CATF Reports Nov. 14, 2016, 1:08pm

There is much speculation over who is to blame for the October 24th terror attacks at a police training center in southwestern Pakistan, as two different groups have claimed responsibility, and a third has been accused. The Islamic State (ISIS) boldly stated that three of its militants approached the center with machine guns and grenades, and after detonating explosive vests, killed over 60 and wounded upwards of 100 people. ISIS similarly claimed responsibility for a soft target attack at a hospital in the same city of Quetta just a few months ago as well as for last Saturday’s attack to a Sufi shrine in South West Pakistan that killed 52. Nonetheless, questions of their actual involvement remain as the level of ISIS’ growing presence in the country is yet to be assessed. Many argued this August assault was more likely perpetrated by Pakistani Taliban faction, Jamaat-ur-Ahrar (JA), who has successfully launched attacks in all four major provinces of the country and pursues soft target locations. Not to be outdone, a third group, Hakimullah Mehsud, a small faction of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed the Quetta attacks as well. However, Pakistani officials are skeptical of the group’s means to carry out this highly organized assault.

Interestingly, the Pakistani government claims Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) is actually the group to blame. LeJ is a sectarian Sunni militant group based in Pakistan and notorious for targeting Shiites in the country. A senior military commander in Quetta’s province of Baluchistan relayed to media that they were able to detect LeJ’s involvement through intercepted calls between the attackers and their supposed handlers next door: “We came to know from the communication intercepts that there were three militants who were getting instructions from Afghanistan”. LeJ may have had motivations to retaliate after Pakistani police killed their leader just last year.

One is left to wonder how just three men could successfully pull off an attack on a facility housing over 700 police trainees. Pakistani officials steadfastly posited that LeJ planned the assault from inside neighboring Afghanistan, a country that, according to Pakistan, trains and provides safe havens for militants escaping after their attacks. Afghanistan, of course, denounced this claim and pointed the finger back at Pakistan for providing refuge for the Taliban. Other theories of sponsors behind this attack include India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS), both countries’ intelligence agencies, whom Pakistan’s National Security Adviser retired Lt Gen Nasser Janjua posited may be covertly supporting terrorists “to come and hit the soft targets in Pakistan”. However, in spite of recent attempts to implement counterterrorism finance measures, Pakistan has a long track record when it comes to advancing extremism and terrorism in the region for strategic purposes. At the current stage of the investigations Pakistani authorities’ attempts to shield criticism for their own involvement and support of terrorist networks cannot be ruled out.

From The Diplomat:

“Last week, Quetta city in Pakistan was yet again rocked by a terrorist attack that killed 61 police cadets. It’s the second deadliest attack in the same city in less than three months: An earlier attack killed more than 60 lawyers in August. While the attack highlights that Pakistan’s militant challenge is far from over, it also underscores that the country’s leadership does not take the rising security challenges seriously. The state has not just refused to accept that its counterterrorism strategy failed, but has also continued to woo various banned militant outfits that are a direct challenge to the state’s survival in the long run.

While security forces were busy containing militants in the targeted police academy, the government announced that the terrorists involved in the attack had received support from Afghanistan. This was another instance of the typical strategy of blaming foreign forces for terrorism in Pakistan, which is used by the country’s leadership to divert criticism and lure sympathetic public views for the sacrifices that Pakistan’s law enforcement agencies and people have made to fight the menace of terrorism. However, the reality in this regard is just the opposite: While there is no denying the sacrifices Pakistan has made in blood and otherwise to fight terrorism in the country, it’s equally concerning that despite these sacrifices, the Pakistani leadership continues to cling to its long-held policy of drawing lines between so-called good and bad terrorists.”

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