Without doubt large sections of the Pakistani civilian government are sincerely opposed to jihadi terrorism. After being victim of numerous terrorist attacks, this is but natural. The problem is that Islamabad still behaves as if it is a normal government deserving normal treatment. Either the Zardari government is horribly alienated from reality, or it is obsessed with saving face. If it’s the latter, it is terribly ill advised. The stakes have become dangerously high.
This painful truth was highlighted during the visit of US Defence Secretary Robert Gates to India. Mr Gates warned India of another 26/11 attack. He commended India for its restraint after the Mumbai attack. He considered it unrealistic to expect similar restraint in the event of a second attack. He foresaw such an attack leading to war. He opined that an Indo-Pakistan war was what Al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Toiba were seeking. He did not elaborate of course on why such a war was sought by them, or whether any power was egging them on.
Pakistan swiftly responded. A foreign ministry spokesman regretted that Gates had gone public with his purported information instead of sharing it in private with Islamabad. It was this reaction that revealed how Islamabad continues to live in cuckoo land of its own making. What is the point of sharing information with a government that so palpably is incapable of governing its nation?
Never mind intelligence information related to impending attacks, can Islamabad deny that Al Qaeda and Lashkar terrorists continue to hide in Pakistan? Pakistan has disputed the presence of Osama bin Laden, claiming that he is dead. Regardless of Osama being dead or alive, can Islamabad seriously dispute the large presence of terrorists aligned to Al Qaeda and Lashkar ensconced in safe havens within its territory? Or does it still believe that all the terrorist attacks inflicted on innocent Pakistanis are the handiwork of India’s RAW?
The bald truth that Islamabad must accept is that as long as Al Qaeda and Lashkar are not eliminated from its soil no foreign government will take its protestations or claims seriously. One can sympathize with the Pakistan government’s inability to solve the problem given the high degree of infiltration into its ranks by pro-jihadi subversive elements. But things are reaching a stage where Pakistan based terrorism is not only endangering the survival of Pakistan, but also stability of the entire region. If Islamabad cannot effectively tackle jihadi terrorists it should bluntly accept the fact. It should invite NATO, US or even Indian troops to assist it with operations inside Pakistan to eliminate the menace. Islamabad should stop worrying about saving face. It needs to save the state.