The brazen attack on a police academy outside Lahore is the latest confirmation that Pakistan is a nation increasingly being undermined by a militant cancer of its creation. By choosing a police academy, a symbol of State authority, the militants are clearly trying to show up the Pakistani government as weak and illegitimate. This was more or less the same objective of the earlier attack on the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team. Unfortunately, too many in the Pakistani establishment continue to believe that the dozens of militant groups, who have taken root in Pakistan’s heartland and are taking over swathes of its mountainous northwest, are still worthy of support.
They argue that these groups are needed to prise Kashmir from India, to put a pro-Pakistan regime in Kabul and otherwise stiffen the fabric of their nation. Too many of Pakistan’s political and military leaders see such Islamicist elements as potential allies in their own domestic bickering. Combined with anti-American sentiments and India-centred conspiracies, this has ensured that the Pakistani State remains strangely paralysed as the country is being repeatedly attacked from all fronts. In the past three months alone, Pakistan has experienced a terrorist attack almost every five days. Over the years, Pakistan has sought to distinguish among militant groups fighting in Kashmir, those seeking to restore the Taliban in Afghanistan and those who have carried out attacks against the Pakistani State. India has long argued that these groups share the same training facilities, the same pool of recruits and that their ideology ultimately ensures they will slip outside Islamabad’s control. It is a point of view now echoed in most foreign capitals.
But these views are irrelevant so long as Pakistan fails to accept them and act on this recognition by rolling up its domestic terrorist infrastructure and arresting the leadership that walks freely on its soil. Recent tactics, most notably signing shortlived ceasefires with militant groups, seem only to have emboldened militants. This is now the fourth successive terrorist attack in South Asia by young men using commando-style tactics: the Mumbai attack, an assault on government buildings in Kabul in February, and the two attacks in Lahore. Many more such dramas will play on our TV screens so long as Pakistan remains in denial that the militant groups it has supported no longer distinguish between Lahore, Kabul and Srinagar.