Pakistan’s enemy within

In many ways the 17-hour siege of Pakistan Navy’s air base, PNS Mehran, in Karachi is reminiscent of the attack on the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi in October 2009. It would be tragic for Pakistan if the latest of wake-up calls to snap out of its Janus-faced attitude towards terrorism is ignored — as it was after the GHQ attack or the discovery of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden from the “armpit of the Pakistan Military Academyin Abbottabad. As always, the first official remarks on the attack had the stock phrase, ‘Pakistan-is-a-victim-of-terror.’ Nobody is denying that. But what will it take Islamabad to understand that terrorists cannot be assets, strategic or otherwise?

If the events following bin Laden’s killing are any indication, the chances of the PNS Mehran attack forcing a course correction look bleak. At the in-camera briefing by the military and intelligence establishment’s top brass on the Abbottabad incident, India was again identified as “enemy number one,” clearly indicating that this remains the defining factor of Pakistan’s strategic policy. As though this were not enough of a signal, the in-camera briefing for Parliament and the subsequent resolution reposing confidence in the armed forces were a telling reminder of how the security establishment can orchestrate even adverse events to its advantage.

While the civilian government can distance itself from ownership of the strategic policy, it has no excuse for not even trying to change the mindset that has allowed such policies to continue three years after a democratically elected dispensation was voted in. The school curriculum packed with hate towards all things Indian and eulogies to ‘jihad’ is a problem that remains unaddressed though it is critical to the country’s existence as a nation of multiple ethnicities and religious diversities. These are issues that are coming to haunt Pakistan almost on a daily basis and the armed services too are not insulated from such divisive tendencies. In fact, Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is reported to have admitted as much after Punjab Governor Salman Taseer’s assassination — going to the extent of fearing a revolt within if he condoled the death. From all indications, the PNS Mehran attack could not have been carried out without some inside help. How could the terrorists, armed to the teeth with even rocket-propelled grenades, have entered the high-security area undetected? Weeding out this kind of mindset created over 30 years of systematic indoctrination is not a task that can be undertaken overnight but Pakistan must cut its losses now. The Hindu

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