London, Mar 4: The world shouldn’t be surprised by the terrorist attack on Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore, according to internationally acclaimed writer and historian William Dalrymple, who feels that among a host of factors that are hurtling Pakistan towards disaster, is the ISI’s obsession with bleeding India through its Islamist strategic doctrine.
A mix of US-led military action in Pakistan’s tribal areas bordering Afghanistan and the PPP-led Government’s misguided nurturing of militant groups threaten the stability of the entire region, Dalrymple writes in The Guardian.
Reviewing Ahmed Rashid’s new book, “Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia”, Dalrymple has given a detailed picture of disintegration and policy failure.
Several factors will determine the future. Rashid makes it clear that only a radical change of policy by the US under Barack Obama can hope to begin turning things around, The Guardian quoted Dalrymple, as writing.
“South and Central Asia will not see stability unless there is a new global compact among the leading players … to help this region solve its problems, which range from settling the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan to funding a massive education and job-creation program,” he writes.
The second factor has to be reform of the ISI and the Pakistani military. The top Pakistani army officers must end their obsession with bleeding India by using an Islamist strategic doctrine, and realise that such a policy is deeply damaging to Pakistan itself, threatening to turn Pakistan into a clone of Taliban-dominated Afghanistan.
A third factor is somehow finding a way to stop the madrasa-inspired and Saudi-financed advance of Wahhabi Islam, which is directly linked to the spread of anti-western radicalization, he writes.
Dalrymple writes that just over a year ago, in February 2008, he travelled by car across Pakistan to cover the country’s first serious election since General Pervez Musharraf seized power in 1999.
“The right wing press had been predicting violence and bloodshed, but at the time I travelled in safety throughout the country and was struck by the country’s fortitude in the face of adversity. The story I wrote at the time for the New York Review of Books was optimistic,” he says.
“In just over a year, Asif Ali Zardari’s inept government has effectively lost control of much of the NWFP to the Taliban’s Pakistani counterparts, a loose confederation of nationalists, Islamists and angry Pashtun tribesmen under the nominal command of Baitullah Mehsud,” he writes.
The ambush of the Lankan team in Lahore, combined with the defeat of the Pakistani army in Swat and the subsequent capitulation to the Taliban there, and the recent kidnapping of UNHCR head John Solecki in Quetta, underscores the seriousness of the situation.
Dalrymple writes that few people had very high expectations of Zardari and the speed of the collapse that has taken place in the country has amazed almost all observers.
Across much of the NWFP women have now been forced to wear the burqa, music has been silenced, barber shops are forbidden to shave beards and more than 140 girls’ schools have been blown up or burned down, Dalrymple writes.
The tribal areas have never been fully under the control of any Pakistani government, and have always been unruly, but they have now been radicalised as never before.
The attacks from US drones and Pakistani ground forces, which have caused extensive civilian casualties, daily add a steady stream of angry foot soldiers to the insurgency, he writes.
Elsewhere in Pakistan, anti-western religious and political extremism continues to flourish, and there are increasing signs that the instability is now spreading from the Frontier Province to the relatively settled confines of Lahore and the Punjab.
The most alarming manifestation of this was the ease with which a highly trained jihadi group, almost certainly supplied and provisioned in Pakistan probably by the nominally banned Lashkar-e-Taiba, attacked neighbouring India in November; The Guardian quoted Dalrymple, as saying.
They murdered 173 innocent people in Mumbai, injured more than 600 and brought the two nuclear-armed rivals once again to the brink of war. Now Lashkar is being named as the principle suspect in yesterday’s attack in Lahore. (ANI)