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A Blanket Word



Terrorism is here to stay. Yes, that's the truth, and it's not going to change anytime soon. Not if the world drags its feet the way it's been doing since the 26/11 blasts in Mumbai, which left 180 people dead and some 300 injured.

True, that Pakistan, acting like a recalcitrant child who refuses to admit to its mistakes, finally made some arrests and appeared to have cracked down on a few terror camps, but, though that was a start, it was not enough - not nearly enough.

More, much more needs to be done if the world - and for this conversation, that's the U.S. and India - want to rid themselves of terror.

A once-bitten-twice-shy India views some of the "arrests" made in Pakistan over the past few days with a pinch of salt; Pakistan has been known to use this tactic as a delay, arresting militants when all eyes are on the country, releasing them when attention is focused elsewhere. It will take much more action on Pakistan's part to satisfy India this time.

Indians view the "house arrest" of Jaish-e-Mohammad's top man Maulana Masood Azhar, with a fair amount of skepticism. India was forced to release Azhar back in 1999 when militants hijacked an Indian Airlines aircraft and forced it to land in Kandahar, Afghanistan. After a seven-day stand-off, hijackers successfully obatined Azhar's release in exchange for the airline's passengers, but one hostage, who was on a honeymoon trip, was brutally stabbed to death. Azhar's organization has since carried out a string of attacks against India. So, when Pakistan says it has placed this man under "house arrest", Indians roll their eyes. And not for the first time.

The terror network in Pakistan is dark and murky, and not easy to understand, but, to simplify matters, there are four main elements: First, there are the militant groups, linked to each other in various ways, the topmost one being the Lashkar-e-Taiba, believed to have links with Al Qaeda.

Second, there is the Inter-Services Intelligence Pakistan's spy agency which has long aided, if not created, the militant groups, in an attempt to quash dissent from religious extremists. It, too, is said to have links with the Al Qaeda as well as the LeT. So strong are the ties that ISI chief Hamid Gul has been named by India as the main man behind many attacks on its soil - a charge he denies. Then we have the Pakistani army, which seems to be involved at some level, though the connections here are nebulous; it's hard to figure out who is mixed up and who is not. And lastly, there is the civilian government, which, if not involved, is too weak to take on so many factions - religious fundamentalists, regional sectarians, terrorists, the Army's top brass and the ISI.

The question then is, that if there is so much evidence against Pakistan, then why doesn't someone - the U.S. with its no-tolerance approach to terror - crack down hard on this clearly wayward nation? Americans are very much in the firing line of the militant groups. Attacks on Americans - the journalist Daniel Pearl among them - are by now familiar. In the Mumbai attacks, U.S. and British nationals were singled out and shot. Moreover, it is believed that terrorists are being trained in the U.S., the U.K., Australia and Canada to carry out attacks in those countries.

But America needs Pakistan's help in fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, a country that shares a long and remote border with Pakistan. And the U.S. also uses Pakistan as a route for shipping supplies to its massive air base in Bagram, Afghanistan.

And though Pakistan officially says it wants to help the U.S., there are, as I've enumerated, many forces within the country that want to sabotage that process. In addition, many militant group within the country disapprove of America and Pakistan's ties to that nation. Just last week, 160 NATO vehicles, meant for the U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, were set ablaze as a protest of the nation's involvement in western politics.

So there seems no solution, no end in sight. Terrorism - a blanket word that we now use loosely, probably without knowing who it is we mean anymore - is the word we now fear the most. It's a matter of time before those fears will once again come true.

Copyright © 2007, SteelWill, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Spot On is a trademark of SteelWill, Inc.

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