The slaughter of children by the Taliban in Peshawar has united Pakistan against terrorism. Every newspaper of
every political persuasion demanded that the government crackdown on militants to stop another such grisly event from every happening again on Pakistani soil. But such hopes are unlikely to come to pass. And the reason, as one commentator put it wryly, is that Pakistanis are united against terrorism, but not against terrorists.
For two decades now, Pakistan's all-powerful intelligence service called the ISI – equivalent of CIA – has played a complicated game of "good terrorist, bad terrorist" based on whether a group serves its geopolitical ends against India or not. And it has cultivated the "good" ones, giving their noxious ideology a pass and offering them a safe haven in the country.
The problem, however, is that to control terrorism, the country's civilian rulers will have to rein in the ISI. But if they do that, the ISI will withdraw its support and boot out the government, a perfect Catch 22.
Regimes change course only when the cost of maintaining the status quo exceeds the cost of enacting change, I note in The Week."However, to Pakistan's political leaders, the price of these children's lives is still lower than the toll of a veritable civil war with an intelligence service that has long played footsie with extremist groups…"
It is not surprising then that even though the bodies of the children are still warm, the Pakistani government's "zero tolerance" resolve against terrorism is already showing signs of waning.
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