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    Pakistan faces terrorist attack

    by Sunny on 6th December, 2008 at 8:10 PM    

    i did say earlier Pakistan had its own terrorism problem. A bomb by militants in Peshawar has killed over 20 people. The International Herald Tribune reports:

    A powerful explosion struck a crowded central bazaar in the chaotic city of Peshawar in Pakistan’s northwest Friday, killing at least 22 people and wounding more than 90, Pakistani officials said.

    The chief of police in Peshawar, Malik Naveed, told a television station that the explosion occurred in an area in the center of the city at a time when many people were out shopping for a coming festival. He said that the explosion, which took place at 7:20 p.m. local time, struck near a Shiite mosque and that he expected the number of dead and wounded to rise.

    Maybe it’s time for Pakistan to acknowledge its own problem too now?

            Post to del.icio.us

    Filed in: Pakistan, Terrorism

    8 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs

    1. Roger — on 6th December, 2008 at 9:39 PM  

      Do some pakistanis think that at least if the jihadist nuts are attacking Indians they aren’t attacking pakistanis, perhaps?

    2. ASinha — on 6th December, 2008 at 10:04 PM  

      In the last 6 months Bhutto was assassinated, Marriott truck bombed and Peshwar bombing. I think the Pakistanis are getting the picture.

    3. Leon — on 6th December, 2008 at 10:25 PM  

      And by Pakistan you mean what? It’s barely a country in any sense that we in the West understand. It’s due to fragmentation and civil war if you ask me…

    4. Zak — on 7th December, 2008 at 2:38 AM  

      I don’t think there is any equivalence between India and Pakistan in the sense of the terrorist attacks over 3,000 people have been killed in Pakistan and 10’s of thousands been displaced internally over the last few years.

      The local police in and around Peshawar are massively outgunned, poorly informed and paid. http://pukhtunwomen.org/node/346

      The distinction in how the world media portrays and sympatiseds events is obvious ..its in poportion to the amount of western journalists are in the area.

    5. Ashok — on 7th December, 2008 at 2:52 PM  

      What does the world do with Pakistan/Problemistan?

      1. The Lashkar view

      On the face of it the diplomatic crisis after the November 26 terrorist attack on Mumbai is a replay of what followed after the December 13, 2001, assault on Parliament. Then, as now, India was attempting to convince the world that jihad could not be segmented. Then, as now, an embattled Pakistani Government was responding with bluff and bluster.

      Then, as now, terrorist groups hoped to instigate an India-Pakistan war. The Lashkar-e-Tayyeba is fairly open about this. Its chief, Hafeez Mohammad Saeed, has told Outlook magazine that, “Like any other patriotic Pakistani, we will stand with the Army if there is any aggression.”

      The implication is clear. If India attacks or even resorts to strikes on terror camps, the Pakistani Army and Laskhar and its jihadist associates will bury differences, don the cloak of Pakistani nationalism and take on the common enemy. The maritime capabilities and the sleeper cells of Lashkar will mean that India will end up fighting both a conventional war — against the Pakistani Army — as well as an unconventional war within its borders.

      Whatever the route the war (or wars) may take for India, one consequence is certain for Lashkar, Al Qaeda and their cohorts — they will acquire even more legitimacy, power and territory in Pakistan.

      There is an important precedent here from 2001. The attack on Parliament was, analysts have concluded, timed to cause a situation where Pakistani troops were moved away from the Afghan border and the escaping Taliban and Al Qaeda forces were allowed breathing space.

      Analysing the Mumbai terror strikes at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, this past week, Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and specialist on security issues in South Asia, said, “The attack is also reminiscent … to the December 13, 2001, attack on the Indian Parliament, which was also timed by the terrorists … to divert the Pakistan Army away from its border with Afghanistan to the border with India in order to permit the retreating Al Qaeda and Taliban followers to find safe haven. That attack, of course, was brilliantly successful in its implications.”

      In its best case scenario, Lashkar would hope for another stand-off or war between the two armies, one that would allow Al Qaeda and the Taliban to geographically expand their “safe haven” within Pakistan, from just the Northwest Frontier, parts of Balochistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to the heart of Punjab and, in a sense, all of Pakistan.

      2. The Indian view

      In December 2001, India was ready for war. However, an intricate mix of factors inhibited it.

      First, senior generals made it clear that talk of a “limited war” was an oxymoron. If India attacked terrorist camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir — provided these camps still existed — the retaliation by the Pakistanis could be expected in, say, Punjab. A full-scale war was inevitable.

