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Near a point of no return

The Pakistan Army should clean up the terror network if it wants to remain relevant.

india Updated: Sep 19, 2011 00:07 IST

Statistics fatigue seems to have set in, even for those who are keen observers of Pakistan. The almost daily death toll from suicide bombings is rarely under 30. In a perverted way, this has come to be expected of Pakistan which now appears more dangerous than even traditional conflict zones. Pakistan’s projection of itself as being in the vanguard of the fight against terrorism is wearing so thin that not a day passes without finger-wagging admonitions from ally America.

It is no secret that the civilian administration in Pakistan has become all but irrelevant. Cosmetic changes like appointing a fetching haute couture-clad foreign minister have done little to change the world’s perception of Pakistan as a nation out of control. The sustained violence through jihadi bombings over the last decade raises the worrying question of the Pakistani army’s role in the nation’s politics. It has been a strongly held belief that behind an ineffectual civilian administration is the iron fist of the army and its wings like the Inter-Services Intelligence. Initially, the jihadis were trained by the army and intelligence agencies to carry out attacks in Kashmir. But today, the attacks in Kashmir have diminished and the jihadis appear to have turned their attention to attacking targets in Pakistan, including the once invincible army and security installations. Far from attacking so-called infidel targets in India, they are now focusing on symbols of the Islamic State like the Lal Masjid, something of a turning point in the growth of jihadi terror in the country.

The fact that the army itself is highly Islamicised and radicalised is well-known. But what is happening now is that it appears paralysed and unable to either prevent attacks through its much-vaunted intelligence agencies or act decisively to rein in the jihadis or bring the culprits to book. The total lack of fear of the army and security agencies was seen in the casual manner in which the assassin of Punjab governor Salman Taseer gave himself up. The army is the last bastion which stands between some semblance of law and order and total anarchy. But with the once feared army chief Ashfaq Kayani fending off allegations of his involvement in the killing of uncomfortable mediamen, the army stands the risk of becoming just another player in a zero sum game. This is of utmost concern to India which will be the worst hit if Pakistan goes down the tube any further. The prospect of refugees flooding into India is the stuff of our worst nightmares. The Pakistani army still has the firepower to clean up the country’s terror network if it puts its mind to it. Perhaps, instead of bristling with indignation, it should heed America’s admonitions. Otherwise, it runs the risk of remaining the habitual offender in the region, and a world, which is slowly leaving it behind.