No serious astrological or analytical skills were required to predict an angry, desperate and violent terror attack after Operation Geronimo. The questions that should really be intriguing us are the choice of target and the enormous damage that the attackers inflicted, more so when al-Qaeda and the Pakistan Taliban, as a first response to the news of Osama bin Laden’skilling, had threatened savage revenge.
First, the choice of target: the Mehran naval base which was home to the Pakistani navy’s PC3 Orions. Among others, two messages stand out. One, the perpetrators do not approve of the Pakistani army’s relationship with the Americans. The second was symbolic and a reiteration of the Pakistan Taliban’s reach and brute power. There could be a third purpose: to deflect suspicion from the top brass of the army.
As a matter of fact, the series of intermittent terrorist attacks on the military allow them to profess that “we ourselves are the victims, so how could we be having anything to do with the terrorists?” It could be argued, not without reason, that this horrendous charade has been necessary to keep the tap of US aid flowing and generally keep the world somewhat deluded.
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The aftermath of Operation Geronimo exposed another theatre of pretense in Pakistan. The most telling illustration was the speech given by Pakistan PM Gilani in parliament; after all, military speech writing has a distinctive style. An Indian army colleague accurately remarked that the Pakistani army staff officer who wrote the script did an excellent job.
Clearly Zardari, Gilani and the cabinet have no authority whatsoever; they are just puppets, with Kayani and his henchmen calling all the shots.
The process of radicalisation of Pakistan and its military that began around 1971 is now fast approaching the point of implosion. Till a while ago, observers hoped that the military would eventually succeed in stemming the tide of extremism and that the game of using militant groups as strategic assets was somewhat justified. This issue now merits a closer look.
What perhaps began as tolerant accommodation has now possibly morphed into a deadly ideological alliance. The two now seem to be working in tandem to convert Pakistan into a militant Islamic state that propagates jihad and also possesses nuclear bombs.
If this were not true how does one explain the military’s inability to put a lid on the Taliban? The Pakistani army is not any rag tag outfit. It is highly professional and disciplined. If the army decides, it can effectively, erode the Taliban’s hold. Again, the ISI is largely officered by the Pakistani army. Postings to the ISI are controlled by the army. Given these parameters, it is difficult to accept the Pakistani army’s inability to rein in the ISI.
And what of Pakistani society? The reaction to the murders of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, Shahbaz Bhatt, a federal minister, who raised their voices against the blasphemy laws and the reporter Syed Saleem Shahzad, who had been exposing the ISI links with the Taliban, tells all. The evidence of the nation going horribly wrong could not be more obvious when people rallied to honour the killer of Salman Taseer.Some urgent treatment appears imperative before Pakistan collapses.
Redemption lies in the hands of the people of Pakistan. The need of the hour is a JP-type national movement. We can sense the worry and apprehensions. Snowballing of these voices into a critical mass is what we should be wishing and supporting.
How should India respond to the developments in Pakistan?
We should prepare for the ‘worst case scenario’ but do all we can to avert it. Among some specifics, the first is to get our guard up and keep it there. Despite our vigil and high levels of alert a terror attack may still happen. Politically and diplomatically, the PM’s initiatives cannot be faulted.
Simultaneously, we must use all the soft power to convey to the people of Pakistan that we wish them well and would like to do all we can to live in peace and harmony. We must also firmly convey not only to Pakistan but also to our friends elsewhere that the line of control in Kashmir is not negotiable.
Our neighbour Pakistan is on the brink of collapse - India - DNA