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Lahore blast targeting Hafiz Saeed foxes Pak intelligence–could be the handiwork of homegrown dissenters

The site of bomb blast near Hafiz Saeed's house in Lahore

As expected, the Pakistani establishment personally led by Prime Minister Imran Khan, has embarked upon a virulent campaign against India, blaming it for allegedly carrying out a blast near the residence of Jamaat-Ud-Dawa (Lashkar-e-Toiba – LeT) chief Hafiz Saeed in Lahore’s Johar Town neighbourhood. It is noteworthy that experts note Pakistan’s projection of Jamaat Ud Dawa instead of the LeT in weaving its narrative on the incident. It is very much in the public domain that the LeT mastermind Hafiz Saeed had planned and executed the dastardly terror attack on the Indian Parliament in December, 2001. Although, the Pakistani sponsors of such terror assault tend to delink LeT or Hafiz Saeed’s role in the two- decade- old terror misadventure targeting other Indian spots as well, the world counter terror experts have been articulating that Hafiz Saeed enjoyed the blessings of the State, and was thoroughly trained in executing deadly terror attacks on Indian targets.

The most recent Johar Town attack near Hafiz Saeed’s location is being conveniently blamed on the Indian intelligence agencies. This was starkly evident during a press conference of July 5, addressed by the information minister Fawad Chaudhry, National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf, and the Punjab Police Chief Imam Ghani. Obviously rattled by the detonation caused in the vicinity of Hafiz Saeed residence, the key men of the Pakistani dispensation alleged that the attack coincided with thousands of coordinated cyber- attacks on the country’s information infrastructure.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Shah Mahmood Qureshi exceeded his diplomatic niceties, as he has done in the past on numerous occasions, and called upon the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to initiate action against India for mounting terror attacks on Pakistani soil.  Qureshi is conveniently forgetting, with a selective amnesia, that this important Paris based watchdog has not taken Pakistan off the list of countries still afflicted with terror and as a result Pakistan continues to be in the grey list imposed by this global watchdog.

Indulging in such an  unfortunate blame game, Pakistan is losing focus on  its own backyard where home-grown terrorists flourish under State patronage. In fact, they have now spun out of control and are often noticed targeting various infrastructure nodes within Pakistan. In the light of this, it would perhaps be imperative that the Pakistan authorities, especially the all-powerful military and the ISI, take a close look at the growing discontent among the dissenters in Balochistan, Sindh and even in PoK to know the ground reality instead of faulting India for the terror attacks on its soil.

There are innumerable cases, which can be easily illustrated, that point to a series of terror attacks carried out in various locations in Pakistan by the local armed cadres who are fighting against the Federal government for greater autonomy, more freedom of expression and better protection of human rights.  The Johar Bagh, Lahore terror attack which has jolted Hafiz Saeed and his mentors, has also exposed the incompetence and incapability of the Pakistani intelligence and security agencies. Despite the military intelligence footprints intruding into the civilian intelligence space, the occurrence of the Lahore blast confirms that the Pak intelligence machinery is in tatters. It is, therefore, not difficult to conclude that an abject intelligence failure is causing a spate of terror violence, about which the Pakistani agencies are completely unaware.

Sources in Pakistan, in the meantime, who are familiar with terror linked developments, disclosed in anonymity, that the Pakistani intelligence and security leadership seems rudderless in response to the slew of terror incidents. In fact, it has driven calls within the system for an entire revamp of Pak intelligence infrastructure, which should, perhaps be bereft of further Khaki interference. However, this prescription looks improbable due to multiple agencies interfering with each other in the absence of clear coordination. And, if this grey area is not addressed, glaring failure to gather human or technical intelligence to prevent terror related recurrences, will continue to rock Pakistan making it more hapless and frustrated. The blame game against India is unlikely to end anytime soon.

(Shantanu Mukharji is a security analyst and a former National Security Adviser to the Prime Minister of Mauritius. Views expressed are personal)

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