The Filter Coffee

Foreign policy, strategic affairs, defense and governance

GHQ and Lahore terror attacks

The chickens have come home to roost and Pakistan is in a state of bewilderment and denial

Yesterday’s carnage in Lahore and Peshawar is a continuing catalog of the failures of intelligence and security services and of Pakistan’s inability to learn from past mistakes.  Two of the three institutions targeted yesterday — the FIA building and the Manawan training school were victims of past terror attacks.  Yet, apparently nothing was learned from those attacks and the terrorists were able to perpetrate their attacks, almost to script.

Even after yesterday’s terror strikes, enough anecdotal evidence exists to suggest that this pattern is likely to continue.  For one, Pakistan’s intelligence agencies don’t know who they’re up against.  The term “TTP affiliated organization” could mean just about anyone. That the TTP claims responsibility for any and all attacks doesn’t help separate fact from fiction.

In both the recent strikes against GHQ, Rawalpindi and the series of coordinated attacks in Lahore, certain aspects of the attacks stand out (see B Raman’s detailed analysis for more information).

The attacks in Pindi and Lahore were against (apparently well fortified) law and enforcement institutions.Both were fedayeen attacks and involved the use of handheld weapons and explosives. But both attacks were also accompanied by subsequent terror strikes in Peshawar, which resulted in more fatalities.  The M.O. of the Peshawar attacks was markedly different from that of Rawalpindi or Lahore.  Bomb-laden vehicles were detonated remotely near areas of urban concentration (a school and a bazaar).

It’s hard to say whether the attacks in Peshawar were related to the coordinated attacks in the Punjab. But they may provide some light on who was responsible for the attacks. The attacks in Peshawar are typical of the type of unconventional warfare that we know the TTP  and associated Pashtun groups are capable of waging — i.e., either “non-confrontational” attacks usually via IEDs, or single-person suicide attacks.  Insofar as unconventional urban warfare is concerned, the TTP seldom hunts in groups.

The attacks in Lahore and Pindi, however, betray the M.O. of terror groups from the Punjabi Deobandi/Barelvi madaris, which have a history of employing commando-style assaults against targets, both within Pakistan (Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Sipah-e-Sahaba) and in India (Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed).

By Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s own admission, the TTP has gradually built links with the Punjabi terror groups. If the brutal acts of the past two weeks are an indication of this alliance, then Islamabad is under attack from more directions than it can hope to counter.

However, while Pakistan initiated military action against the TTP via the PAF in Ladha yesterday, nothing was said or done about the terror outfits it nurtured in the Punjab. The chickens have come home to roost:  and the Pakistani security establishment’s response is one of denial, disbelief and bewilderment.

Pakistan’s inaction against Punjabi terror outfits is because of the belief that these groups do more good than harm to “the cause”.  The real question is:  how long before the Pakistan establishment perceives that this equation has been turned on its head?

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