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Manawan is Pak’s tipping point

world Updated: Mar 31, 2009 01:23 IST
Amit Baruah
Amit Baruah
Hindustan Times
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It's the way to go for Pakistan. By ending the reign of terror at the Manawan police training school on the outskirts of Lahore on Monday, Pakistan demonstrated that its security forces could take on the jihadis if push came to shove.

The attack, barely 10 km from the Attari-Wagah border, much like the March 3 strike on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, proved yet again that the jihadis have the numbers and the ability to strike at will in the Pakistani Punjab.

“This is an Iraq-like strategy to hit at State institutions. Those behind the Manawan attack know that Lahore is the heart of Pakistan. And, they have shown that they can reach the heart of Pakistan,” S. Akbar Zaidi, a Karachi-based independent analyst, told Hindustan Times by telephone.

After Monday’s attack, Pakistan has reached the tipping point in the battle against extremist forces. The choice before the Pakistan army and the police is clear: take the jihadis on all fronts or go under.

“I’m not sure whether the Pakistan army sees these terrorist attacks as little more than skirmishes. They continue to believe that these groups can be dealt with,” one Lahore-based analyst, who preferred anonymity, said.

Manawan, interestingly, is the place from where Dr. Ahmad Javed Khwaja and his son were arrested in 2002 for allegedly providing shelter to members of Al Qaeda. In February 2006, Khwaja was shot dead while walking to his village clinic in Manawan after being released in 2003.

Whether Al Qaeda/Taliban/Lashkar-e-Tayyeba /Lashkar-e-Jhangvi /Jaish-e-Muhammad wanted to send a message or not by hitting Manawan, the fact remains that in a country where conspiracy theories are a way of life, the “foreign hand” is always available to blame.

“Pakistan does not need foreign power to self-destruct. It has enough non-State and State players to do the job,” Akbar Zaidi added from Karachi.

Barely days after US President Barack Obama announced his AfPak strategy to deal with Al Qaeda / Taliban safe havens, the jihadis sent out a rather clear signal – that they are well-entrenched in Pakistan – and not just along the country’s Western borders.