Friday, March 06, 2009




    Long before 26/11, the Indian High Commission in Islamabad had advised the government of India to not allow the Indian cricket team to tour Pakistan. The advisory had pointed to the clear and present security threats that the Indian team would face during its Pakistan tour. Had 26/11 not happened, the advisory would in all likelihood have fallen on deaf ears in South Block and instead of the Sri Lankans, Team India would have been the target of the terrorists. Fortunately for the Indian cricketers, the post-Mumbai carnage politics, and not security considerations, ensured the cancellation of the Indian tour of Pakistan. In the case of the Lankans too security took a back seat to politics. The decision by the Lankans to play a series in Pakistan was partly taken to show solidarity with a country that not only never refused a cricket tour even during the worst days of the civil war in Sri Lanka, and partly to reciprocate the military assistance and supplies that Pakistan has been giving the Island nation.

    There is little doubt that what happened in Lahore on 3/3 could have easily happened anywhere else. Terrorists always look for high profile targets to make a statement. It is immaterial whether the target is a place of worship (Temple of Tooth in Kandy), a school (Beslan), hotels (Mumbai and Islamabad), or a sports event (Munich Olympics). What is more, terrorism is a global problem and Pakistan alone is not suffering from this scourge. There is no way of ruling out the possibility of radicalised British youth of Pakistani origin targeting an Indian team in England, an al Qaeda cell mounting an operation in Australia or in Dubai, the LTTE attacking a cricket stadium in Sri Lanka, an Islamic terror group like Harkatul Jihad Islami (HUJI) creating an incident in Bangladesh or a separatist terror group like ULFA disrupting a cricket match in India.

The issue therefore is not so much that such a heinous act happened in Pakistan. The problem really is the nature of terrorism inside Pakistan where no one is quite sure as to who the terrorists are, who is directing and supporting them and what they might or might not target. For instance, until the 3/3 attack it was assumed that cricket was above terrorism. But now there is no sanctity attached to anything anymore and everything and anything is fair game for the terrorists in Pakistan.

What makes Pakistan particularly dangerous and problematic is that the tentacles of the myriad terrorist groups extend into every nook and corner of the country including civil society (there are al Qaeda supporters running human rights organisations), the security services, the political establishment, the civil services, the traders, academia, and media. In a country where terrorism has long been used as an instrument of both foreign policy and domestic politics, by state agencies, and by non-state actors who sometimes work in conjunction with the state and at other times in pursuit of their own agendas, no one can be sure who is a terrorist and who is not, who is a militant and who is a moderate.

Is it any surprise then that the driver of the bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricketers was a supporter of a party like Jamaat Islami whose cadres have been closely associated with the al Qaeda? What is more, the driver's own brother was a terrorist who was killed in a counter terror operation in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Perhaps the Pakistani authorities vetted the bus driver's background. Only they would have not found anything really strange in this man's profile simply because it is now impossible to find anyone in Pakistan who is not linked one way or another with a terrorist outfit. For instance, almost all the members of the Pakistan cricket team are born-again Muslims and members of the Tablighi Jamaat, an organisation famous for having many militants among its adherents. The former Pakistan cricket captain Imran Khan is a great supporter of the Taliban and has very gleefully welcomed the imposition of an obscurantist form of Shariah in the troubled Swat valley. Another former cricketer, Javed Miandad, has no compunctions in flaunting his friendship with one of the most dangerous international terrorists, Dawood Ibrahim.

The head of the Pakistan's premier intelligence agency ISI, Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha considers terrorists like Baitullah Mehsud and Mullah Fazlullah to be patriotic Pakistanis. Members of parliament and of government openly associate, aid and assist terror organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaishe Muhammad and Harkatul Mujahedin. Jihadi journalists pervade media organisations and openly spread hatred in newspapers and on TV. Innumerable police and military personnel have been found to be members of terrorist organisations and some of them have even participated in jihadi adventures in Afghanistan and Kashmir.

The tragedy of Pakistan is that despite the reality of terrorism staring them in the face, and in spite of knowing that the fount of terror lies within and not without Pakistan, the Pakistanis are in denial. They refuse to admit that the root of their problems lies in a fascistic interpretation of Islam which makes it impossible for them to coexist in peace with anyone who does not conform to their worldview. Not surprisingly, after every spectacular and savage act of terror the Pakistanis construct elaborate conspiracy theories to implicate their usual suspects - Americans, Indians, Jews. At times, when the usual suspects cannot be blamed, the finger is pointed at the government of the day or the infamous intelligence agencies.

This time is no different and right from the time the first bullets were fired at the Lankan cricketers, the media and analysts blamed the Indian intelligence agency RAW. But there are two problems with this theory. First, the RAW unfortunately doesn't have lethal capability on display in Lahore, because if it did then Pakistan's biggest export to India – terrorism – would have ceased long back. Second, it is illogical to blame India for 3/3 on the grounds that there was a remarkable similarity between the Mumbai outrage and the Lahore attack. Since it is a proven fact that Mumbai was the handiwork of LeT, unless the LeT has now started working for RAW, or it has started a training course for RAW operatives, one has to take leave of ones senses in pointing fingers at India.

Of course if the finger pointing is done on the basis of motives then there are both state and non-state actors within Pakistan on whom motives can be imputed for carrying out 3/3. It could have been the handiwork of the Pakistan Army and ISI to destabilise the elected government. Perhaps the elected government orchestrated the attack to divert attention from the political mess in Punjab and the Lawyers' Long March in a few days. It could have been the al Qaeda or the Taliban who wanted to destabilise the Pakistani state and expose its alarming vulnerability. Or it could have been the jihadi militias like LeT, who wanted to send a signal of their capability of striking at will and use it to make the government back off from prosecuting its leaders for the Mumbai terror attacks.

Regardless of who was behind the attack, the result is that Pakistan has effectively become a no-go area for rest of the world. The conjecture that Pakistan is heading for failure has been firmly established by this incident and now everyone is waiting for the conjecture to become reality.


    <1250 Words>                    6th March, 2009




Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home