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Peshawar bus bombing

SOON after the military high command announced on Monday that Operation Zarb-i-Azb was being wound down in Fata, terrorists struck Peshawar as a timed device exploded in a bus carrying government employees. As per reports, the banned Lashkari-Islam`s supremo Mangal Bagh claimed responsibility for yesterday`s atrocity; the militant leader `justified` the bombing because of the recent ratification of death sentences by the army chief of convicts linked to the proscribed TTP, as well as the armed forces` overall efforts against militancy. So while the army leadership is talking of wrapping up combat operations in the tribal belt, there is no reason to assume that the challenge of fighting terrorism in the rest of the country is over. After all, while LI claimed Wednesday`s attack (this is the first act of militant violence claimed by the group after a lengthy period), the TTP`s Jamaatul Ahrar was responsible for the bombing which targeted courts in Charsadda last week. This shows that though the militants might be scattered or on the run, they have not lost their ability to wreak havoc on society.

Those familiar with the area say there is no proper clearance of who is boarding buses meant for government employees headed to Peshawar from the districts. This situation needs to be addressed so that vehicles carrying state employees are properly checked for explosives and no unconcerned person is able to board them.

Coming to the larger problem of militancy, the military announced after the corps commanders` conference that intelligence-based operations would be intensified countrywide. After destroying the militants` infrastructure and bases, this is among the best ways to proceed in order to root out extremist fighters and their sympathisers across Pakistan and prevent further acts of terrorism. For this, the military must work in tandem with the civilian law-enforcement and intelligence agencies, as they have an ear to the ground in the cities and towns. We must not delude ourselves by assuming that victory against militancy is near; by all indications, this will be a long war. For decades, we let the monster of religious militancy grow. Neutralising it will not be a short-term exercise. Gains have indeed been made in the counterterrorism effort, with the soldiers, and ordinary men, women and children of the country paying a price in blood. But the goal of a terrorism-free country will only be realised if the state continues to counter militancy and extremism with commitment.