By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
At lease 59 cadets were killed and more than 116 injured as terrorists attack the Police Training College in Quetta, Pakistan, in one of the deadliest extremist attacks this year.
Three gunmen burst into the sprawling academy, targeting sleeping quarters home to some 700 recruits, and sent terrified young men aged between 15 and 25 fleeing, Dawn News reported.
Communication intercepts showed the attack was carried out by Al-Alimi faction of the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi militant group, IG Frontier Corps (FC) Major General Sher Afgan said. The group itself has not claimed the attack.
Most of the deaths were caused when two of the attackers blew themselves up. The third was shot dead by Frontier Corps (FC) troops. At least 120 people were injured, according to Dawn News.
The IG FC said “terrorists were communicating with their handlers in Afghanistan”. “There were three terrorists and all of them were wearing suicide vests,” he added.
The training college is situated on Sariab Road, which is considered to be one of the most sensitive areas of Quetta. Militants have been targeting security forces in the area for almost a decade.
The attack comes a day after militants belonging to the Baloch Liberation Army on a motorcycle shot dead two coast guards and a civilian and wounded a shopkeeper in a remote southwest coastal town in Balochistan.
In August, a suicide bombing at a Quetta hospital claimed by the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar faction of the Pakistani Taliban killed 73 people, including many of the city’s lawyer community who had gone there to mourn the fatal shooting of a colleague.
Last month Indian government formally offered political asylum to secessionist Baloch leaders. The Zee News of India reported that the media is buzz with reports that Brahumdagh Bugti, grandson of Nawaz Akbar Khan Bugti, is set to get Indian citizenship. He is currently living in exile in Switzerland.
Balochistan is a key region for China’s ambitious $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor infrastructure project linking its western province of Xinjiang to the Arabian Sea via Pakistan.
Security problems have mired CPEC in the past with numerous separatist attacks, but China has said it is confident the Pakistani military is in control.
18 Indian soldiers killed in an army base attack
The Quetta terrorist attack came five weeks after a militants attack on an army base in the garrison town of Uri in the Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir — killing 18 soldiers. The attack on Sept 18, which took place near the de facto border between India and Pakistan in the disputed region, was one of the deadliest on an army base in Kashmir since militant attacks began in 1989, according to CNN.
Tension remains high between the neighbors following the Uri attack. The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has been under intense pressure from his own party and the Indian public to respond to the Uri army base attack. Mr Modi came to power pledging to toughen India’s response to what he calls cross-border incursions from Pakistan. He vowed that the Uri raid “will not go unpunished”.
On September 29, India announced that it had carried out early morning “surgical strikes” on terrorist camps in Pakistani controlled Kashmir. However, Pakistan denied that a cross border strike had taken place, saying that Indian troops had fired small arms across the Line of Control, killing two soldiers and injuring nine. The notion of surgical strike linked to alleged terrorists’ bases is an illusion being deliberately generated by India to create false effects,” the Pakistani military said in a statement.
A senior Pakistani security official was quoted by the New York Times as saying that Pakistan would consider a cross border strike by India an act of war. The official warned that Pakistan could use tactical nuclear weapons in self-defense if India initiates a war.
Tough stand by Modi raises risk of war with Pakistan: NYT
The New York Times has warned that tough stand by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi raises risk of war with Pakistan.
In a report about the current situation between the two nuclear armed neighbors, the paper pointed out that “as an opposition leader, Narendra Modi was a vocal critic of India’s government for not responding more forcefully to cross-border attacks from militants based in Pakistan. As prime minister, Mr. Modi has not shied away from openly retaliating in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir against the militants and stirring up nationalist passions. Now, with his tough stance, there are growing concerns that Modi may have narrowed his options, raising the risks of war with India’s nuclear-armed rival, Pakistan.”
The New York Times said experts are worrying about what India will do when allegedly Pakistan-based militants carry out another attack in India, as is almost certain. And how will Pakistan respond?
“We’re not at the point of no return, but we are in very dangerous waters,” said Bruce Riedel, a fellow at the Brookings Institution who served in the Central Intelligence Agency, where he advised several American presidents on South Asia.
“When we get to the next terror attack, which is probably only a matter of time, the prime minister has boxed himself in, and he can’t take the route his predecessors did and choose to use solely diplomatic alternatives without some loss of face,” Mr. Riedel said adding: “The big danger here is once you get started up the escalation ladder, how do you cool it off?”
“I’m scared,” retired Lt Colonel Ajay Shukla was quoted as saying. “We’re not Israel bullying Gaza, or the U.S. with Haiti. We’re the fourth-biggest army confronting the 11th-biggest army.”
Mr. Modi’s predecessors were more risk averse by nature, Mr. Shukla said. “Modi is better at brinkmanship than they were in these actions where there’s an element of risk,” Mr. Shukla said. “Manmohan Singh would not take that risk and would place India’s economic development ahead of it,” he said, referring to the previous prime minister.
That willingness to take risk derives in part from Mr. Modi’s ambition.
Nationalist sentiment, stoked by the Indian news media, has spiraled so high that even Mr. Modi may be powerless to contain it, Mr. Shukla said adding: “He’s gotten onto the tiger, and now he can’t get off.” With elections coming up in Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state, Mr. Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party will be motivated to keep nationalist sentiment high because it has quickly subsumed economic development as the party’s main election platform there, Mr. Shukla said.
Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America (www.journalofamerica.net) email: asghazali2011 (@) gmail.com