Pakistan under siege

THESE are not the best of times for Pakistan. By joining the US war on terror, the country has exposed itself to an unprecedented threat of extremism. While Pakistan fought all its previous wars along its eastern border with India, the country is fighting its war on extremism at home — in its cities and remote villages. And it looks like this battle is going to be longer and tougher than all the wars Pakistan has fought against India.

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Published: Wed 29 Sep 2004, 9:30 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 1:53 AM

Soon after President Musharraf joined hands with the US on the eve of attack on Afghanistan, his nation has been engaged in a terrible war with extremists and remnants of Taleban — many of whom fled Afghanistan following the US invasion.

The death in a gun battle of Amjad Farooqi — the suspected mastermind behind the three assassination attempts on Musharraf — this week may have come as a relief to the country’s security and intelligence agencies. However, the very fact that Farooqi was holed up in the remote Nawab Shah down south in Sindh underscores the omnipresent nature of terror threat to Pakistani society. So, while the Pak forces were bombing the tribal region of Wana near Afghan border in their search for alleged Al-Qaeda fighters, extremists had been quietly active in cities like Nawab Shah. Evidently, Pakistan is fighting its terror war on two fronts: in lawless tribal domains as well as cities like Karachi.

However, Pakistan must resist the temptation to resort to such short-cut and awfully short-sighted tactics as blanket bombardment and crippling economic blockade as Islamabad tried in Wana. As it has been proved in Waziristan and elsewhere, such brutal means to contain militants only end up targeting innocent civilians. Reports from Wana suggest that it is the defenceless women and children who have been hit by the aerial bombardment of Wana. The country’s leadership has talked of foreign fighters holed up in its troubled regions but without the sympathy and support from local elements, alien forces cannot survive for long.

As Musharraf himself has repeatedly and sensibly argued, Pakistan would do well to look for the causes that fire extremism. Afghanistan and Iraq continue to inspire the extremism around the world and Pakistan is no exception. Military action alone cannot exorcise the demons of extremism. Pakistan must fight the darkness that allows such demons to survive.

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