      Second, as an intelligence official who worked with the Government at the time put it, there was no clarity on the political goals of the probable full-scale war. Did India want to effect regime change in Pakistan — and in which case did it have a candidate? Did it want to break up Pakistan? Did it want to annex all or part of Pakistan or Pakistani-occupied territory? In reality, the Indian Government was ready for none of these options.

      Third, the external situation could not be forgotten. American Special Forces were already inside Pakistan. What if they got caught in the cross-fire? Also, the world could not be expected to sit back and watch two nuclear powers go to war, and just have faith that neither party would use the ultimate weapon.

      Fourth, there would an economic consequence of conflict in the form of debilitated business confidence. In 2002, while Operation Parakram was on, at least one MNC changed its mind about setting up a massive ITES facility in Rajasthan on the grounds that it was a border State. The facility was eventually relocated to Gurgaon, Haryana, not very far from Rajasthan but, for all it mattered, not in a border State.

      Finally, India’s internal security mechanism was not strong enough in 2001 — and is much, much weaker now, after five years of Shivraj Patil at the Home Ministry — to cope with rapid-fire terror attacks in case the Pakistani Army asked jihadist auxiliaries to intensify the war in the streets and neighbourhoods of India.

      Between 2001 and 2008, none of these conditions has changed. So what has?

      3. The American view

      In 2001, the Americans and Europeans were less than convinced that the two sets of jihadists — the ones in Pakistan targeting India and the ones in Afghanistan targeting the West — were equally dangerous. Lashkar was seen as India’s little Kashmiri problem, no more.

      In the past seven years, Lashkar has grown. It has sought to establish itself as a global organisation, with an Al Qaeda like reach. In April 2004, Pakistan-born medical student Izhar ul-Haque became the first Australian since 1978 to be charged with terrorism. He was arrested when the police bust a Lashkar sleeper cell in Sydney.

      Ul-Haque was said to have been recruited for Lashkar by Faheem Khalid Lodhi, a Sydney man charged with seven terrorist offences. Lodhi was accused of masterminding attempts to bomb a series of Sydney targets.

      Lodhi’s principal co-conspirator was Willy Brigitte, a suspected terrorist deported to France from Australia in October 2003. Put into a Paris prison, Brigitte apparently told French interrogators that he — like ul-Haque — had trained at a Lashkar camp in Pakistan.

      Speaking to this writer in Canberra in 2004, an Australian counter-terrorist official had said, “We are detecting signs of Lashkar showing interest in Southeast Asia. We are concerned by the links Lashkar may be establishing with Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). For instance, we know of a JI cell in Karachi.”

      JI, based in Indonesia but since beaten back by the Government there, is a jihadist group with a pan-Southeast Asian footprint. Lashkar also attempted to recruit religious warriors for Iraq, after the defeat of Saddam Hussein.

      After the Mumbai attack, Lashkar is likely to be taken as seriously by Israeli, British or American police forces as Al Qaeda. It has, in that sense, climbed the terror hierarchy.

      Riedel referred to this phenomenon in his Brookings Institution briefing as the “Pakistan-isation of Al Qaeda’s operational activities”. “More and more of its activities outside of the South Asian arena, and particularly in Western Europe, used Pakistanis, principally members of the diaspora and the United Kingdom, but also Pakistanis in Denmark, Germany, and Spain. The most visible symbol of that, of course, was the foiled plot in August of 2006, which was designed to simultaneously blow up 10 jumbo jets over the North Atlantic.”

      “If Al Qaeda can now work with LeT,” the former CIA official continued, “which has established cells in many of these communities, it’s much more serious.”

      At the same briefing, South Asian affairs scholar Stephen Cohen referred to “the 800,000-strong Pakistani diaspora in the UK, the vast majority of which are law-abiding people … [as] Al Qaeda’s number one target today for recruiting individuals that can be used to target both United Kingdom and the United States.”

      This is the principal gain for India since 2001. What was then seen as a narrow-prism India problem is today recognised as a global problem. It will require a global solution.

      4. The end of nation-building

      Between 2001 and 2008, the overriding American strategic goal for Pakistan has shifted from nation-building to containment. Terms like “failed state” and discussions about the collapse of Pakistan are taken far more seriously.

      Released earlier this month, Work at Risk, the report of the United States Congressional Commission on WMD Proliferation and Terrorism, tells the story of a dystopia. “Over the past six years,” it says, “the United States supported Pakistan with a mix of military, security, economic, and social aid, totalling $12 billion. Of that total, $8.9 billion (74 per cent) was devoted to security and military assistance, and only $3.1 billion (26 per cent) went to social and economic programmes.”

