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

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Dom Joly owns a pig. That thinks it's a dog.  

I'll bow out. Let Wilbur, the pig that thinks it's a dog, bring home the bacon

Dom Joly
 

Forget charging by the page - with books, heart matters more than heft

Katy Guest
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'