Leading article: Pakistan finally takes on the monster it created

This is a battle that Islamabad should have embarked upon long ago

Share
Related Topics

This week it became brutally clear that Pakistan is effectively at war. A series of brazen assaults by jihadis on police stations, army garrisons and civilian targets across the country in recent days have claimed 160 lives. The military, meanwhile, is preparing for an assault on the militant stronghold of Waziristan.

The death toll is destined to rise further. There will be more casualties, more bombings and more turmoil in this nuclear-armed nation. This battle against a diffused guerrilla force is likely to take years, rather than months. But we need to be absolutely clear about one thing: this is not a struggle that the Pakistani state can avoid. Indeed, it is one that it should have embarked upon a long time ago.

For the best part of two decades, successive Pakistani governments tolerated the growth of Islamist militias (both in the western tribal regions and in the Punjab) in the belief that these groups were useful proxies in the regional strategic struggle with India. The country's intelligence services even funded and armed them. Just as dangerously, the authorities allowed the religious fundamentalists to establish hundreds of schools which churned out indoctrinated recruits to swell the ranks of the militias. The leaders of the Afghan Taliban were trained in such establishments.

The Pakistani authorities believed they could control these fanatics. They were wrong. Earlier this year when the Pakistani Taliban moved into an area only 100km from the capital Islamabad and began to impose their own brutal penal code on its inhabitants, the penny finally dropped among Pakistan's leaders that they had created a monster.

It is welcome that the Pakistani military and political establishment have changed their policy. The growth of religious extremism in the country has been a disaster for Pakistan's population, the vast majority of whom have no desire to live in the kind of closed, religious state favoured by the minority of fanatics in their midst.

It has also been a disaster for the wider world. Pakistan, with its fundamentalist madrassas and militant training camps, has exported the virus of extremism far beyond its own borders. Britain, with our sizeable Pakistani diaspora, has particular reason to be relieved that Islamabad finally seems to be acting. Three-quarters of all domestic terror plots under surveillance by our police and intelligence services are believed to have their roots in Pakistan. There was a clear link in the case of the foiled plot to bring down transatlantic airliners. And the organisers of the 7 July 2005 London bombings attended training camps in the country.

Yet though the army is gearing up for an assault on the militant's strongholds, there are few signs of serious action from Islamabad on the madrassas, which provide the ideological waters in which these groups swim. And there are still reports that the army is leaving alone those militant groups which are contributing to the chaos in neighbouring Afghanistan and concentrating only on those which present a direct threat to Islamabad.

It is not hard to understand why Pakistan's leaders want to keep their battle narrowly focused. The struggle will be hard and bloody enough as it is. But the clear lesson of recent decades is that it is better to confront a menace now than to let it fester and multiply. Pakistan's leaders need to recognise that their country will never be secure and prosperous until it has rooted out the cancer of extremism in its entirety.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior IP Opportunity at Major Firm

vary Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - AN OPENING AT A VERY HIGH Q...

Nursery Manager

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Nursery Manager Long term Ran...

Sales Consultant – Permanent – West Sussex – £24-£25k plus commission and other benefits

£24000 - £25000 Per Annum plus company car and commission: Clearwater People S...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£45 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Bris...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Liberal Democrats leader says efforts need to be focused on cracking down on the criminal gangs  

Nick Clegg: We should to go to war on drugs, not on addicts

Nick Clegg
East German border guards stand on a section of the Berlin wall in front of the Brandenburg gate on November 11, 1989  

Twenty-five years after the Berlin Wall fell, Hungary’s PM thinks it is Western capitalism that is in its death throes

Peter Popham
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes