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Opinion » Editorial
June 2, 2010
The enemy within
The massacre by terrorists in Lahore last week followed by a raid on a hospital in the same city has reiterated what is obvious to many but still denied by powerful decision-makers in Pakistan — that the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ distinction between militant groups is not tenable. The Pakistan Interior Minister named the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Jaish-e-Mohammed as the organisations suspected to have carried out the attacks during Friday prayers on two mosques of the Ahmadiyya community, killing more than 80 worshippers. Extremists see the Ahmadis as non-believers and therefore fair game. Both groups are linked to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, which claimed responsibility for the attacks. They are also believed to be behind the hospital attack. It is no secret that jihadist groups have flourished in the Punjab heartland undeterred by a 2002 ban, all the while building links with the Taliban. Pakistan’s softly-softly approach towards groups with so-called strategic value against India gave the JeM, much like the Lashkar-e-Taiba, special privileges. Islamabad has always said it does not know the whereabouts of JeM chief Maulana Masood Azhar. It has maintained that since the ban, the group itself has ceased to exist. Yet a Faisal Shehazad, arriving all the way from the United States, had no problem getting in touch with it. Pakistan Army operations against the Taliban in the north-western regions may have helped reduce the number of incidents in that area, and a new operation is on the anvil in North Waziristan, under pressure from the United States. But given the Taliban’s links with the Punjab-based jihadist groups, it is no surprise that the monster rears its head elsewhere.
A military strike by the U.S. on Pakistan, reported to be under contemplation should a terrorist attack on American soil succeed, is no solution. Any such action would be extremely foolhardy, and New Delhi should oppose it. But clearly, Pakistan itself must take urgent steps. This means nothing less than what India has been demanding for years: uprooting the infrastructure of terrorism built with state patronage for the jihad in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Some arrests were made after the mosque attacks. This is hardly enough. As the track record shows, many arrested terror suspects in Pakistan are let off by the courts because of the prosecution’s failure to come up with evidence. It is unfortunate that at a time like this, instead of facing up to the reality, influential sections in Pakistan’s political parties, the Army, and media remain in expedient denial. If Pakistan means to win this battle, it must clear its vision and recognise the enemy within.