As far as clever arguments go, Pakistan’s favourite ploy of attributing terrorism to non-State actors is wearing a bit thin. The confessions of David Coleman Headley, a key player in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, suggest that while so-called non-State actors like the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba may have executed the plot, the Pakistani State directly provided money and logistical support to those who carried out the 26/11 operation. So, logically this would mean that the non-State actor was nothing more than a front for the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) whose operatives handled agents like Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana, now on trial in Chicago.
Now pushed into a corner, Pakistan seems unable to keep up the pretence that it is a functioning democratic state. After the humiliation of the Americans killing Osama bin Laden inside Pakistani territory, the ISI chief Lt General Shuja Pasha appeared to have forgotten that he is a part of the State when he openly threatened India with retaliation if New Delhi were to try an Abbottabad. Though comparisons are odious, most Indians would not even know the name of our intelligence chiefs. There is now no doubt that there are more terrorists being sheltered in Pakistan. And the argument that the State and its wings do not know of their existence does not wash. The very fact that US President Barack Obama reiterated that he would not hesitate to go in again if there was someone the US wanted suggests that he is not convinced by Pakistan’s protestations of innocence.
What is alarming is that despite the embarrassment of Osama bin Laden being found near a military camp and the ease with which militants have attacked a top security naval facility, there appears no introspection in Pakistan as to whether its policy of harbouring terrorists should continue.
Undoubtedly, it feels that this is one way of remaining a major irritant for India but it cannot have failed to notice that even its all-weather friend China seems perturbed by developments in Pakistan. Pakistan’s open house policy for terrorists and fugitives is increasingly yielding fewer dividends in demonstrating its relevance. Indeed, the presence
of these subversive elements has been to the detriment of Pakistan, whose innocent people have paid a very heavy
price for the State’s shortsightedness. Headley’s confessions should provide an occasion to weed out the alleged rogue
elements, if they can be called that, in the ISI and perhaps army. But that might prove difficult today given that the
lines between non-State actors and the State have almost irrevocably blurred.