ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid on Saturday conceded a spike in terror attacks in Pakistan, saying smaller groups had become active and attacking in different parts of the country “following Taliban’s success” against Indian intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and 42 foreign forces in Afghanistan.
Through a notification, the interior ministry directed the provincial governments and the law enforcement agencies to stay alert as well as exercise extreme vigilance in connection with the recent terrorist attack in Lahore’s Anarkali Bazaar and the threats posed by “anti-state elements”.
Addressing a news conference in the federal capital, the interior minister said the current wave of terrorism had increased about 35% to 38% since August 15 – when Taliban fighters had entered Kabul last year – and that was why the ministry had issued a notification directing the authorities concerned to exercise extreme vigilance.
A senior official of the interior ministry directly linked the rise in terrorist attacks to the fall of Kabul in August 2021.
He said the 38% increase in incidents of terrorism was witnessed since Taliban took over Afghanistan following the US withdrawal after almost two decades.
However, Rashid linked the increase in terror attacks since last August to smaller groups that had recently merged and attacking in different cities.
The minister mentioned that two terrorists of the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) were shot dead in the capital on January 18, adding that the authorities had also tracked down six of their accomplices.
As a result of the terror attacks, he said the interior ministry had issued a warning to the armed forces, civilian forces, police chiefs and chief secretaries with the directions to “stay awake”.
Replying to query, the minister said talks between the government and the TTP – facilitated by the Afghan Taliban – had failed as the group had put up some conditions that were unacceptable.
“The Afghan Taliban had facilitated the talks with some TTP groups, but their conditions and demands were harsh and unacceptable,” he added.
Announcing that the doors were still open for the TTP if they were ready to accept the law and the Constitution of the country, Rashid said that if they chose to fight then they would receive an “equal response”.
He reminded that the environment in Afghanistan was not hostile towards Pakistan anymore as the Afghan Taliban had formed the government there.
After the defeat of the Afghan intelligence agency National Directorate of Security (NDS) and RAW as well as the 42 foreign forces by the Afghan Taliban, he maintained, some smaller groups were busy attacking and spreading terror in Pakistan but they would not succeed.
The minister also blamed foreign powers of committing terrorist activities, claiming that they wished to stop progress on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
“However, the Pak-China friendship is standing tall against such tactics.”
During the press talk, Rashid reiterated his earlier predictions about Prime Minister Imran Khan completing five years and lambasted the opposition parties for striving to oust him since day one.
“Imran Khan is not going anywhere,” the minister announced amid the PPP and the Pakistan Democratic Party (PDM) – an alliance of different opposition parties – calls for anti-government protests.
“Those who want to topple him [Imran] should now open their eyes. The Almighty is helping Imran Khan,” he added.
Subsequently, he urged the PDM to change the date of its long march towards Islamabad – March 23 – as roads would be closed because of the presence of the leaders of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (IOC) in the annual parade.
He suggested that the PDM stage its march on March 24 or 27 or with the PPP on February 27, but warned that action would be taken for violating laws.
While warning the opposition parties, he also provoked them to table a no-confidence motion.
He claimed that the 25 members of opposition parties would be found short if a no-confidence motion was moved.
He recalled that 15 members of the opposition parties were absent during the vote count on the Finance Bill.
The minister said that no discussion had so far taken place on imposing emergency or introducing presidential system in the federal cabinet.
On the Lahore blast investigation, Rashid said there would be a breakthrough soon.
According to a report of the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS), the country has witnessed a 56% surge in militant attacks during the year 2021 despite a one-month ceasefire by the TTP after a consistent decline in militant attacks for six years.
PICSS statistics show that the militants have carried out 294 attacks in 2021 in which 395 people were killed, including 186 civilians and 192 security forces personnel.
At least 629 people were injured, including 400 civilians and 217 security forces personnel.
Pakistani security forces also killed 188 militants and arrested at least 222 suspected militants during the year, PICSS added.