According to the Dawn editorial, suicide bombing in Rawalpindi of an army medical corps bus comes as a rude reminder that terrorism is closing in on our cities. A twin target of the fatal attack was a van transporting federal government staffers to their offices. This was the second suicide bombing in Rawalpindi after the Dec 27 assault that killed Ms Benazir Bhutto. The loss of lives and the injuries sustained by many in the course of the deadly strike point yet again to the failure of the intelligence apparatus in preventing such attacks in our urban centres - this one took place within walking distance of the GHQ in the high-security cantonment. Further north and west in the Frontier province, gun battles rage between security forces and the militants holding large parts of North and South Waziristan and adjoining settled areas under siege, forcing the residents to flee in droves for their lives. Swat is no less of a no-go area for ordinary mortals as military action continues there against Mullah Fazlullah's guerrillas. The gory drama enacted on Saturday in a Mardan village, where two militants were holed up inside a house full of ammunition and suicide bombing devices, and which left two policemen, a hostage and the militants dead, was a scene right out of a Wild West flick. For all practical purposes, the prodigal sons fattened on an obscurant jihadi ideology have come home to feast on the innocent.
In South Waziristan, unconfirmed reports now speak of a truce holding between militant commander Baitullah Mehsud and the security forces, while a tribal jirga settles the terms of the arrangement. Meanwhile, the number of displaced persons who have been forced to leave their homes because of the ongoing fighting in the area has been swelling. This is not the first time that the mechanism of a negotiated ceasefire has been applied to contain the rising wave of terrorism and militancy. In the past, attempts to keep the peace through jirga intervention fell flat, ostensibly because ceasefires and truces were not negotiated by the government from a position of strength. Such fire fighting makes little sense at a time when a blanket government offer of amnesty stands for all those who may lay down their arms, expel or hand over foreign militants and not indulge in subversive activities.
It is the absence of a national strategy to deal with growing militancy which is being felt today ever so acutely. There is no comprehensive plan in place to pre-empt acts of terrorism, as is evident from the frequency of the deadly attacks. The thoroughly politicised intelligence agencies must be weaned away from chasing after the political kill in the run-up to the election, and forced to get back to their professional duties. Unless that missing link is restored, our cities and the countryside will continue to bleed.