http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2009/04/20/story_20-4-2009_pg3_1 Editorial: Hangu attack and Pakistani mind If anyone was ever focused on the developments in Hangu, a town within the administrative jurisdiction of the NWFP, he/she could have predicted the latest violence committed there by the TTP warlord Baitullah Mehsud. The violence against the Shia of Hangu had gone on but without moving the conscience of anyone in Pakistan. On Saturday, a suicide bomber drove a van full of explosives into a security checkpost in Doaba on the outskirts of Hangu, killing 27 security personnel. Mr Baitullah Mehsud is angry at Pakistan for fighting the American war against his Tehreek-e Taliban in general, and for not stopping the American drones from attacking his area in particular. He says he can do more. He has already threatened Lahore and Karachi and doesn’t have to boast about hitting Islamabad because he can do it easily without offending the population there, a large chunk of which follows the spiritual message of Maulana Abdul Aziz, the custodian of the Red Mosque who has just been released on bail by the Supreme Court on grounds of “insufficient evidence”. In fact, Mr Baitullah Mehsud doesn’t have to mount a campaign to win the hearts and minds of the people of Pakistan. He has already won most of them and is now challenging the establishment to “follow the people” and not the Americans. The ANP government in the NWFP has sued for peace and won a kind of “reprieve of the defeated” while confronting the “liberal” community with the reality of what is happening on the ground. The government in Islamabad wants to fight the war against terror but has told the international community that its perception of threat is different from theirs. Islamabad described its position on the threat of terrorism quite clearly when it told the Americans recently that it can actually reject economic assistance if it comes with conditions that are not in line with its “national interest”. There is also a gradual streamlining of the perception of threat between the ruling party and the army on the one hand and the opposition and the army on the other. The opposition has its ears close to the ground, anticipating political trouble before the incumbent government completes its five-year term. There is, unfortunately, a large section of opinion on how not to fight terrorism. And terrorism here doesn’t simply mean confronting Mr Mehsud. This gelling opinion is based on the threat coming first from India and then from America. There is a lot of incomprehensible mishmash of thinking here but this is how the scene is set. Baitullah Mehsud is asking Pakistan to abandon the Americans or at least get them to stop the drone attacks on him. In Pakistan, it is increasingly being said that Baitullah Mehsud is being paid by both America and India to mount terrorist attacks inside Pakistan. To what end, one may ask? The conspiracy-theorists’ answer is apparently simple, “to destabilise Pakistan”. And why is the US doing it? Because, say the conspiracy theorists, the US is ganged up with India to reduce Pakistan to the position of a lackey of hegemonic India. And, of course, all that anticipates the conversion of South Asia into a pro-American bastion against China, according to these people. The military perception is India-linked. According to this, India is being allowed by the US to dominate Afghanistan and thus saddle Pakistan with a two-front situation, which is not permissible in Pakistan’s strategic thinking. Therefore, it follows from this assumption that the US cannot ask Pakistan to fight the Taliban who attack Afghanistan across the Durand Line unless it helps Pakistan in pacifying the likes of Baitullah Mehsud. And the policy vis-à-vis the Pakistani Taliban is based on seeking peace through negotiation rather than through war. But the Pakistani Taliban will not relent unless the Americans leave Afghanistan, after which the Indians there will have to contend with a Pakistani response. Most Pakistanis believe that terrorism in the tribal areas and Balochistan is being fomented by India, although no proof has yet been made public about it. Pakistanis also look at America as their enemy which is determined to snatch Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and thus reduce Pakistan to a power of unequal status vis-à-vis India. Retired army officers used as experts of strategy by the TV channels throw in Israel and Mossad as the other destabilising factor in the equation. Given this situation, it is difficult to conceive how the state of Pakistan is morally and psychologically prepared to fight the man who kills its soldiers on a daily basis.