The alleged terrorist safe havens in Pakistan could backfire on the state—and soon
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said that if Pakistan doesn’t stop offering safe haven to terrorists attacking Kabul it might face a “reverse” attack by them on Islamabad: “Pakistan has allowed so many terrorist organizations to find safe haven within its territories, and these organizations are growing in size and influence, that at some point I have said to the leadership of Pakistan, you may be the target, and they turn their attention from Kabul and decide they like Islamabad as a target better.”
Of course, Pakistan accuses Afghanistan of failing to prevent terrorist attacks on its territory from inside Afghanistan. However, it is difficult to say whether the ambushing gunmen who routinely kill Pakistani troops deployed against the “safe havens” in the tribal areas are cross-border terrorists or elements from within Pakistan. There is evidence enough that the Pakistani Taliban, on the run from Operation Radd al-Fasad, cross the border and attack after getting paid by interested parties in Kabul. A Taliban spokesman defecting to Pakistan has also alleged that India indeed is behind the continued acts of terrorism like the traumatic massacre of children at an Army school in Peshawar in 2014.
Tillerson aside, Islamabad should pay heed to what everyone in Pakistan is saying to the country’s military, through innuendo if not directly: you have allowed too much internal sovereignty of the state to be undermined with four years of protest sit-ins after the 2013 elections. The running vendetta between the elected government and the GHQ over Islamabad’s India policy and a “liberal” re-interpretive approach to ideology is preparing the ground for Tillerson’s oracular warning to come true. Add to that the anarchic-nihilistic politics of dharna and you have a state as wide open to external assault as Afghanistan. The orchestration of new dharna assaults on Islamabad, Lahore and many other cities has tended to denude the state of whatever is left of normal governance. The economy has reacted negatively to what is happening and soon the most important single transformational project, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), might have to be abandoned, given this erosion of the state.