Multi-layered security keeps protecting Islamabad from terrorism

By Javed Mahmood

Islamabad police man a check-post Tuesday (March 14) on Jinnah Avenue. Tight security has made Islamabad Pakistan's safest city. [Javed Mahmood]

Islamabad police man a check-post Tuesday (March 14) on Jinnah Avenue. Tight security has made Islamabad Pakistan's safest city. [Javed Mahmood]

ISLAMABAD -- Islamabad is striving to keep an enviable record going.

The Pakistani capital has used tight security and a number of other measures to stay free of terrorism since April 2014, when a bombing at a fruit market killed 24 people.

Since then, unlike many other locations in Pakistan, Islamabad has been free of terrorist attacks.

Security analysts attribute the success in protecting Islamabad to multi-layered security that depends on intelligence gathering and numerous check-points, among other features.

Islamabad previously suffered massacres from terrorist attacks like many other Pakistani cities.

For instance in September 2008, a truck bombing at the Marriott Hotel took more than 50 lives.

Terrorists unable to strike in the capital have ended up targeting the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Sindh, Balochistan and other parts of Punjab Province.

A multi-agency effort

"The police, army and intelligence agencies monitor the security of Islamabad," Imtiaz Gul, a security analyst and executive director of the Islamabad-based Centre for Research and Security Studies, told Pakistan Forward. "They've kept the city safe from any major terrorism."

Those security forces, all working together, have kept Islamabad free of terrorism for years, said Gul, crediting Operation Zarb-e-Azb and other offensives with disrupting the militant command-and-control system.

The army launched Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan in June 2014. It continues today.

Since Zarb-e-Azb, "our security forces have been on the offensive and militants on the defensive", added Gul, explaining that troops routinely target the hide-outs that protected militants for years.

Another blow to the terrorists came after they launched a series of attacks nationwide in February. The army responded by launching Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad on February 22.

The nationwide operation has killed more than 150 militants so far, according to Pakistani media.

A mix of measures

Besides nabbing suspects in the planning stages of an attack, security forces rely on a number of measures to discourage them from even trying.

A mixture "of soft and tough measures" has succeeded in "curbing militancy in Islamabad during the past two years", Col. (ret.) Ali Raza Mir, a security analyst and CEO of the Islamabad-based firm Flash Security, told Pakistan Forward.

Security cameras tirelessly watch the capital's roads day and night, while the police and para-military Rangers patrol those same roads, he said.

While security forces are carrying out raids and destroying militant infrastructure, civil society and ulema have teamed up to counter-act militant propaganda, added Ali Raza.

Suggestions for improvement

Islamabad, though, should not rest on its laurels, say observers like Ali Raza, adding all are aware that the capital is a prime target for publicity-seeking terrorists.

Security agencies should intensify their intelligence-based operations to target militants and facilitators, he added.

"Militants will make more attempts to undermine security in [Islamabad]," Abdullah Khan, managing director of the Islamabad-based Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, told Pakistan Forward. "A terrorist attack in the capital will get a bigger limelight in international media than an attack anywhere else in Pakistan."

Khan urged training police to know militants' tactics and social behaviour so they can thwart them more effectively.

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