Thursday, December 10, 2009

From Mumbait o Multan

COMING as it did a day after blasts killed about 50 people in a crowded market in the eastern city of Lahore, the gun and bomb assault on the intelligence agency office in the central city of Multan that left at least 12 people dead on Tuesday demonstrates how the wave of bombings and gunfire that have become a daily occurrence in Pakistan have not been restricted to the rugged hills and pine forests on its long border with Afghanistan. In recent months, there have been suicide blasts and commando-style attacks not only in the capital of the Northwest Frontier Province, Peshawar, but also in Islamabad, the national capital, and the garrison city of Rawalpindi, which houses the Pakistani army's headquarters. Though it is widely believed that these have been retaliatory strikes in response to the military offensive against the Taliban in the tribal region of South Waziristan, there are many, however, who prefer to see a hidden Indian hand in the attacks .

It may be a step too far to lend much credence to such talk. After all, conspiracy theories are hardly new. Right after the terrorist attacks on Mumbai last year, people in Pakistan believed it was an Indian conspiracy just as much as the people in India believed that Pakistan was behind the atrocities. Although Pakistan has put seven men on trial for the massacre, India still refuses to reopen talks that were broken off after the assault. As a result, tensions remain high between the two countries. That conspiracy theories implicating India in the recent surge of violence have gained wide currency in Pakistan highlights the urgency of the need to improve relations between Pakistan and India. It is as central and as inextricable a link as the militant nexus between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and should not be reduced to a sideshow in the frontline battle against a resurgent Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

With India as vulnerable to more Mumbai-style attacks as Pakistan is to more Multan-type assaults, this is not the time for both countries to continue to point fingers at each other. No one suggests that it would be easy to put aside 60 years of suspicion and acrimony. But with the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan getting from bad to worse, the clock is ticking. It is in the interest of everyone that both countries come to the table to resolve their differences and work with each other to establish peace and stability in South Asia. New Straits Times editorial

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