The News International discussed the issue in its editorial.The shootout witnessed in Tuesday evening, involving large contingents of police and Rangers against militants holed up in a building in the Shah Latif area in the heart of Karachi, shows once more that the militants now not only operate from remote mountain areas but have occupied strongholds in our largest cities as well. The three-hour long gun battle in Karachi left six people -- two policemen and four militants -- dead and kept terrorized citizens pinned down within their homes. The militants (four of them have been arrested and a trader apparently abducted by them rescued) are stated by the police to have been members of the banned Jundullah (Army of God) outfit, linked to a number of high-profile terrorist attacks, including ones on the corps commander Karachi and the American consulate in the city that took place in 2004. It is unclear if any of the militants escaped.
What is clear though is that extremist forces operating through the country in a chain that seems to originate in NWFP, but then snakes its way into towns and cities, have been able to create mayhem everywhere. The scale of this threat has been evident in the seizure of the crucial Kohat Tunnel by militants against whom the armed forces are locked in battle in Darra Adam Khel. The tunnel, a vital communication route, was re-taken only after fierce battle spread out over two days. A bomb killed three people in Peshawar on Wednesday and rocket attacks have been reported at Peshawar Airport. School-children were held hostage in Bannu and thousands displaced across NWFP. The suicide-bombings witnessed at periodic intervals are just another dimension of the same problem, as are the closure of girls' schools, barber businesses and shops selling music CDs or video films. The war being waged in the country is as such very real. The fact that in NWFP Pakistan's military now seems to have opted to go in against the militants with full force is a necessary and welcome decision, but it also means more retaliatory strikes could come from the extremists.
The battles taking place in Darra Adam Khel, in South Waziristan and elsewhere will continue. There seems to be no immediate way to avoid this. But a strategy to win the wider war needs to be thought out, both for now and for the years ahead. Citizens need to be provided more information about shadowy outfits such as the Jundullah, and their deeds exposed, so that the enemy can be more readily seen and recognized. Involving people in the struggle against extremism, unveiling the still hidden faces of those who are behind the violence we see everywhere, is necessary to finally overcome them. This task is not an easy one. It will take time, effort, and, sadly, more loss of life. But without the support of citizens the struggle may prove a losing one -- and the consequences of this are too terrible even to contemplate. Our armed forces need to think hard how to get the consensus of the people behind them to face this menace. Such a consensus will need rebuilding bridges with the people and civil society throughout the country.