Mar 7, 2009

Wrong response to terror

PAKISTAN has a terrorism problem. It also presently lacks the capacity to defeat that terrorism. This much is clear from the events of the past few years. But even now in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist strike a distressing pattern continues to unfold: officials acknowledge no mistakes or blame other officials for them; fingers are pointed at foreign enemies (often unnamed, but usually India, Israel, the US – or the West generally); and the domestic terrorists, to the extent their existence is acknowledged, are sympathetically labelled as the inevitable result of the policies of a state which has sold its sovereignty to outsiders and forgotten its original, Islamic raison d’ĂȘtre. Drowned out are the sensible voices that look within the boundaries of this country and see the internal threat from militants as a malignant tumour that, if left unchecked, may snuff out this unfortunate country perennially teetering on the edge.
Following the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team, the conspiracy theorists have latched on to a leaked Crime Investigation Department report produced in January in which an alleged Indian plot to target the cricketers was outlined. The report has led to angry accusations and counter-accusations of incompetence and worse being traded between Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer and the government of Shahbaz Sharif which was in place until only days before the Lahore Test match. Meanwhile, PCB chairman Ijaz Butt has lashed out against ICC match referee Chris Broad and called him a liar for suggesting that security for the foreign officials was inadequate. The cringe-worthy spectacle of Pakistani officials publicly embarrassing themselves raises a troubling question: do they not realise that the total failure of security was obvious and is a stunning indictment of the state’s capabilities? RAW, Mossad, Baitullah Mehsud, Osama bin Laden, whoever is responsible for the attack, the most immediate priority remains a root and branch overhaul of our security apparatus. Untold billions are seemingly poured into a security void, where accountability appears to be beside the point and responsibility a quaint idea. There can be no such thing as total security in cities, but it seems that as the threat of militancy increases the state’s capacity to deal with it is actually declining in absolute terms. And all the while, our Nero-esque officials squabble about foreign enemies and seem intent on alienating the few friends that still remain. Rarely could the biblical injunction ‘physician, heal thyself’ be more appropriate. If Pakistan’s officials don’t pay heed, they may eventually find themselves left with nothing to squabble over.

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