of intelligence-based or combing operations.

The attack Thursday night in Sindh province at the shrine of a famous Sufi saint, Laal Shahbaz Qalandar, was one of the biggest in a series of attacks the country has faced during the past week.

The militant group Islamic State took responsibility for that attack.

Another militant group called Jamaatul Ahrar, a faction of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed to have carried out most of the other attacks in the country last week, including one at a protest in the heart of Pakistan's second largest city, Lahore, that left more than a dozen dead.

Through its social media platforms, the group announced that the attacks were the beginning of an operation against the state and its security agencies.

The wave of attacks has shattered the perception that the country has its terrorism problem under control.

Muhammad Amir Rana, a security analyst, said this is a technique to create a perception of chaos.

"In my view the group is following the same strategy as other terrorist groups in the region. They collect all their resources and then they …try to trigger a wave to achieve the maximum impact of the violence."

Nonetheless, this is a blow to Pakistan's claims that its military operation called Zarb e Azb, to clear its lawless tribal areas in the north, along with intelligence based operations throughout the country, have managed to dismantle terrorism's infrastructure.

Michael Kugelman, senior associate for South Asia at Washington-based research organization the Wilson Center, said the country would not be able to overcome its terrorism problem without a change in its long-term strategic thinking.

"Pakistan's war on terror has essentially been an effort to go after terrorists and not to go after the ideologies that drive terrorism and terrorists," he said.

The society in Pakistan, he added, was conducive to hateful narratives against India, the United States, or religious minorities inside Pakistan that was often perpetuated by significant influencers including some religious leaders, media personalities, even the state itself.

Meanwhile, Pakistan blamed the wave of terrorism on hostile powers, an often-used euphemism for India.

It also claimed that the attackers had sanctuaries in Afghanistan.

The leadership of the Pakistani Taliban and Daesh Khorasan, the local chapter of IS, is supposed to be hiding in Afghanistan.

The chief minister of Pakistan's most populous Punjab province, at a press conference Friday, showed a video of a man he claimed was an abettor of the attack in Lahore. The man in the video confessed that he had come from Afghanistan's Kunar province.

In response, Pakistan has, for the time being, closed the busiest border crossing with Afghanistan at Torkhem as well as handing a list of 76 terrorists to Afghan officials, demanding immediate action.

Afghan presidential spokesman Shah Hussain Murtazavi told VOA that the Afghan government considers Daesh and other terrorist groups common enemies of Afghanistan and Pakistan and is sincerely fighting terrorist groups. He also said that closing borders was not the answer.

Regional experts say Afghanistan, in turn, blames Pakistan for providing sanctuaries to the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani group, that have wreaked havoc on its soil. It might not be inclined to help Pakistan until it sees action from the other side.

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