The ruthless killing of nine foreign tourists, including five Ukrainians, three Chinese, a Russian and their Pakistani guide, at the base camp of the Nanga Parbat mountain in northern Pakistan is a chilling reminder of the continued security threat in the country. More shocking is the lack of security at the site, especially since it’s a popular destination for mountaineers and tourists. The fact that the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has claimed responsibility for the attack is bound to embarrass Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government.
Sharif’s party had made talks with the TTP a cornerstone of its domestic security policy, advocating a softer approach that opposed previous policy relying heavily on military operations. The question is whether such a policy is feasible at this juncture as there has been a steady rise in terror attacks over the past few weeks.
It is important that the government conducts talks with militants from a position of strength and not weakness. The Nanga Parbat attack is something Islamabad cannot afford to ignore. Contrary to pre-election perception that the terrorists were against certain political groups, the ground reality remains the same. Until and unless the government takes firm action across the board, there is little it can do to prevent such attacks in the future.
Tourism in Pakistan has just started to pick up and it is unfortunate that this incident, which could have been prevented had there been adequate security arrangements, had to happen now. It is solely the government’s responsibility to ensure the security of the people, especially foreigners, more so in areas that are deemed vulnerable.