Pakistan will be suspect until evil in its midst is rooted out

The Mumbai attacks will be linked to Islamabad regardless of who perpetrated them.

Wreckage of motorbikes at site of a bomb explosion outside Opera House in Mumbai Photo: AP

By Con Coughlin

A fresh wave of terrorist attacks are launched at the heart of the Indian city of Mumbai, and immediately the finger of suspicion points towards Pakistan.

And this is before Indian counter-terrorism officials have even had a chance to examine the crime scene.
Indeed, it may well transpire that the three bombs that killed 17 people and injured 131 others were the work of an indigenous group of Islamists in retaliation for the recent arrests of their fellow members by the Indian authorities.

Even if that proves to be the case, though, it will not prevent blame for the attack from ultimately being laid at Pakistan’s door, with all the implications that will have for the country’s emerging status as a one of the world’s leading pariah states.

The tentacles of Pakistan-based terror groups, many of whom are linked to the country’s all-powerful Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), spread far and wide, even to parts of India, where they provide training instruction to local Islamist militants.

The Pakistani authorities may have been completely in the dark about the latest attacks on Mumbai’s business district, but they will have a hard time convincing their Indian neighbours of their innocence, such is the level of mutual suspicion and hostility that exists between the two countries.

If the Pakistanis do end up being implicated in the attacks, though, they will only have themselves to blame. For nearly a decade, America and its Western allies have been urging Islamabad to clean up its act and for the government to dissociate itself from the complex web of terrorist organisations that enjoy the patronage of its security establishment.

Whether they were formed to pressure Delhi into renouncing its sovereignty over Kashmir or to fight foreign invaders in neighbouring Afghanistan, the continued existence of radical groups such as Lashkar-e-Taeba, which has waged a brutal terror campaign in Kashmir, and the equally fanatical Taliban – both the Afghan and Pakistani wings – totally undermines Islamabad’s claim to be a reliable ally of the West.

So much for the billions of dollars Pakistan has received in Western aid during the past decade and its repeated assurances that it is just as committed as its Western counterparts to eradicating the modern menace of Islamist fanaticism.

This has certainly been the Pakistanis’ oft-repeated refrain since the Bush administration’s infamous threat, made in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks in 2001, to bomb Pakistan back to the dark ages if it failed to co-operate fully with Washington’s offensive against those responsible for the worst terrorist attack in American history.

In return for a whopping $20 billion in American aid during the past decade, Pakistan has made a passable stab at positioning itself as a key Western ally, offering co-operation on a wide range of counter-terrorism issues.

But Islamabad’s double-dealing was laid bare the moment a team of US Seals stormed Osama bin Laden’s compound in the garrison town of Abbottabad in May, killing the al-Qaeda leader and seizing a treasure trove of intelligence material.

Pakistan’s military and political establishments now seem to be locked in a state of total denial about the implications of having the world’s most notorious terrorist discovered hiding in their midst.

The protestations of senior officials that they had no idea of bin Laden’s whereabouts, even though he was living just a few hundred yards from one of the country’s leading military academies, are unconvincing, to say the least.

And they have simply added to the growing mood of anti-Pakistan resentment in the West with their continual whine that they should have been fully informed of the raid’s objectives before it was launched.

Apart from being disingenuous in the extreme, given the ISI’s well-documented links with Islamist terror groups, it is also an insult to the thousands of victims of the various atrocities that have been committed in bin Laden’s name during the past 20 years.

With every day that passes, investigators trawling through the massive archive of intelligence material seized in bin Laden’s compound uncover new evidence of his participation in acts of terrorism against the West.

This week, for example, it was revealed that bin Laden personally directed the July 7 suicide bomb attacks in London, and was the force behind the 2006 plot to blow up a dozen transatlantic airliners in mid-flight after they left Heathrow.

In any normal relationship, these revelations would merit a public apology from the Pakistani government to the families and friends of the victims, for allowing London’s worst terrorist attack to have been hatched on its territory. The same goes for America over the events of 9/11. But this is no normal relationship.

Indeed, the increasingly fractious relations between Pakistan and America resemble an acrimonious divorce in which the warring parties deliberately interpret any action by their former partner in the worst possible light.

Thus, rather than congratulating the Americans on eliminating bin Laden, the Pakistanis have accused them of committing a gross violation of sovereignty, and have responded with a number of punitive measures, such as closing air bases used for drone strikes and expelling teams of military advisers.

For its part, the US has frozen £500 million worth of aid and has made it clear that it will have no hesitation in launching further unilateral action in defence of its own security interests.

There is, after all, the small matter of the continued existence on Pakistani-controlled soil of the rump of al-Qaeda’s command structure – including Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian-born surgeon who last month was appointed as bin Laden’s successor.

Rather than bemoaning American interference, it would very much be in Pakistan’s interests to apprehend Zawahiri and his fellow conspirators, who are no doubt actively working on new plots to attack not only Western targets, but also Pakistani ones.

Despite the current meltdown in relations between Islamabad and Washington, it should not be forgotten that the Pakistanis have, during the past decade, suffered thousands of casualties of their own, as Islamist militant groups have turned their guns on their own people.

The need for Pakistan and the West to patch up their differences, moreover, is all the greater now that Barack Obama and his Nato allies have set a time limit for combat operations in neighbouring Afghanistan.

In view of the difficulties Pakistan has in controlling its own territory, the last thing it needs is for another failed state to take root on the other side of the Afghan border.

And this remains a distinct possibility so long as the Taliban is able to use its havens in Pakistan to mastermind the kind of operation that earlier this week resulted in the murder of Ahmed Wali Karzai, the half-brother of the Afghan president who was the main political power broker in the southern province of Kandahar.

If such incidents continue, it will not just be the future of Afghanistan that is in doubt, but the very survival of Pakistan.

Source: The Telegraph



Latest Comments
  1. Bangash