Demanding an urgent action against Taliban which unleashed a wave of brazen attacks in Pakistan, the media in Islamabad on Friday said the outfit has bounced back with vengeance despite killing of its chief and government's claims that it was on its last legs due to the military offensive.
The three near-simultaneous attacks yesterday on a Federal Investigation Agency office and two police training centres in Lahore also exposed the intricate links between militants in Punjab and the country's troubled northwest, the media said.
"As the frightening scenario demonstrates a well-organised and coordinated character of the attacks, it becomes clear that the reports of dissensions in the top ranks of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan following the death of its leader Baitullah Mehsud in a drone attack last August, leaving it weakened, are quite exaggerated," said 'The Nation' newspaper.
Thirty security personnel and civilians were killed in the three attacks in Lahore and two bombings in North West Frontier Province yesterday. Ten attackers in Lahore were either gunned down by security forces or blew themselves up after being cornered.
Since Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Mehsud was killed in a US drone attack in South Waziristan two months ago, Pakistani leaders have been saying that the militant movement has been affected by dissension.
The leaders, including Interior Minister Rehman Malik, have maintained that the military operation in Swat, in which over 2,000 militants have reportedly been killed, has "broken the back" of the local Taliban and they are now resorting to desperate attacks.
The audacious assault on the army's General Headquarters in Rawalpindi last weekend and the Lahore attacks "have belied all assessments of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan breathing its last after the death" of Mehsud, the influential 'Dawn' newspaper said in an analysis.
"The (Taliban) has bounced back and with a vengeance. Indeed, those who had written off the (Taliban) and were waiting for it to unravel are now gearing up for what they believe is the militant umbrella organisation's last attempt to forestall an imminent military assault on their bastion in South Waziristan," it said.
Government officials believed the recent attacks "demonstrated a desperate attempt to terrorise the people and pressurise the government to halt the operation." They also showed the Taliban's "reach, network and its ability to carry out coordinated strikes at will with amazing speed and skill," the newspaper said.
The attack on the General Headquarters and in Lahore were "well-planned and conducted and carried out by (Taliban) cells strategically located in major cities to strike wherever they wanted on a single signal," it added.
The attacks also raised questions about the links between the Taliban and militants in southern Punjab despite denial by officials of the existence of ethnic militant groups in Pakistan's most populous province. Militant commanders like Ilyas Kashmiri and Rashid Rauf, who once fought in Jammu and Kashmir, too have joined the ranks of the Taliban.
The News, in an editorial titled 'Terror Unrelenting', questioned why authorities had been unable to prevent the attacks in Lahore despite warnings from intelligence agencies.
"Some of these warnings had appeared in media. Punjab government had spoken openly of them and had cited security threat as a reason to delay bye-polls. If we are unable to stop the militants despite such precise intelligence, there is quite obviously something that is very wrong," it said.
The "partnership" between Taliban and Punjab-based groups "could be used again to stage more coordinated attacks," the newspaper warned. The "mere thought of strikes at the same time in different cities is terrifying. The war in our tribal areas has once more forced its way into our cities," it added.
Dawn, in its editorial 'Bloody Thursday', said Pakistan can "do without the confusion and dithering displayed" by officials in Lahore.
"Whereas the city's police chief has indicated that the threat from the Punjabi Taliban has been defused," the Lahore Commissioner has alleged that the violence is being perpetrated by India, it said.
"With the country in turmoil, there is no room for rhetoric and finger-pointing. Action is needed urgently. The country is up against an enemy that is showing no signs of receding." PTI