Similar style, same purpose.
No one knows what to make out of these attacks on Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore. There is no authoritative evidence to draw conclusions. No one has taken the credit for these attacks. So, here are a few simple observations.
It is not about cricket. It is about terrorism. All the romantics in India lamenting the loss of cricket in Pakistan can shut up. There are bigger issues — existential issues — in the fray here.
Pakistan is a failed state. Or a failing state catapulting towards the terminal stage. This has been known for some time now and an attack in Lahore, in the heart of Punjab — not NWFP or FATA — only underlines the gravity of the situation. Some estimates suggest that more than 100,000 men from Punjab have trained at various terrorist training camps. Some Pakistani observers have been rightly highlighting the increasing radicalisation of Pakistani society and an undercurrent of support for Taliban among the populace.
What was the purpose of these attacks? To spread terror. To show the world that the writ of the Pakistani state doesn’t run any longer. This means that the civilian government has failed abysmally and army should again takeover the Pakistani state under the doctrine of necessity. But that would hardly be palatable to Kerry and company, who want to strengthen the civilian rulers in Pakistan by throwing US dollars at them.
Were these an extension of Mumbai terror attacks, not only in style, but also in purpose? The swamp attacks by 10-12 well-armed gunmen spraying bullets and making an exit in Lahore (remember the Mumbai terrorists had also thought about escaping back to Pakistan) did evoke the images of 26-11. By all accounts, the purpose of the Mumbai terror attacks was to get Pakistan army away from fighting the Taliban by invoking military tensions on the Indo-Pak front. Is it not for a similar reason that these terrorists at Lahore very conveniently left on site some 84mm Rocket Launchers, pistols and RPGs — all of them standard Indian army issue weapons?
The intention clearly was to wreak more havoc at Lahore, a la Mumbai, and put India in the dock. Hamid Gul was on Pak media, within minutes of these attacks, blaming them on India. Luckily, this laughable theory of an Indian hand or Indian revenge for Mumbai has found little takers in the Pakistani establishment or the mainstream media. Ostensibly, the purpose was the same — to ratchet Indo-Pak tension and provide Pakistan army with a plausible excuse to walk away from fighting the jehadis in NWFP, FATA or Pak-Afghan border, without openly defying the Americans.
So, who could have planned this or benefited from it? There is no watertight proof to nail this theory but reasonable estimates would point the finger at some middle-to-senior level figures in the Pakistan army-ISI establishment. They, along with the retired military & ISI officers-turned-independent jehadi trainers (the ones referred to in Ahmed Rashid’s last book: Descent into Chaos), ought to have staged this act at Lahore, on the lines of Mumbai terror attacks. A few folks in the security establishment must be looking at hedging their strategic bets by protecting al Qaeda and Taliban, while the majority there may have genuine religious-ideological affiliations in protecting the umbilical relationship between the army and the jehadis.
Whatever be the reasons, India must ensure that the world community does not buy the argument of “all of us are victims of terror” in South Asia. Pakistani state and its military-ISI combo have been the creators of this jehadi terror machine and even eight years after 9-11, they still continue to provide covert and tacit support to the jehadis. When the West chose to use the mujahideens against Soviet communists, it was a tactical ploy. Pakistan army and ISI raised jehadi terror to a strategic level with creation of Taliban and myriad Kashmiri insurgent groups. It has since metamorphosed into a strong religious-ideological connection between the two, where the monster is now beyond the control of the creators.
Let the Holbrookes and Petreauses get one thing amply clear in their reviews now. Pakistani state, including the Pakistan army and the ISI, can not be a part of the solution. They are, in fact, the intractable problem that needs to be solved. Period.
P.S. — Sujan Dutta in The Telegraph comes around to the view that India might have to put military boots on the ground in Afghanistan to tackle the AfPak problem.