      “Festering economic and social ills in Pakistan have created a hospitable environment for radicalisation,” it goes on, “and the trends indicate that the challenge is growing. Pakistan’s population is projected to double to nearly 300 million people by 2050, making it the world’s fifth most populous country. Over the next decade, food, water, and energy are likely to become scarcer.”

      Pakistan has the worst education indices outside Africa: “Pakistan’s overall literacy rate hovers between 40 and 50 per cent. For women, the literacy rate is below 30 per cent — and for women in the FATA, it is only three per cent.”

      The report focused on the combustible mix of endless recruits for jihad, terrorism and nuclear weapons. For months now, intelligence agencies have warned that the next terrorist attack on American soil is likely to originate from Pakistan. The year 2009 is of particular significance, as jihadists may want to “test” a new man in the White House.

      The report urges that the United States work with regional and global actors — from India to China to Russia — to bring stability to Pakistan and its environs.

      The question is: what if this necessitates a break-up of Pakistan? Are the means more important or the end? It is a question exercising American think-tanks — and alarming the failing Pakistani state.

      5. The rise of containment

      In 2006, Ralph Peters, a former United States Army colonel and strategic affairs writer, wrote an essay called “Blood Borders: How a better Middle East would look” in the Armed Forces Journal. A speculative though engaging exercise, it recommended the redrawing of boundaries, from Turkey to Pakistan — “between the Bosporus and the Indus” — to create ethnically homogeneous and stable nation-territories.

      For instance, Peters recommended a Shia Arab state that would take territory from Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia and become an oil power. The Saudi royal family would be left with a rump. Mecca and Medina would become a Muslim Vatican, free of one nation’s (or family’s) control.

      Iran would take over Herat and Farsi-speaking western Afghanistan (part of the historical Greater Khorasan) but would cede space, along with Pakistan, for a Free Balochistan. Iran, Iraq and Turkey would surrender land for Kurdistan. Afghanistan would gain the Pashtun areas in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier.

      “The remaining ‘natural’ Pakistan,” Peters wrote, “would lie entirely east of the Indus, except for a westward spur near Karachi.” Essentially Pakistan would be contained to landlocked Punjab and dependent on Sindh for sea access.

      Peters’ essay is unlikely to become policy anytime soon. A Treaty of Versailles carving out the Middle East is not about to be signed. From Ankara to Riyadh, many political elites can veto the idea.

      Yet, of all the countries mentioned as possible “losers” in Peters’ map-making experiment, Pakistan is the most vulnerable. The state has all but disappeared. The Taliban rules the Northwest and has threatened to formally capture Peshawar. A strong Pashtun government in Kabul — run by either the Taliban or Hamid Karzai — could conceivably take away the Northwest Frontier.

      Neither can covert Indian support for the Baloch insurgency be written off. After Mumbai, there may even be a strong case for it.

      It is interesting that the reappearance of Peters’ map in recent weeks has focused solely on its remedy for Pakistan, ignoring the rest of the Middle East. This has led to fears among Islamabad’s military and political elite that the map is part of a secret American “design” to dismember Jinnah’s nation. Following 26/11, does India want to help the process?

    6. Beavis — on 7th December, 2008 at 5:24 PM  

      Very informative post, Ashok.

    7. George — on 7th December, 2008 at 7:09 PM  

      Ashok’s Indian view is less than clear.
      Firstly, what precisely is India’s strategy? It has always been short of ideas and depending on others (currently Americans) to do the thinking for them. Frankly, this Pranab Mukerjee with his embalmed features has never proposed any clear way forward. Too inarticulate, not too bright, too old.

      Secondly, the Indian military (and paramilitary) can barely deal with the Maoists at home or the Kashmir situation. For them, Kashmir has been an opporunity for mass killings (over 80,000 so far) and rape. But the status quo is unchanged.

      A war with Pakistan would unlease a whole torrent of jihadis and regular supporters - Al-Qaeda, Taliban and the Pak military. India may amassed a huge arsenal of weapons (from the traditional aggressors - US, EU, Israel, Russia) but has no experience of using them with a real enemy.

      Conclusion: don’t attempt a fight with Pakistan. The outcome will be diasastrous.

    8. Zak — on 8th December, 2008 at 8:02 AM  

      Ashok: Your treatise is noted your lack of concern on the loss of lives is too

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