Top military commanders believe that the terrorist threat is transforming because of a growing nexus between hostile actors in the neighbourhood and ‘facilitators’ within the country.
At a corps commanders’ conference held at the General Headquarters on Tuesday, the generals reviewed the threat perception and discussed measures for countering the imminent security challenges.
“Participants of the conference were given detailed briefings on ongoing military operations and overall external and internal security situation in the country with particular reference to counterterrorism domain,” the ISPR said in a statement.
The meeting, a monthly feature, gained added significance because of the terrorist attack in Quetta a day earlier, which left at least 70 people dead, and an upcoming high-level security meeting that is expected to take important decisions with regards to future direction of counterterrorism operations.
Military commanders believe a network within the country is facilitating the external enemy
Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif told his commanders that the Quetta attack was an attempt to undermine the successes of operation Zarb-i-Azb, which is in its final phase.
He had said on Monday that the target of the attack was the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
“By adopting a whole of nation approach, the armed forces would not allow anyone to reverse our gains against terrorism,” the army chief added.
At the conference, the generals were told that threat was emanating from Afghan soil, which was being managed by Indian intelligence agencies. However, at the same time there was an acknowledgment that a network of ‘facilitators’ within the country provided an enabling environment for the external enemy.
It is unclear who the facilitators of the external enemy are — whether they are extremist and terrorist organisations operating within the country or other anti-state elements?
During his visit to Quetta after the suicide attack on Civil Hospital on Monday, Gen Raheel had ordered intensification of the already under way combing operations against terrorist groups and their sleeper cells. He further directed expansion in the scope and spread of the operations.
“The military and intelligence agencies have now been mandated to go after the terrorists anywhere in the country, … wherever there is a clue,” a security source said.
The commanders were told that the countrywide crackdown had begun to get hold of the facilitators. Furthermore, there was a recognition that civilian law enforcement agencies needed to be enabled to extend a helping hand in the fight against terrorism.
The ISPR said the commanders had been directed “to provide all necessary assistance to provincial LEAs in their capacity building through training, resourcing and planning so as to integrate them effectively in counterterrorism operations”.
There has been criticism that counterterrorism operations are being constrained because of inadequate involvement of the civilian LEAs in the provinces.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had at a security meeting last week also stressed supporting the provincial LEAs.
“The gains in the National Action Plan and operation Zarb-i-Azb, and progress achieved so far will be consolidated through well coordinated and concerted efforts at the federal and provincial levels with the backing of the national resolve,” PM Sharif had said.