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The Hindu: Lessons and Challenges for Pakistan

November 24, 2009

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On the anniversary of Mumbai attacks in November 2008, Asia Society Fellow Hassan Abbas writes of Pakistan's struggles against religious extremists and militants.

The tragic Mumbai attacks in November 2008 unfortunately derailed the India-Pakistan peace process in its wake. It should have brought both countries closer instead. The humanistic traditions and values of the Indian sub-continent and Indus Valley civilisation demanded so. On the contrary, masterminds of the terror attacks are succeeding so far because disruption of South Asian peace process was one of their prime targets. India legitimately expected that Pakistan would do its best to pursue and prosecute those involved in the heinous crime but in its hour of pain and grief it forgot that Pakistan is also a victim of terrorism and is passing through turbulent times.

Pakistan has faced enormous challenges in 2009. It has been confronted with the growing menace of terrorism ó ranging from militancy in the Swat valley to insurgency in parts of the Pashtun-dominated Federally Administered Tribal Areas bordering Afghanistan. Dozens of suicide bombers have targeted urban centres of Pakistan, killing civilians and security forces alike. Police and law enforcement have lost hundreds of their personnel in this battle this year alone. The fact that even Pakistan armyís General Headquarters in Rawalpindi and the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) offices in Lahore and Peshawar were also attacked indicate that terrorists consider them their arch enemy. Somehow, the significance of these developments has not been fully recognised in India.

Pakistani public opinion about the identity of militants and terrorists has transformed in to a great degree. The earlier denial and misperception that Ďoutsiders are doing all thisí has given way to acceptance of the fact that countryís internal dynamics are largely responsible for the rise of violence. There is also an understanding that religious extremism has played a gruesome role in all of this. People increasingly acknowledge that domestic and foreign policy mistakes of 1980s and 1990s are coming back to haunt the country.

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