WHEN it comes to laying blame for terrorism in Pakistan, there are usually two schools of thought. One posits that all such acts are the work of the much-feared foreign hand, sometimes Indian, sometimes American or Israeli and, increasingly often, Afghan.
Were it not for the active encouragement and support of these hostile powers, Pakistan would live at peace with itself. Muslims don’t kill Muslims after all, unless they’re Afghans. Or Indian Muslims. It’s clearly complicated.
On the other side of the chasm are those who say that the exact opposite is true; that all the various groups brutalising Pakistan are home-grown and home-sponsored. That there is no proof of any kind of foreign involvement and that all those who point to such a possibility are deep in denial, and possibly part of the deep state.
They’re both right and wrong at the same time. Let’s start with the latter. Pakistan has had a history of using non-state actors to fulfil strategic objectives. These groups were nurtured, trained and motivated and seen as an effective, low-cost tool for waging a relatively deniable low-intensity conflict with a conventionally superior foe.

It is the ‘how’ we should be concerned with.


Of course, that whole ‘low-cost’ part is only valid if you ignore the irreparable harm that state patronage to such extremists has done, and continues to do, to the tattered social fabric of this country. You’ll also have to ignore that even the best non-state tools (‘good’ is just clichéd now) can and do go out of control and act as if they have a mind, and an agenda of their own. We’ve heard this song many times, and the notes still ring true.
But what of the ‘third force’? Every once in a while dark hints are dropped by officials as to the extent of foreign interference in Pakistan, though no actual proof is ever presented beyond some random blog screaming about uncircumcised terrorists and such. Still, the case is compelling. Take Mullah Fazlullah’s presence in Afghanistan, for example. Or that the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan’s Latif Mehsud was colluding with Afghan intelligence.
Then there’s India. Do they fund those taking up arms against Pakistan? There are valid concerns that they do, and have been doing so for some time now for reasons that even casual geopolitical analysis would lay bare. Now there’s a right-wing government in place in India, and Modi’s national security team is comprised of some serious players who would like nothing better than to ‘fix’ Pakistan.
We are seen as having fomented discord in India, as well as being a veritable arm of China, which is arguably seen as the chief security challenge to India in those circles. Thus, keeping Pakistan consumed with its internal problems is indeed desirable.
But it is not the ‘why’ that should occupy us. States with historically hostile relations can and do try and destabilise one another. We’ve done it in full public view and its certainly no great perfidy that others should be trying to do it to us. That’s simply the way the world has always worked, and will likely continue to work. It’s the ‘how’ that we should be concerned with.
And that’s easy to answer. Imagine for a moment that you were tasked with damaging Pakistan. After having examined its fault lines, divisions and vulnerabilities, you’d find yourself spoiled for choice. You’d see a country that has in fact exacerbated every fracture that ever existed, from ethnic to linguistic to sectarian.
You’d see a state where terrorists walk free when arrested (if they’re ever arrested in the first place), where hate graffiti covers too many walls, where murderers are garlanded and their sympathisers sit in pulpits, parliament, court benches and the barracks alike. You’d be forgiven for rubbing your hands with glee and wondering just how stupid these people are, to leave themselves so deliberately naked and vulnerable, with so many open wounds just crying out for a touch of infection.
You would also see a country where the civilian and military leaderships, if such a grandiose term can be used for the ad hocism that prevails in the corridors of power, are at loggerheads. You’d see state agencies obsessed with carrying out witch-hunts, with playing traitor games and rallying the most fringe and dangerous elements to their defence. You’d see all the powers of propaganda they are capable of marshalling used, but not against the true enemies of the state.
Also, when attacking Pakistan, the best part is that you won’t even need to import terrorists, since they’re all here to begin with, and quite eager to get funding and training from wherever they can, even from states that will eventually also become their targets.
But that’s a concern for a later day. Today, you’ll just be happy to have the easiest job in the world.
The writer is a member of staff.