Just before a bomb blast killed at least 10 people in Lahore on Thursday, bringing the death toll in Pakistan to nearly 140 in less than two weeks, the Pakistan military launched a nationwide anti-terrorist operation. Thursday’s deadly bombing of a crowded upscale shopping center in Lahore seems an apparent response to the crackdown on Taliban militants announced by Pakistani officials on Wednesday.
The terrorist attack marks the seventh major attack in Pakistan in the last 10 days, including a violent attack on a Sufi shrine that killed 90 people last week. In response to the wave of brutal terrorist attacks, Pakistan has started buying military equipment in large volumes to try to wipe out terrorist elements.
Pakistani security officers have been high alert since the surge of violence began. More than 100 suspected terrorists were killed across the nation in less than 24 hours following the deadly Sufi shrine attack last Thursday.
Pakistan buys lots of military equipment
Pakistan authorities continue to investigate the nature of the bomb blast in Lahore, and Punjab police say the explosion was caused by a bomb detonated remotely or by timer. This was the second bombing in the eastern Pakistani city in 10 days after the Feb. 13 suicide bombing that killed at least 13 people.
Pakistan is expanding its emergency anti-terrorism measures to buy advanced military equipment and weapons in large volume to give a brutal response to militants operating there in retaliation for the wave of violent terrorist attacks. This week alone, Pakistan has reportedly signed at least three deals with the U.S. to purchase advanced helicopters and military vehicles that will enable it to go after militants in difficult terrains and remote areas.
On Tuesday, Pakistani and U.S. defense officials reached an agreement to deliver three Bell AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters to Islamabad this year. The first batch of helicopters includes 12 of them, and the remaining nine will be delivered next year.
But Washington is not Islamabad’s only defense partner in these volatile times. Earlier this week, Islamabad also signed a defense deal with Italy to purchase AW139 helicopters. While the number of helicopters hasn’t been specified in the media, Italy is expected to deliver them within the coming months.
Pakistani forces launch “indiscriminate” anti-terrorism op
In a chilling Feb. 13 video released by the Pakistan Taliban prior to the terrorist attacks, the group warned Pakistanis to expect suffering as they would be targeting crowded places, government infrastructure, the Pakistan army, women rights groups, liberal activists and many other targets. So far, the Taliban has followed through on its promises.
The renewed violence and terror by the Taliban and ISIS in Pakistan will be a major challenge to Islamabad, which has been battling militants and terrorist groups for a long time now. While there has been a slight decline in violence recently, the country is being targeted in full force now.
Before the surge of violent attacks last week, Pakistani’s anti-terrorism efforts had been limited to only the northwestern tribal region, which has a higher rate of militancy compared to the rest of the country. Pakistan has also been waging a decade-long war against militants linked to the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and ISIS.
Last week, Pakistan expanded its anti-terror operation to other regions and killed a reported more than 100 terrorists within its borders. Additionally, Pakistani forces have killed dozens of terrorists in bombings of hideouts along the volatile Afghanistan border, which remains closed since last week’s attacks due to security concerns.
On Wednesday, the Pakistani government and army announced a nationwide anti-terrorism operation to “indiscriminately” eliminate remnants of terrorism. Pakistan’s air force, navy, civil armed forces and other security agencies are set to jointly participate in the Radd-ul-Fasaad operation (“operation to eliminate discord”).
Is India behind the terrorist attacks in Pakistan?
As the Pakistani government continues to suspect India of being involved in the recent uptick of violence, tensions with Afghanistan reached their highest level after Kabul refused to hand over 76 terrorist suspects to Islamabad last week.
Pakistani officials suspect India of using Afghan soil to perpetrate terrorism in their country and destabilize it, which New Delhi wants to paint as a terrorist state in the eyes of the international community. While India has so far failed in its efforts to turn Islamabad into a pariah state, it has renewed its diplomatic push against Islamabad while Pakistan is being hit by terror violence.
Earlier this week, a six-year-old video surfaced on the Internet showing former U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel – who served under President Barack Obama – alleging that India has been using Afghanistan as a second front against Islamabad.
Many Pakistanis believe India is interested in showering their country with terrorist attacks as its attempt to make it appear weak in its efforts to eliminate terrorism and possibly get U.S. President Donald Trump to add it to his infamous travel ban list. That list bars citizens of terror-prone countries from entering the U.S., and getting Pakistan on it would help solidify New Delhi’s diplomatic victory against Islamabad.
Islamabad and Washington sign new defense deals
Despite the apparent uncertainty in relations between Pakistan and the U.S. now that Trump is the new President, Islamabad seems to have no problem with purchasing weapons from the U.S. Washington, meanwhile, seems to be okay with selling weapons to Islamabad, which it has long slammed for its alleged links to terrorism. For this reason, the U.S. Congress cancelled the sale of eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan in 2016.
Islamabad’s order of nine AH-1Z Viper helicopters from Washington will cost $170.2 million, as estimated by the U.S. Department of Defense. This year, Pakistan will also receive four Mi-35M attack helicopters from Russia – a move that will significantly boost its military capabilities in the fight against militants.