The Quetta Attack

Spearhead Analysis – 25.10.2016

quetta-police-training-collegeAccording to media reports three suicide vests clad armed attackers gained access to the Police Training Academy in Quetta by killing a guard who resisted valiantly. Once inside they took 280 police cadets hostage. The fire fight that ensued with security forces led by the Army resulted in 60 dead and more than 150 wounded. One attacker was shot dead while the other two blew themselves up. The attack is said to have been master minded by ‘Lashkar Jhangvi Alalami”—Lashkar Jhangvi International probably to distinguish it from its domestic wing that has been attacking members of the Shia sect previously. The last big attack in Quetta was on the lawyers who had assembled to condole the death of their colleague who had been assassinated just hours earlier. The investigation into that attack is still ongoing.

Media reports also indicate that the attack was being directed from across the border in Afghanistan. This should not be a surprise to anyone given the fact that many terrorist groups with international agendas are located in Afghanistan in areas out of Afghan government control and also because India’s declared strategy is to isolate Pakistan internationally and support insurgents and dissidents in Baluchistan by destabilizing it. The latest terror attack in Quetta fits neatly into that strategy. Indian and Afghan intelligence agencies are working closely together and Afghanistan’s policies towards Pakistan are being influenced by India. The destabilization of Baluchistan also fits the Indian designs to disrupt the CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) project because of Gwadar ports’ proximity to the Iranian port of Chahbahar being built by India and its strategic location close to the oil lifeline through the Straits of Hormuz and possible influence over the Straits of Malacca where India is part of the US Pacific-South China Sea plans. The shorter overland transit from Gwadar to Western China also bothers India as does the possibility of China’s naval presence at Gwadar. So when the Indian Prime Minister talks of Baluchistan and Gilgit-Baltistan, and Pakistan’s strategic isolation, the vision he sees is of CPEC success and Pakistan’s gains—a vision that India cannot stomach.

When the Indian base at Uri was attacked India went to town blaming Pakistan even before the attack had ended. The Indian media built up and continues to build up hype against Pakistan– and India’s radical Hindu organizations that support Mr Modi went ballistic– their latest tactic is to demand extortion money to permit Indian films with Pakistani actors being screened and banning all Pakistani actors from ever working in India. India has ended the cease fire along the LOC (Line of Control) in Kashmir and has activated the entire LOC and the working boundary south of it with almost continuous artillery and mortar fire possibly to screen the atrocities and human rights violations by Indian security forces against the unarmed civilians who are in revolt against Indian occupation.

The question now being asked is that after the latest Quetta attack are the gloves off and will covert warfare be the norm between India and Pakistan with Afghanistan dragged in by India? Or will there be a stepping back and a review of the situation to restart the India-Pakistan and Pakistan-Afghanistan dialogues to build functional bilateral relations and move towards cooperation? Unless the right choice is made there will be no rolling back of capacities that can be used to hurt each other. There is no reason why CPEC cannot benefit the entire region with Iran being drawn into it and SAARC extended to embrace a wider region instead of being sidelined by India. The world needs to focus on the situation in Indian Held Kashmir that is at the heart of the India-Pakistan relationship.

Meanwhile a reappraisal of security arrangements is warranted. Many lapses were highlighted when the Manawan Police Center was attacked in Punjab and when the Army Public School was attacked in KPK. The CTD backed by intelligence assets have thwarted and prevented many terrorist plans and attacks since then but just one getting through is enough to inflict damage and create insecurity.

(Spearhead Analyses are collaborative efforts and not attributable to a single individual)