The Quetta tragedy: Pak mourns today  


Following the terrorist attack on the police academy in Quetta, at least 60 people have lost their lives while several remain injured. Most of these are cadets, barely in their 20s, who were training at the academy to serve their country. The magnitude of this tragedy is incomprehensible, and the loss of their lives irreparable.
As Pakistan reels under the shock of this most horrific attack, what adds to the pain is the fact that three terrorists killed 61 of our people. Three.
It is not the first time that this police academy has come under attack by terrorists. It was attacked by militants in 2006 and 2008, with the former claiming six lives. And it is not just the police academy, but the recent history of Quetta is filled with such tragic attacks. It was only in August that a suicide attack in Quetta’s civil hospital killed 73 people. The same hospital was a victim of a suicide attack in 2010 in which an emergency room full of Shia Muslims was targeted. In 2013, Shia Muslim were again the main victims of a bomb blast in Quetta’s Alamdar road, which claimed the lives of around 81 people. The major part of the attacks in Quetta have behind them bigoted sectarian motives, and banned outfits such as Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, Jamaatul Ahrar, and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan being their perpetrators. According to initial reports, this latest attack on the police academy has been carried out by the Al-Alimi faction of the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi.
Given such a troubled history of the city, it is puzzling as to why Quetta repeatedly falls victim to terrorist attacks. When it comes to intelligence failures, it must be accepted that complete surveillance is not possible, and intelligence agencies effectively play their part in minimising intelligence failures. However, when intelligence failure does occur, it results in horrific attacks such as these. This points to the inadequate security arrangement of such installations, which allow terrorists to breach into them and wreck havoc inside. How is it that a police academy that has been targeted by terrorists twice before only had one armed guard at the watchtower to protect it? Moreover, it is not just about resource constraints that prevent the adoption of an adequate security system as the lack of proper security procedures is also part and parcel of the problem. The nonchalant behaviour of both guards in particular and security personnel in general militates against effective monitoring and manning of buildings and sensitive installations. This is not about who goes inside these building, but rather the people who are around them. Least concerned of their surroundings, security personnel are generally caught off guard when terrorists strike, and this element of surprise gives the terrorists the opportunity to cause great damage.
Furthermore, last night’s attack has shown the increasing need for a holistic anti-terrorism strategy. While Zarb-e-Azb has been successful in breaking the base of the militant infrastructure in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, these militant outfits are spread both throughout the country and in neighbouring Afghanistan. Hence, in addition to reining in militant outfits in Pakistan, there is a need for finding a way to break this nexus of cross-border terrorism. Surely Pakistan’s security forces cannot physically conduct any kind of operation in another country. The only effective way to achieve this goal is create an atmosphere of mutual trust and cooperation, so that Afghanistan can be persuaded to clamp down on these groups itself. For that to happen, Afghanistan’s security concerns would have to be taken into account by Pakistan. Terrorism has become a transnational national phenomenon, and the only way to eliminate it is to create a friendly neighbourhood, rather than a hostile one, in which rather than point scoring aimed at states, the common enemy of terrorism is identified and fought together. We at Daily Times, in this time of unimaginable pain, extend our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of the 61 victims. We also wish all the injured quick and full recovery.

PTI, this is no time for political gimmicks
The announcement made by the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chairman Tahir-ul-Qadri that his party is ready to join the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in the latter’s plan to lock down Islamabad on November 2 can only be construed as bad politics. The Canadian cleric is once again ready to play games with national affairs at the cost of the lives of his followers on the pretext of taking revenge of the Model Town tragedy. A total of 14 PAT workers were killed and many injured during clashes with police on June 17, 2014. After the brutal killings, the PAT chief gave the protests a political tinge by converting his party’s anger into a long march to Islamabad. The PAT and its mother organisation Minhaj-ul-Quran International run a network of thousands of educational institutions across the country and a charity organisation that has a global network. The reach and the good work of the organisation is commendable, no doubt about that. And as the network provides bread and butter to thousands of Pakistanis, they spring into action at the call of their leader.
