In the 1990s, militancy was on the rise in Kashmir valley and it was an open secret that the Pakistani government was encouraging militant groups while their army was training militants.
This was way before 9/11 and the media fell shy of calling it terrorism, substituted it for the milder “militancy” or “separatism”. The common Kashmiri suffered and for a number of years the annual death toll was in four figures.
While all that happened across one border, the Taliban was created across another border. It was another open secret that Pakistan’s shadowy Inter-Services Intelligence was the biggest supporter of the Taliban.
At that time Pakistan sat pretty. It nurtured the Taliban at one end, much to the discomfiture of Afghanistan. It nurtured terrorists groups at the other end, much to the discomfiture of India.
This situation continued for quite some time with the Pakistani Army pulling strings. Conspiracies were hatched. Blasts took place. People died. A plane was hijacked to Kandahar. Governance in both Afghanistan and Kashmir went for a toss.
All enemies of India were welcome in Pakistan like Hafiz Saeed, of the Lashkar-e-Taiba which became the Jama'at-ud-Da'wah, banned as a terrorist organization in the US, European Union and Russia.
Mumbai underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, wanted for the Mumbai attacks, match-fixing and the hatchet man for Pakistan joined the gang.
Then 9/11 happened.
The whole geopolitics of the region was turned on its head. Taliban joined hands with Al-Qaeda and invited the full wrath of the American empire. The Al-Qaeda was weakened, the Taliban dethroned and democracy returned to Afghanistan.
Meanwhile militancy also declined in Kashmir. The annual terror toll fell sharply in 2010 and has stayed low for the last few years. This has been a big achievement of UPA2 though it hasn’t been bandied about so much.
The new Indian government has cracked down on the border and has decided to increase surveillance along the border through satellites and drones. If the new government in J&K focuses on development, then militancy would be on a terminal decline.
With terror groups in retreat from both ends, it was just a matter of time before they started eating into Pakistan and that is precisely what happened. Currently Pakistan has the maximum number of terrorists: However most Pakistani citizens also die from these very same terror attacks.
That is the strange paradox that is the state of Pakistan. By one estimates more than 50,000 Pakistani citizens have died since 9/11. You could say that they have a 26/11 every month or a 9/11 every year if one adds the death toll of cumulative blasts.
So the Pakistani government found itself in a conundrum. They tried to distinguish between good terrorists (who worked for them) and bad terrorists (who worked against them). That is how the strange “good Taliban” versus “bad Taliban” theory came about.
However that is not possible. Fire destroys everything that comes in its path. In fact it was former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had said while blasting Pakistan’s support for terrorism…
“It’s like that old story—you can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbours. Eventually those snakes are going to turn on whoever has them in the backyard.” (Another former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had dubbed Pakistan an “international migraine”.)
In 2007 Pakistan’s worst nightmares came true when 13 groups got together to form a “super” terrorist group called Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). While these terror groups flourished in North-West Pakistan, conflict claimed the lives of thousands and thousands of Pakistan security forces and terrorists.
After much dilly-dallying, Pakistan finally launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb in June 2014 in North Waziristan to flush out groups like the TTP and up to 30,000 Pakistani forces are involved in the operation.
It is in retaliation to that the downright horrific attack on Army Public School in Pakistan took place which led to the brutal killings of more than 140 people, most of them innocent schoolchildren.
The whole world stands with Pakistan and such an attack defies logic.
Pakistan can take no more and has to finish off the cancer that is eating into its very core.
In the 1990s, Pakistan promoted terrorism.
In the 2000s, Pakistan watched helplessly as terrorism boomeranged on itself.
In the 2010s, Pakistan has admirably taken terror groups head on.
However as long as Pakistan distinguishes between “good terrorists” and “bad terrorists” and “good Taliban” and “bad Taliban”, it will never be able to eradicate terror from its soil.
In fact Hafiz Saeed bizarrely blamed the Peshawar attack on India and vowed revenge. He has the full backing of the Pakistani government. Pakistan cannot hope to continue playing this double game any longer.
One hopes for the sake of Pakistani citizens that things finally change in the country. A terrorist is a terrorist is a terrorist.
He will equally kill an Indian or an Afghan or an American or a Pakistani. It’s all the same to him.
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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here.