December Issue 2008

By | Editorial | Opinion | Published 15 years ago

In a press briefing post-Mumbai, an army official referred to Baitullah Mehsud and the Taliban as patriots and friends of Pakistan.

Since when have people who go around kidnapping and beheading army personnel, blasting army checkposts, burning down government offices, girls’ schools and video parlours, and killing innocent people become patriots?

Just because some of them have offered to fight alongside the army, in the event of a war with India, does not whitewash the sins they have committed in the name of religion. Ordinary Pakistanis have been suffering the consequences of their brutal acts in the country and elsewhere.

In fact, a war with India at this juncture, when Pakistan is involved in fighting both an internal and external war against terrorism, would serve their cause, especially if Pakistan were to withdraw its troops from the north-western border and deploy it on the eastern side. It would give the militants breathing space to consolidate themselves and strike back with a vengeance later.

Frankly speaking, they would like nothing better than to see the Pak-India peace process scuttled so that the two countries remain locked in a permanent battle, while they pursue their jihadi agenda, unhindered.

Regrettably, the hawkish sections of the Indian media served the militant’s cause well by asking the Indian government to declare war on Pakistan, even before the lone captured gunman declared his links to a Pakistani terrorist network.

While India’s anger is palpable and understandable — 172 dead and 293 injured at last count — fortunately, saner voices, who have a deep understanding of Pakistan’s predicament vis-à-vis the militants, have prevailed, and a war-like situation has been averted. But Pakistan is not out of the woods — not yet. The evidence emerging from the Mumbai carnage, linking it to the jihadis of a militant outfit based in Pakistan is, allegedly, damning.

There are, however, certain sections in the media and the establishment here, who continue to live in a state of denial. They keep harping on the involvement of right-wing Indian army officers in the Samjhauta Express bombing, which was initially blamed on Pakistan, to the exclusion of all other incidents implicating Pakistani outfits in terrorist incidents in Pakistan, India and elsewhere.

One can demand that India set right its human rights record in Kashmir, address the feelings of alienation among the 150 million Muslims of India post-Babri and Gujarat and review its own internal security and intelligence apparatus but, at the end of the day, that will not absolve Pakistan of the blame that has been heaped at its doorstep.

Whatever the findings of the Indian investigation, the bitter truth is that madrassas, professing to be welfare-based organisations but spouting venom and violence and awash with arms, have proliferated across the country and are striking wherever and whenever. Supported and funded by certain influential sections of society and the establishment, they are challenging the writ of the government and attempting to destabilise it. And unless they are halted in their tracks, they will take over the country and push it back to the medieval ages.

This is not the time to play politics. It is imperative that the government, the opposition and the people band together with the armed forces and make a concerted and consistent effort to defeat this looming threat.

And yes, the intelligence agencies, especially the ISI, which has often been accused of supporting these non-state actors for its own reasons, most certainly needs to be on board

Rehana Hakim is one of the core team of journalists that helped start Newsline. She has been the editor-in-chief since 1996.