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Lahore strike may spell total isolation for Pak
Published on 5 Mar. 2009 1:10 AM IST
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For Pakistan, Tuesday’s terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team is the beginning of the kind of international isolation the civilian and military establishment fear, but the Taliban and other terrorist groups welcome. It will be a long time before anybody comes to play anything in Pakistan. It’s a deeper blow because cricket is akin to religion in Pakistan as it is elsewhere in the subcontinent. It’s also Pakistan’s only claim to being a credible host. And Sri Lanka considers Pakistan to be a friend. Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse went against advice to send his players to Pakistan, after India had refused, in the name of South Asia solidarity. The Karachi stock exchange plunged on Tuesday, because, as a stockbroker said, this would spell the end of investment, foreign and domestic in Pakistan. In fact, Pakistan is heading towards becoming a “quarantine” state, where only the US and its drones will venture. It’s the closest the world has seen Pakistan becoming a failed state, where terrorists and not the state is calling the shots. The Pakistani state has been staring at this reality for a while, but it was hit in the solar plexus on Tuesday. The attack also happened on the day when the Pakistan army claimed to have had some success against the Taliban in Bajaur agency in FATA, claiming to have beaten the Taliban back in Inayet Kali, a rare success. Yet, on March 1, US drones pounded a Baitullah Mehsud stronghold in Sararogha, South Waziristan, and it’s still unclear whether he was hit. But certainly, it brought home the fact that the Pakistan government, aided by the US, is following its ill-advised policy of good Taliban, bad Taliban. So Mehsud is bad Taliban and Maulana Fazlullah is good. It makes no sense, and Pakistan will have no respite from the Taliban trying to take over its sovereignty, because if one group does not do it, another will, epecially since there is no difference in their ruling ideologies. This is something the US has not realised, intent as it is on “stabilizing” Afghanistan. In fact, its search for “good” Taliban to arm in Afghanistan, a la the Anbar awakening, is destined to come to similar grief. The fundamental issue that Pakistan, nay the US, will have to confront is that Pakistan either walks back from its strategic ideology or risks an implosion and it’s actually staring that in the face. The US too needs to take a serious look at its aid package to Pakistan, particularly after allegations that Maulana Fazlullah has been paid some $6 million by the Pakistani government. Senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar are pushing yet another aid package for Pakistan. The Kerry-Lugar bill is expected to triple military aid to Pakistan to $1.5 billion, after more than $3.8 billion of $5 billion of US assistance to Pakistan has probably been diverted by Pakistan to fund terror. In April, Japan will be hosting a donors’ conference for Pakistan, which will be held alongside the next Friends of Pakistan meeting. It will be time for some serious steps by the world, and Pakistan itself.

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