On the precipice

No doubt, terrorism has emerged as the greatest existential threat to Pakistan.That Pakistan is fighting for survival is not a question of academic debate anymore. It’s an existential reality and the sooner the Pakistanis confront it the better for them. Yet another reminder of the unprecedented threat facing the South Asian country was driven home on Sunday when a group of terrorists launched a brazen attack on the heavily fortified headquarters of Pakistan Navy’s air wing in Karachi. The attack killed ten members of the navy and Rangers and hurt dozens. Six militants died in the fierce battle that lasted 17 hours. It comes days after the deadly strikes on a Frontier Corps training center near Peshawar that killed more than 80 people, most of them fresh recruits.But PNS Mehran is not a remote border post or a town in the wild north. It is one of the biggest military bases in the nation’s financial capital Karachi. If the militants could target such a strategic and heavily protected military installation with such impunity, what does it say about Pakistan and its capacity to confront more serious challenges? After all, it’s a member of the elite club of nuclear states and its powerful military is one of the largest and most professional in the world.The country was supposed to have been in a state of alert following the Abbottabad raid by the US forces killing Al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden. Especially after the repeated revenge threats issued by Tahreek-e-Taleban, a tribal outfit sympathetic to Al-Qaeda and not related to its namesake across the border, and the Peshawal attack last week. This is an epic, inexcusable failure for which someone must take responsibility.Clearly, there’s a huge disconnect between the clear and present danger facing Pakistan and its ability or preparedness to tackle it.

While some of the most powerful nations with unlimited resources and expertise at their disposal have often failed to pre-empt spectacular terror attacks like 9/11, London and Madrid bombings and 26/11 Mumbai strikes, they have learned from their failures. That appears to be missing in Pakistan’s case. After all, regardless of what its detractors have to say about it, Pakistan has been a major victim of extremism suffering some of the most devastating terror attacks in the past few years since it was forced into the US war in Afghanistan. As cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan has been arguing, continuing US drone attacks coupled with its disastrous policies are giving birth to more and more suicide bombers.

Given this disturbing state of affairs, there appears to be little sense of alarm or even sense of urgency in the response of the political class to the approaching doom. It’s as if no one is in charge in Islamabad. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani convened an “emergency” meeting to discuss the Karachi attack on Wednesday, that is, three days after the incident! Similar indifference — cluelessness? — was witnessed after the Abbottabad incident. Even the army to which Pakistanis often look in troubled times appears to have withdrawn itself into its shell after the Abbottabad embarrassment. What Pakistan badly needs now is real leadership and a bold vision to lead the country out of the wilderness it finds itself in. Extremism has emerged as the greatest existential threat to the country founded in the name of Islam. It must be confronted head on. This is no time to dither or dawdle. – Arabnews