What has caused a sudden and tragic jump in mass casualty attacks in Pakistan with over 200 deaths, mostly of Hazara Shias, in a single day on January 10, 2013? Is it just impunity or blow back from intensified US drone attacks early in 2013 as President Barack Obama accelerates US pull-out from Afghanistan? Or is it lack of national political consensus in Pakistan to punish the blood-thirsty Taliban and their murderous sectarian allies like LeJ and SSP?
In a rare public statement on the effectiveness of US drone campaign in FATA, General Officer Commanding 7-Division Maj-Gen Ghayur Mehmood serving in Waziristan in 2011 said: "Yes there are a few civilian casualties in such precision strikes, but a majority of those eliminated are terrorists, including foreign terrorist elements.” In addition, Maj-Gen Ghayur, who led Pakistani troops in North Waziristan at the time, also said that the drone attacks had negative fallout, scaring the local population and causing their migration to other places. Gen Ghayur said the drone attacks also had social and political repercussions and law-enforcement agencies often felt the heat.
In other words, US drone strikes do kill mainly militants in FATA but also cause a blow back in the rest of the country for law enforcement and innocent civilians, and the Pakistani civil administration has failed miserably in dealing with it.
The January 10 terrorist attacks appear to be a strong and swift blow back to the stepped up US CIA campaign of seven strikes in the first 10 days of the year 2013. This raises a basic question as to why the Hazara community, minorities and ordinary civilians are targeted? Here are some of the possible reasons:
1. Hazaras are a soft target. They are easily identifiable by their facial features and known to live in certain neighborhoods in and around Quetta.
2. Police in Baluchistan have miserably failed in bringing to justice the sectarian attackers who are allied with the Taliban and operate with impunity.
4. Pakistani parliament has failed to enact serious anti-terrorism legislation in the last 5 years to respond to rising civilian casualties in terrorist attacks. The goverment has also failed to protect witnesses, lawyers and judges involved in prosecuting terrorism suspects.
1. Enact the “Investigation for Fair trial bill-2012” as soon as possible. This bill makes electronic evidence such as video footage, telephone wire-taps and e-mails admissible in terrorism cases to reduce reliance on eyewitnesses.
2. Start a serious witness protection program and provide enhanced security to lawyers and judges in terrorism cases.
3. Train police, prosecutors and judges in modern criminal justice techniques and processes to increase their effectiveness.
3. Build broad national political consensus for decisive military action in FATA from where the Taliban terrorists and their sectarian allies get support and training to carry out devastating terrorist attacks against innocent civilians throughout Pakistan.
Pakistan must now prepare to better protect its civilian population from the intense blow back as the US intensifies its drone campaign in FATA to ensure safe withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan in 2013 and 2014.
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