Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Blast in Mardan - The Nation

The suicide blast at a funeral on Tuesday, in Zargarano Killy village in Shergarh area, Mardan disctrict, illustrated the conflict between traditional mores, which prescribe such gatherings to be beyond enmity, and the militants, who find them providing easy targets. This is not the first funeral the militants have attacked, and will unfortunately, probably not be the last. This particular attack killed 34, adding a pall of gloom to what was already a somber occasion. The person whose funeral was targeted, Haji Abdullah Khan, had not died a natural death, but had in fact been shot on Monday by unidentified gunmen. Among those killed, apart from the suicide bomber, was the local MPA, Imran Khan Mohmand, who seems to have been the prime target. Mr Mohmand had been an ANP worker, denied a party ticket for the May 11 election. He had however contested as an independent, and won. He had been inclined towards the ruling Tehreek-e-Insaf. He is the second independent supporting the PTI to have been killed, the first being Farid Khan, who was gunned down in Hangu on 4 June.

The same day, Pakistan's Permanent Representative at the UN, Masood Khan, speaking in the General Assembly debate on Children in Armed Conflict, spoke about one of the reasons for the blasts, when he called for negotiations to end drone strikes. It must be conveyed to US Secretary of State John Kerry, when he visits Pakistan, that the drone strikes are not simply an irritant in the bilateral relationship and a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty, but are also counterproductive, and by producing ever increasing numbers of militants with the desire to revenge themselves on the perpetrators, are actually making the US less secure than the other way around, which is the justification given for carrying them out. It is food for thought for the ruling PTI, about whether it still feels as strongly about talks with the militants, as it did before the elections. With two MPAs from its ranks, lost to terrorist attacks, is the best way to honour their sacrifice still to pursue their wishes to hold talks with militants? Or to avenge their deaths? The conflict is one that will not be solved by force alone. But it is becoming ever clearer that Pakistan must move swiftly to reduce violence in its territory. A combination of forcing the militants into a position where they are forced to talk, and of avoiding the hubris that they can be totally and completely defeated on a field of war, provide the best chance of success.
There must be coordination between the KPK and central governments as never before, though their parties are in the opposition in KPK and the centre respectively. There is a need for swift and precise information, which can only come if intelligence resources are pooled, and a shared strategy pursued, irrespective of party.
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