Pakistan is struggling under a wave of terrorist attacks whose immediate purpose is to stop an expected army offensive against the tribal areas of Waziristan. However, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the ‘Pakistan Taliban’, have a long-term goal of replacing the present Pakistani State with a Deobandi Islamicist polity. After Thursday’s five-pronged day of mayhem, the TTP’s head Hakimullah Mehsud tossed in a threat against India as well. Since the TTP has never shown an ability to strike beyond the borders of Pakistan, his comments seem to have been more the rhetorical flourish of someone consolidating his newfound position. What matters to India is the lesson the Pakistani establishment learns from its bitter struggle with the TTP. So far, it seems Islamabad is earning a failing grade. As the meandering case against the Mumbai 26/11 accused indicates, Islamabad continues to believe that the TTP fight has nothing to do with its policy of safeguarding the Lashkar.
The Pakistani leadership created all the three terrorist alliances that now ravage South Asia: the TTP, the various Afghan Taliban groups and the Punjab-based militant groups like Lashkar and Jaish-e-Mohammad. The second and third receive tacit acceptance, if not outright backing, from Islamabad because they target Afghanistan and India. The first has become a Frankenstein monster, turning against its maker. But there is growing evidence that the TTP is also attracting the backing of some of the other groups. The obvious lesson Islamabad should draw is that, ultimately, it cannot be certain that its terror offspring will not turn their guns on the Pakistani state. So far, there is only fragmentary evidence of any change
Indians recognise that the constellation of terror groups in Pakistan, including al-Qaeda, are birds of a feather. Which is why we should resist the temptation to gloat over Pakistan’s predicament. Mehsud may not have struck at India, but if he is able to bring down the Pakistani State, he most certainly will. The ideological vision of all these Islamicist terror groups is the same in its choice of enemies. But nothing much can be done until Pakistanis come to accept there is no point in hairsplitting between the killers in their midst. The awakening of Pakistan to this simple fact is probably the most important bit of mass education the world faces today. And unfortunately it seems it will only be passed on through a pedagogy of violence.