There is something about the threat of terrorist violence that brings almost an instantaneous change of climate. In the month of August, the workaholic Western world eases up a bit and its European parts, at least, go on extended vacation. If 9/11 made airport security a combination of strip-tease and an obstacle race in the US, the current aborted plot will make it so across the world. It will also complicate air travel further as restrictions on hand baggage, brought on by the threat of the use of liquid explosives, will be even more severe.
The revelation of the terrorist plot to bring down several passenger jets on the trans-Atlantic route has brought an unseasonable chill, even though the conspiracy was nipped in the bud. The plan of simultaneously bombing some 10 or so aircraft could have killed upward of 3,000 passengers, almost as many as those that died in the attack on the Twin Towers in New York on 9/11. The first thought is that this has all the hallmarks of al-Qaeda because the organisation’s Ramzi Yousef had planned a similar strike, Operation Bojinka, over the Pacific, with his uncle, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, in the mid-Nineties. Yousef has since been jailed for the first World Trade Center attack of 1993 and Mohammed is under detention in the US for his role in planning the 9/11 strike. This means that Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al Zawahiri had been able to re-establish al-Qaeda despite the elimination or arrest of almost all their other top-level operatives. But it is the second thought which is more worrying — that al-Qaeda has spawned dozens of copycat organisations across the Islamic world.
According to the reports, this conspiracy, too, has links going back to Pakistan. If true, the time has come for the world community to seriously think about ways in which the Pakistan ‘problem’ can be resolved. The Pakistani authorities’ token response is evident from the fact that while they have arrested some conspirators in Karachi, they have placed top terrorist Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba chief, under house arrest. This must be the third or fourth time that Saeeed is being arrested, and this despite Islamabad’s commitments to the world and to India that it will not allow territory under its control to be used for terrorist acts against anyone. If the Pakistani government is unable to dismantle the jehadi machine that is spewing out terrorists to attack targets across the world, it is time that the world community stepped in to do so.