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Pakistan's cancer needs urgent surgery

Last updated on: May 18, 2010 15:39 IST

Pakistan's cancer needs urgent surgery

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On Tuesday, a bomb hidden in a rickshaw went off near a police vehicle in Pakistan's troubled northwest, killing 12 people and injuring many more.

The attack came on the same day when top United States security officials -- Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta and National Security Advisor General James Jones -- flew to Islamabad to press the civilian government to take more aggressive action against Al Qaeda-allied groups

Pakistan has dominated the foreign policy agenda of the Barack Obama-led US administration. Ever since the aborted terror attempt at Times Square in New York, the Obama team is, in a calibrated manner, losing no opportunity to voice its fears and alarm about Pakistan's role in the spread of terror internationally.


Image: Activists from a students' organisation set fire to an effigy of US President Barack Obama in Islamabad
Photographs: Faisal Mahmood/Reuters
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Pak army is not ready to shed its dominance

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The first to speak was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who made a call for an improvement in the level of cooperation being extended by Pakistan in fighting extremism and warned the country of 'severe consequences' if an attack on the US is traced back to its soil.

She also claimed that some officials in the Pakistani government are aware of the whereabouts of Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, Taliban leader Mullah Omar and other militant leaders.  This statement by Clinton was validated and further strengthened by none other than President Obama himself during his meeting with the Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai at the White House. 

In a very candid and forthright manner, President Obama has articulated the need for Pakistan to get over its obsession with India and fight the cancer within.

What needs to be understood is that not one, but three cancers afflict Pakistan.  The first and foremost is the Pakistan army, which is not ready to shed its dominance despite the establishment of a democratic government. 

To sustain this domination, the army depends upon a unique kinship of arms which transcends all other political, religious or social attributes and ensures unquestioned obedience to its own hierarchy only. 


Image: A soldier creates a barrier at a security checkpoint in Swat valley
Photographs: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters
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The army is steadfast in its anti-India policy

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Its motivation comes from the fact that the officer strength is drawn from the middle class intellectual segment of society, which has a very low opinion of the feudal and intellectually compromised political class.  This opinion leads to a sense of superiority developed over time due to continuous military rule and, as a result, the army officers hold a belief that none other than them can safeguard national interests. 

The rigidity that Obama attributes to the State of Pakistan is in fact, existing only in its army, which is steadfast in its anti-India policy. The reluctance to cease proliferation of terror, build up of conventional arms capability and derailment of the peace process is all directed to this end.


Image: These boys, arrested in the Swat valley, were allegedly recruited by the Pakistan Taliban to be suicide bombers
Photographs: Abdul Rehman/Reuters
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'The ISI is busy hiding the Taliban leadership'

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The second cancer is the ISI.

This organisation was created for the express purpose of proliferating terror in India. Of late, this mandate has been expanded to covert engagement of the Afghan and Pakistan Taliban. The ISI receives funds not only from the army and the government but also from various other conduits like the narcotics trade and countries interested in the spread of Islamic fundamentalism. 

This has made it quasi-independent and has given to the many rogue elements within its ranks an opportunity to follow separate agendas of their own.  Thus, while Pakistan is at war with the Taliban, the ISI is busy hiding the Talib leadership or organising arms shipments for them. The Pakistani government gives assurances of eliminating terror hubs from its soil but the ISI provides protection to these very terrorist organisations.


Image: Hundreds mourn during the funeral of the victims of a suicide attack in Peshawar
Photographs: K Parvez/Reuters
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The infection should not spread

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The next group comprises the militant organisations that function with impunity due to tacit support flowing from both the army and the ISI.  Instead of closing shop, these organisations are planning to expand their area of influence in view of the impending withdrawal of Americans forces from Afghanistan, which will give them a free run to once again establish their writ not only over Afghanistan but also over the eastern frontier region of Pakistan. 

This cancer is causing the maximum consternation, but it is in fact the easiest to handle -- cut the flow of blood and it will automatically wither away.  President Obama has correctly discerned the cancer. Now, the body parts have to be identified and urgent surgery needs to be performed so that the infection does not spread to an extent that the body crumples.


Image: A worker sorts out water-pots at a camp for internally displaced people fleeing the offensive in South Waziristan
Photographs: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters
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