The Harbingers of Doom
THERE’S plenty of irony, intended or otherwise, in the fact that the terrorist attack that claimed at least a dozen lives in Islamabad last Sunday targeted policemen who had been deployed to guard a conference marking the first anniversary of the Lal Masjid siege. If anything, the bomb blast served as a reminder that however unfortunate the military operation to flush out the mosque and its seminaries may have been, it was also necessary. And probably inadequate.
It would obviously have been much better for all concerned had the mosque not been permitted, in the first place, to become a sanctuary for violence-prone obscurantists, who also used it as a repository for weaponry in the heart of
Take the case of Mangal Bagh, whose comfort zone on the outskirts of
His goons were reportedly responsible for the recent kidnapping of 16 Christians from
That’s not an uncommon feature among groups of this ilk: it serves as a recruitment tool and provides the convenience of a confessional justification for rough justice. It’s equally possible, of course, that the piety may be more than a pose. Either way, (war)lording it over Bara - with its legendary marketplace, where goods from all over the world, not least all manner of weapons, are available duty-free - and its environs is probably a highly lucrative proposition. And once you’ve tasted the fruits of Bara, nothing short of
After the incursion by the paramilitary Frontier Corps into Mangal Bagh’s zone of influence, the federal government’s security factotum Rehman Malik advised the residents of
The Washington Post’s correspondent, meanwhile, quoted “a senior Pakistani government official in
Back in the early 1990s, the ISI helped create the Taliban and eventually captured
It is all very well to accuse the new government of being out of its depth in the context of the so-called war on terror, but the old one - which lives on despite Asif Ali Zardari’s sporadic exclamations to the effect that a Sindhi devotee of the Bhutto family will shortly be ensconced in the presidency - can hardly claim much credit.
It is annoying, of course, to hear the powerless and inconsequential Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani repeat ad nauseam that his government will negotiate only with militants who lay down their arms, when he must be aware that all manner of contacts exist without this condition being met. (Nor would such a strategy necessarily make much sense.) But Gilani can plausibly plead ignorance in some cases, given that the army doesn’t keep the civilian authorities informed of all its activities. This luxury isn’t available to Pervez Musharraf - or at least it wasn’t for as long as he was army chief.
Now that full authority in matters related to military operations has been handed to Musharraf’s successor as army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, it remains to be seen whether he is inclined to dismantle the khaki-jihadi nexus, and whether under his command the combination of negotiations and military force can be implemented intelligently, in a manner that establishes the government’s writ in frontier regions without further alienating those sections of the local population that desire little more than a peaceful existence and means of sustenance.
It is a huge, but not insurmountable, challenge. The alternatives are exceedingly unpleasant to contemplate, even if one is disinclined to swallow wholesale Maulana Fazlur Rahman’s warning about the complete loss of government control in the NWFP, let alone permanently exiled Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain’s visions of doom about a Taliban takeover of
At the same time, the temptation to follow the preferred
It is inevitable that, in the wake of Monday’s dastardly attack on the Indian embassy in