Terrorism is a double-edged sword that cuts both ways, a lesson that Islamabad refuses to learn. Even as it keeps pushing jihadists into Kashmir to wreak mayhem as its irregular army, elsewhere Pakistan itself continues to bleed. In the latest outrage at Balochistan capital Quetta on Monday night, terrorists struck at a police training academy. In the well-coordited suicide attack, around 60 cadets were killed and double that number injured. Hostages were taken in a dormitory and the stand-off with security personnel lasted five hours before some attackers detoted their explosive-laden vests while others were shot dead. Citing intercepted calls between the attackers and their handlers in Afghanistan, Pak military sources are now holding the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi responsible. The outfit has its origins in Punjab province, but is primarily active in Balochistan where it has targeted mostly minority Hazara Shias. Why it has scaled up its operations to attack a police academy is something Pak intelligence must now figure out. But that is the way with all terror groups — their bloodthirsty ways take on a mad logic of their own that is impossible to ‘mage’ or contain. In restive Balochistan, Quetta has been repeatedly hit; only last August, the city lost a large chunk of its lawyers who were struck by a suicide bomber at a hospital where they had gathered to pay their last respects to a prominent lawyer murdered by terrorists. The Afghan Taliban is known to have a major base in Quetta, and its new leader Haibatullah Akhundzada preached there for long years. Islamabad has been livid at New Delhi for beginning to play the Balochistan card to counter its Kashmir proxy war, but separatist violence in Balochistan province goes back a long way thanks to the Pak army’s heavy-handedness. However, the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment has long been selective in its approach to terror, which no doubt stems from the fact that it is a billion dollars empire several times over.
Whenever it suits its interests, particularly in keeping the warlike situation with India perpetually simmering, the Pak military complex has struck unholy alliances with sundry terror groups. This dictates Islamabad’s policy of espousing the likes of Lashkar-e-Toiba and Hizbul Mujahideen as groups ‘fighting to free Kashmir’. So when their jihadists strike at Mumbai, New Delhi, Pathankot or Uri, Islamabad straightaway goes into denial mode despite being presented with incontrovertible evidence and even Pak terrorists captured alive. The US administration, which has long counted upon Pakistan as an ally against its global campaign against terror, lately had some tough words against Islamabad’s duplicitous policy. If Pakistan does not go after all terrorist networks operating on its soil, the US will not hesitate ‘to act alone to disrupt and destroy’ them, Washington has warned. This is no empty threat, considering the surgical efficiency with which US vy Seals took out Osama bin Laden in Abbotabad under the very nose of the Pak security establishment. “The problem is that there are forces within the Pakistani government, specifically in Pakistan’s Inter- Services Intelligence or ISI, that refuse to take similar steps against all the terrorist groups active in Pakistan, tolerating some groups or even worse,” US Acting Under Secretary on Countering the Fincing of Terrorism Adam Szubin said recently. So why is Washington growing impatient with Islamabad, given the fact that the Pak armed forces has been conducting its Zarb-e-Azb operation on the country’s north-western frontier bordering Afghanistan? Thousands of militants have been neutralized there, the ISIS has been declared a terrorist organization, and the funding and operatiol capabilities of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have been choked. But it seems the Haqqani network allied to the Taliban has been left relatively unmolested, which has angered both Washington and Kabul. This is because Pak-based Haqqani operatives are regularly mounting deadly attacks on Afghan and US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan. Washington believes ISI is in cahoots with Haqqani; New Delhi knows well that ISI sponsors Lashkar and Hizbul. And Islamabad keeps distinguishing ‘good’ terrorists from ‘bad’, and paying the price. For terror has this habit of one day biting the hand that feeds it, and devouring its own children.