Thursday, March 05, 2009

Bad day all round for the values of civilisation

From The Australian, March 04, 2009, by Greg Sheridan, Foreign Editor:

THIS appalling outrage in the Pakistani city of Lahore, closely modelled on last November's terrorist bombings in India's Mumbai, represents a new template for al-Qa'ida and like-minded groups around the world.

Lahore is the ancient capital city ofthe Punjab, Pakistan's largest province. Its desecration through this terrorist attack is a savage blow to the Pakistani state. It is second only to the murder of Bennazir Bhutto in demonstrating the continuing, and worsening, crisis in Pakistan.

The question deserves to be asked: are we witnessing the unravelling of Pakistan? ...Clearly, terrorists can now strike anywhere in Pakistan, and seemingly at will. The Government cannot carry out the most basic function of a state -- securing its own territory, whether that be the tribal regions, the badlands on the borders, or even its cities.

This brazen attack is also a declaration to the Pakistani Government that it bought absolutely nothing through its deal with the Taliban in the Swat Valley. You cannot buy your way clear of terrorists. They take whatever coin you offer and then renew the attack anyway.

Nonetheless, the only sensible option for the West, for the US and Australia, is to increase assistance to the ramshackle Pakistani Government.

The Pakistani state is facing a crisis of competence and capability. But if the state were to fail it would be replaced by the terrorists. The urgent priority, therefore, is to bolster the state, however difficult andin some senses even futile that may seem.

The other disturbing conclusion from this attack is that we will see more like them. Western intelligence agencies believe that al-Qa'ida and affiliated groups have fully internalised what they see as the success of the Mumbai attacks. They caused havoc, disrupted a major city for days, killed a lot of people and dominated the global media for much longer than a single bombing, no matter how destructive, was likely to do.

Western intelligence agencies believe there is a good chance that the next big terrorist attack in a Western society could follow the Mumbai model, now repeated in Lahore.

This is a bad day all round for the values of civilisation.
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