Today, in the otherwise amiable city of Lahore, 11 (or more) people were killed and almost 100 injured after an eight-hour ordeal in which terrorists brazenly attacked a police academy. No one is safe anywhere.
Pakistan finds herself at another crossroads that threatens her very survival. Militants “seem to be able to attack at will across the country,” making this the sixth attack for Lahore alone in the last 14 months, and is another in a recent string of brutal and blatant terrorist acts in Pakistan, including an attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team, the bombing of a mosque, and more. Pakistan may truly be the most dangerous place on earth, and will likely become the focus of world’s attention in the next few years. It is that serious.
How did Pakistan get here? What happened? Who is behind this?
The last question is the most complicated to analyze, but in some ways shares the same answer with the previous questions. Pakistan has variously blamed the Taliban, Waziri separatists, the United States, and India. Some in the US Government blame al-Qâ’ida (or as your Volgi might say, القاعدة). There can truly be any number of groups behind this, since there is no shortage of competing violent forces in Pakistan.
What happened? The problem is not easy to define under normal thinking. The easiest way for your Czar to understand the county of Pakistan is to divest yourself of any sense that Pakistan is actually a country. Pakistan has, more or less, borders and a name. But a single entity it is not. Hell, even the name Pakistan is a bit a giveaway: Punjab, Afghania, Kashimir, Sindh, and Blochistan were punned together by Choudhary Rahmat Ali in 1934 to make a bit of word play on the Urdu word “pure land” (پاکستان). Pakistan is an incorporation.
How did it get here? The region started modern life as near-academic construct of post-World War II generosity, and it has not looked back. Neither has it looked forward. Like Iraq, Palestine, Yugoslavia, and other countries of convenience created by distant lands carving up post-war maps, it suffers from ancient tribal hatreds and prejudices all forced to work and play together. And this causes three problems, the sum of which result in violence and bloodshed.
The first is simply the resulting lack of government control. On top of ancient and deep hatreds and mistrust, Pakistan’s official government does not function as such: instead, the country is divided between a fully public yet impotent administration at severe odds with the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, known as the ISI. The ISI, which is part junta and part business, once provided (in theory) a military intelligence function to the country. However, as its powers broadened, so did its interests. The US helped strengthen the ISI’s foreign entanglements during the Soviets’s invasion of Afghanistan, in which the ISI learned to leverage heavily on the mujahidin while funneling American cash and weaponry. When the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan, the ISI lost its best client when the US curtailed funding. However, the mujahidin continued in other forms, splitting into factions of public servants, businessmen, al-Qâ’ida frontrunners, and of course the Taliban. These were good business partners for the ISI, who continued to manage and fund these forces profitably.
Up until September of 2001, that is, when Pervez Musharraf (then President of Pakistan but once Chief of Army Staff) read the writing on the wall correctly and backed the US rather than face annihilation (yes, another crossroad moment). Musharraf, while not the biggest friend the ISI ever had, wielded enough power and collateral that the ISI began to switch sides somewhat (the arrest of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and the 2008 dissolution of the ISI political party). The ISI is presently racked with corruption, and many of its nefarious deeds are being exposed to the public, but the ISI maintains a powerful grip on the daily functioning of Pakistan.
The second problem with Pakistan is the sheer lack of governmental discipline. As the Arab News states well, Pakistan cannot simply expect additional military rules, curfews, and martialism to prevail over terrorist actions. “Draconian security measures might in the short term make life more difficult for [the terrorists], but in the longer term it would be playing into their hands, because it would be undermining the constitutional democracy on which Pakistan is built.” The editorial adds that the entire world expects Pakistan to protect its nuclear arsenal from ever-approaching terrorists, but only she can rise to the challenge. The US, the UN, and the Arab world cannot help her much here. Indeed, it is time for Pakistan to take its position seriously, and discpline herself as a democracy and not as an unchaperoned schoolyard.
A third problem is the loss of secular wisdom. Sharia is spreading like a fever: Pakistan recently caved to Taliban forces demanding a suspension of secular law. Eager to end the Taliban violence, the government elected not to negotiate with terrorists, but simply hand them a wrapped gift: the Taliban have returned to power. As history repeatedly shows, giving the Taliban what they want has never pacified them, but has only enraged them. Either the Pakistani government is shockingly ignorant, or they are very much in favor of ditching secularism for sharia. The latter is too horrific to consider. Already executions have begun, and women immediately enslaved. Pakistan has shown a lack of faith in permitting this travesty of Islamic belief (and common sense) to continue. As Dinesh D’Souza wrote in What’s So Great About America, Islam is only truly successful in an American-style democracy, for Islam requires voluntary submission: sharia, when force-fed by the Taliban overlords, is not Islam, but brutal oppression. It assumes a failure of faith, and requires the whip.
Perhaps no other crossroad is as critical for Pakistan as the one at which she now stands. Even in the darkest hours of her struggles with India has she been so close to losing everything. The internal threats that openly terrorize her people are doing more damage to Pakistan—and by nuclear extension the world—than any that have come before.
The motto of Pakistan is simple. اتحاد، تنظيم، يقين محکم. Unity. Discipline. Faith. The government of Pakistan should look to that motto and realize, right now, they have none of these. And it is threatening all of us.