Foreign Policy Blogs

Terror attempt foiled in Pakistan

With the arrest of three terror suspects on Friday, police in the Pakistani city of Dera Ismail Khan claimed to have foiled a major attack. Dera Ismail Khan is a city situated in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan. According to media reports the terrorists were attempting to carry out an attack ahead of the Muharram which is the first month of the Islamic calendar. Muharram is considered to be one of the four sacred months of the year in which fighting are forbidden. During the search operation, police recovered a suicide jacket and weapons from the terrorists’ possession. The police also arrested seven suspects in a search operation being conducted in the city and its suburbs to stop the miscreants from disrupting the peace of the area reports The Express Tribune.

Media reports quoting, intelligence agencies in Pakistan reveal that the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has been planning to carry out suicide attacks across Pakistan during the holy month of Muharram. The targets include foreign consulate, multinational companies, NGOs and schools where foreigners are working. It is also reported that Hafiz Saeed, chief of Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD), the organisation banned by the UN, is also purportedly a target of terrorists. Ironically Hafiz Saeed, is also accused of having links to the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist group and is considered in India as being the key mastermind of the Mumbai terror attacks of November 2008. India has been for a long time demanding that Hafiz Saeed be handed over to stand trial.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (or the Student Movement of Pakistan) is the main Taliban militant umbrella group in Pakistan. The TTP is primarily in conflict with the central government of Pakistan. Among the group’s stated objectives are resistance against the Pakistani army, enforcement of Sharia law, and attacks against American and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Intelligence reports also suggest that Barelvi and Shia religious leaders and their mosques, foreigners working in flood affected areas and the Kot Addu power plant are under threat. A news report in the Express Tribune indicated that the Punjab Province police have received intelligence reports indicating the most likely targets that terrorist groups could hit. The newspaper pointed out that the two-page intelligence report received by the Punjab Police also added that Shia processions in the month of Muharram could be easy targets and that an improved security plan was needed to ensure their safety. The city police have accordingly been directed to enhance the security for Shia and Barelvi scholars and at their mosques.

For some time now, Hafiz Saeed, has been in the focus as a prime target of the TTP. Independent observers believe that this could be because of his proximity to the Pakistani establishment. Unlike the Tailban which has direct likes with the al-Qaeda, the Lashkar, with its primary focus on targeting India, has, under the guidance of Saeed remained more loyal towards Islamabad’s policies than other militant groups. Many also suspect Saeed and other Dawa leaders of having played a role in the 2002 arrest of some top al-Qaeda operatives in Pakistan. These operatives, including a top al-Qaeda leader, Abu Zubaydah, were arrested from a Lashkar safe house in the city of Faisalabad. Thus, his loyalty to Islamabad makes him a potential target for groups opposed to the Pakistani establishment.