Pakistan is the jihadi prize
It is too early to arrive at a conclusive assessment on the motives behind the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore. [Update: See Prem Panicker’s take.] But it is compelling to see this attack as the latest in the series that include the ones on Benazir Bhutto in 2007 and the Islamabad Marriott in September 2008. The possibility cannot be ruled out completely, but there is a small chance that the hit was ordered by LTTE (and carried out by sundry terrorists recruited in Pakistan). [Update: See B Raman’s post] However this is contra-indicated by the fact that so far, the Tamil Tigers have not claimed responsibility for the attack.
The attacks on Benazir Bhutto, to the ones on the Islamabad Marriott and many others across Pakistan suggest an attempt to destabilise the existing political order prevailing in the country. What next is an open question. Do the jihadis want to use the ensuing state of turmoil to turn Pakistan first into a war zone and then into a Taliban state? Or is the purpose to reinstate the Pakistani military establishment into the corridors of power? Or worse, are these not separate questions, but two different formulations of the same question? Would the next Pakistani military dictator care whether he is the president of the Pakistani republic or the Amir-ul-momineen of an Islamic emirate?
The answers are uncertain. In the face of the uncertainty, and in the light of past evidence, the prudent course is to treat the Pakistani army as connected to the jihadi groups in a military-jihadi complex. It is unclear if the Pakistani army wants to sever these connections, and unclear if it can sever them even if it wants to. Transforming the Pakistani military establishment therefore is the first step in stabilising Pakistan.
And unless Pakistan is stabilised it is only a matter of time before attacks like the one on Sri Lankan cricketers, and earlier like the one in Mumbai will be common across the cities of the world.