The real enemy at the gates

The suicide bombing at the Wagah border in Pakistan is a tragic, and sadly ironic, reminder that it is not India that is the enemy at its gates. Forces within Pakistan are actively tearing down the country. More than 60 people were killed in Sunday’s attack, and at least three sets of militants have rushed to own responsibility for the carnage — a group called Jundullah that was responsible for the Peshawar church bombing in September 2013, and two rival factions of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Jundullah, which is also a part of the TTP, claimed it carried out the bombing in retaliation for the Pakistan military’s ongoing operation Zarb-e-Azb in parts of North Waziristan. The country has been on high alert for the last few days, as the month of Muharram has annually seen a spurt in suicide and other terrorist attacks targeting Pakistani Shia. But clearly, Pakistani intelligence agencies were also not ruling out non-sectarian attacks at this time. Wagah, an important base for the paramilitary Rangers who guard the India-Pakistan border, was listed in recent Pakistani security alerts as vulnerable. Stopped by guards at the entrance to the large area that comprises the border check post, the suicide bomber blew himself up in the midst of civilians, most of them visitors streaming out after the flag-lowering ceremony at the border gates. Three Rangers were also killed. The Pakistani Police have quickly arrested 21 people in connection with the incident, and investigations will no doubt continue. What confronts Pakistan, though, is the absence of a coherent policy or clear narrative on Islamist extremism and militancy. The military operation in the northwest seems aimed more at ensuring that by the time U.S. troops pull out of Afghanistan at the end of this year, Pakistan would have subdued the TTP enough not to be bogged down in firefighting the blowback within, and is freer to pursue larger strategic ambitions in the region. Many militant organisations continue to thrive, particularly those with a marked anti-India agenda.
The explosion was close enough for it to be heard and felt on the Indian side. No Indian was hurt in the bombing. On Monday, the two sides held a low-key flag-lowering ceremony, and the Pakistani side even allowed visitors. But the limited overland trade between the two sides has been halted temporarily. The Samjhauta Express train service between Delhi and Lahore has also not been interrupted. The attack a few metres from the border should be a reminder to India that a stable Pakistan is in India’s interests. The incident also underlines that in order to convey Indian concerns about terrorism emanating from Pakistan, there is no option but for Delhi and Islamabad to talk. The Hindu

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