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The Fight for Pakistan

And the importance of Punjab.

12:00 AM, Jan 29, 2010 • By APARNA PANDE
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The attacks have increasingly turned inward, directed at Pakistan's security forces rather than at India. After the October 10, 2009 attack on the army's headquarters in Rawalpindi, military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas noted that two Punjab-based jihadi groups, Jaish-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, had built a presence in South Waziristan where the attack was planned. The April 2009 Swat offensive and the October 2009 South Waziristan offensives against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan was directed mainly against this diffuse organization, which had increasingly focused its attacks on Pakistani security forces and political leaders, including former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Under General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan joined the war against terror. But it has always been a reluctant ally. This is because the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies do not see eye to eye with the Americans – and others – on the nature of the real threat to Pakistan. For the last eight years Pakistan has been willing to take action against "foreign fighters" like al Qaeda and others, while it has been reluctant to go up against jihad groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba or the Pakistani Taliban. They have preferred to negotiate ceasefires with some groups while allowing others simply to change their names and reappear a few months later. In this way, they avoid having to address the growing problem of radicalization in Punjab. Indeed, many security planners continue to see these virulent radicals not as threats to the state but, to the contrary, as available warriors to defend a Pakistan they believe is besieged from all sides.

Meanwhile, Punjab's struggles continue.  It is hard to imagine Pakistan surviving as a democratic state, or even as a state at all, if Punjab is engulfed by jihadist movements.

Aparna Pande is a research fellow at Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C.

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