Looking at the situation in the country in the wake of Tuesday’s horrific attack in Quetta in which 61 people lost their lives, this is not the most opportune time for protests, and politicians should not put the country into further turmoil as terrorism keeps affecting the foundations of the state. Notwithstanding the constitutional right of both PTI and PAT to hold a peaceful protest, there will always be questions raised on why the PAT chief only visits Pakistan to hold a protest, spew venom against the government and incite his followers to take ‘action’. A learned religious scholar like Dr Qadri can play a very positive role to raise awareness in people on myriad issues of importance, but it is a pity that he has assumed the role of a self-avowed vigilante who talks of blood and revenge faster than a crowd nods to his every word.
The PTI chief has threatened the government of locking down Islamabad with a massive protest march if his demand regarding the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the wake of the Panama scam is not accepted. The threat of shutting down Islamabad is not free from complications for the government. It is the responsibility of the federal government that it should not give feign indifference to this threat. The PML-N would be unwise to continue with its politics of showing its usual apathy to protests by opponents. Efforts must be made to address all the genuine concerns of the opposition parties. The top leadership of the PML-N should come forward and engage the opposition in talks for peaceful resolution of all issues causing conflict in the state and society. The government has already faced the implementation of Imran Khan’s last threat during his 126-day sit-in in Islamabad, and if it deems Khan’s fresh protest call as mere bombast, there may be nothing but chaos in Islamabad in the coming days. On his part, the PTI chief needs to demonstrate some patience and adopt a peaceful way of protest instead of endangering the country’s already fragile security and economy. Any protest that may turn violent — keeping large, impassioned crowds peaceful can be a tad tricky at times — is not in the interests of the country. Nobody should try to derail the system because the masses become the ultimate suffers of the misadventures of politicians. All political parties should focus on tackling the challenges faced by the country and its people in a rational manner.
Women on motorcycles: an initiative that is WoW
Women on Wheels (WoW) was launched by Chief Minister’s Special Monitoring Unit (CMSMU) earlier this year, wherein the first phase 150 women in Lahore were provided training after which they took to the roads of the city to mark the initiation of the project. After the successful launch, the initiative has been expanded to other cities of Punjab including Rawalpindi, Multan and Faisalabad. The project will be further expanded to other cities of the province in phases. Last week, a rally was held in Rawalpindi, while this week, the initiative was launched in Faisalabad where CMSMU’s head Salman Sufi and Provincial Law Minister Rana Sanaullah accompanied the rally on motorcycles.
The CMSMU has been doing commendable work under which many important initiatives including the Protection of Women against Violence Act, Model Graveyards, and Dealer Vehicular Registration System among others have been successfully launched.
While the initiative of WoW is appreciable, it would be hard to implement it among the masses unless people are educated at the grassroots level about the equal role of women in society. Until then, the groundbreaking initiative would be considered just a cosmetic measure as not many people would be willing to let female members of their families out on the roads on motorcycles. Although men ride motorcycles with women on the backseats, they do not let them be on the driving seat. The attitude built over a lifetime of conditioning of a false sense of superiority that motorcycles are to be driven only by men has resulted in the issue becoming a closed topic for women. Unless people are educated, and roads are made safer for women, the project would merely remain a theatrical episode done to promote equality of women in a society that is inherently patriarchal. It has been months since the launch of the project in Lahore, yet there are hardly any women seen on the roads driving motorcycles.
Motorcycles are the most common mode of transport among the people in cities mainly due to lack of public transport infrastructure. Due to low prices and easy availability, most of the middle and lower middle class resort to using this mode of transportation. Thousands of women also go to their workplaces and schools on a daily basis and need a reliable mode of transportation for that purpose. An initiative like WoW can provide them that reliable mode provided roads are made safe for women.
Moreover, although government is planning to give motorcycles to women on subsidised rates, there is a need to manufacture special models of motorcycles that are easy to handle for women. There are numerous countries around the world where women use motorcycles as their mode of transport. The closest examples are the neighbouring countries of Pakistan — India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka — where thousands of women are on roads on motorcycles every day. A girl/woman riding a motorcycle in a country like Pakistan is not an act of rebellion. It is simply a reiteration of the celebration of her equal status in a society that exists in its own narrow and regressive boundaries that limit, on a personal and collective level, the participation of women in the progress of the nation.