State of Delusion

The murder by the Taliban of more than 130 schoolchildren in Peshawar on December 16 has stunned Pakistan, and indeed the world. But the incident marks only an escalation in the brutality of jihadis, not its beginning. Over the years, Pakistan’s homegrown terrorists have bombed Shia and Ahmadi mosques, Sunni shrines, Christian churches and Hindu temples. Over a thousand attacks on schools by the Taliban have been reported since 2009, mainly in the northwestern Pakhtunkhwa province. Jihadi targets over the years have included local ISI offices in several cities, naval and air force bases in Karachi and Kamra, the Karachi International Airport and even the army’s General Headquarters. If the breadth of attrition has not cured Pakistan’s jihadi addiction, would the death of innocent children and the burning alive of their teachers in a Peshawar school result in a fundamental change of heart?

Soon after the Peshawar carnage, Maulana Abdul Aziz of the infamous Islamabad Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, refused to condemn the Taliban’s action, indicating the stubbornness of the jihadi worldview. Taliban apologist Imran Khan parsed his words to condemn the act but not its perpetrators by name. Another Pakistani establishment favourite, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed of Lashkar-e-Toiba/Jamaat-ud-Dawa, went on television to blame India for the Taliban’s school attack and vowed revenge inside India.

The roots of Pakistan’s jihadism lie in its establishment’s obsession with India, which goes back to partition, the twonation theory and the fear that powerful forces want the dismemberment of Pakistan. The break-up of Pakistan in 1971, and the emergence of an independent Bangladesh in erstwhile East Pakistan, has reinforced national paranoia instead of convincing the country’s Punjabi elite of the need to come to terms with Pakistan’s size and power and finding security within the parameters of reality.

Pakistan’s constructed identity emphasises religion and ideology at the expense of ethnic, linguistic and sectarian diversity of a complex society. As a result, the country’s approach to national security has been driven by ideological rather than pragmatic considerations. Although Pakistan’s military and civil bureaucracy both originated from institutions created under the British, their approach and attitudes have progressively been driven more by the ‘ideology of Pakistan’ than the professionalism that they often project to outsiders.

The relationship between Pakistan and jihadism cannot be understood without understanding the country’s ideological dimension, the fact that it was created as a result of an idea. Pakistan has a national narrative, a national milieu and a national identity all built around Islam. For the first 30 years of Pakistan’s existence the clamour was for religiosity within and Pan-Islamism in foreign policy. For the next 30 years global jihadism has been the overarching security and foreign policy idea that has advanced the Pakistani ideology.

Even though three successive commanders of the Pakistani army-Gen Pervez Musharraf, Gen Ashfaq Kayani and now Gen Raheel Sharif-have sought to curtail the jihadis’ influence within Pakistan, including through military operations, their efforts have always fallen short because of the nation’s ideological compulsions. The ideology of Pakistan, and the falsified historic narrative taught in schools to justify it, produces sympathy in society for Sharia rule, for an Islamic caliphate and an Islamic state. This works in favour of more than 33 militant groups that operate out of Pakistan. Pakistan’s strategic planners may see no difficulty in eliminating global terrorists and fighting local jihadis while supporting regional ones. But the general public is conflicted in its attitude towards jihadi groups. Unfortunately for those who want to stop the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, their rhetoric about Sharia and against western values resonates with supporters of other, ostensibly ‘more palatable’, jihadi groups even if their methods are abhorred by Pakistanis.

For most countries, nuclear weapons are the ultimate guarantee against invasion or territorial extinction. But to the disciples of the ‘ideology of Pakistan’, security is not enough. Built in into the two-nation theory is the notion of parity between Muslim Pakistan and Hindu India. The events of the last 67 years may have rendered the twonation theory redundant. The number of Muslims living in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh is now roughly equal and there are more Muslims in the subcontinent that live outside Pakistan than in it. But the ideological conception of Pakistan requires that it claim the mantle of Muslim nationhood and pursue equivalence to India in status, power and international standing.

Pakistan’s size and economy does not allow it to be on a par with a much larger and increasingly wealthier India. The machinations of the Cold War that enabled Pakistani leaders to punch beyond their weight through alliance with the West, especially the United States, is also over. That leaves asymmetric warfare through jihadis as the only strategic option for Pakistan’s ideologues. The other course, that of pursuing security and prosperity of geographic Pakistan and its people without insisting on the ideology of Pakistan, has simply not found sufficient resonance among Islamabad’s powerful quarters.


The case made by Pakistan’s ideologues is appealing to Pakistanis even as it drags the country down the road of tragedies similar to the recent one in Peshawar. In 1947, the country inherited few resources and feared strangulation at birth. The partition riots and the exclusion of Jammu and Kashmir scarred Pakistan’s founding generation. The country survived because of its people’s resilience and its leaders’ adept Cold War alliances.

As early as 1948, Pakistan’s first military foray into Kashmir involved lashkars from the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan. The irregular fighter added to the Pakistani military’s muscle. Engaging the tribesmen in jihad across the Indus, in Kashmir, pre-empted the possibility of their becoming involved in schemes for Pashtunistan-the land of the Pashtuns-advocated at the time by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and the government of Afghanistan. Thus began Pakistan’s tolerance and support for non-state actors tied by ideological nationalism to the strategic vision of Pakistan’s military establishment.

In the 1980s, Pakistan’s policy received a shot in the arm with the US decision to support the mujahideen in Afghanistan in order to combat the Soviet Union. As substantial amounts of money, weapons and fighters flowed in, Pakistan’s security establishment began setting up camps to not only train fighters to battle in Afghanistan, but also in Jammu and Kashmir. Today, a wide array of militant organisations operate in Pakistan with safe havens in urban and rural areas. Some of these include sectarian organisations that target religious minorities and Muslim sects (Sipah-e-Sahaba), anti-India outfits (Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed), anti-Afghanistan groups (Mullah Omar’s Taliban and the Haqqani network), and militants waging war against the Pakistani military (Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan).

The 9/11 attacks and the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan was the first turning point in the nature of militancy in Pakistan. General Musharraf was quick to sever ties with the Taliban government in Kabul and supported American operations in Afghanistan. To give the peace process with India some traction, he put a temporary halt on militant flow into Jammu and Kashmir. In April 1999, Musharraf had told a group of retired military officers that “Taliban are my strategic reserve and I can unleash them in tens of thousands against India when I want”. By 2002, he had changed his tune, nominally banning groups such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba. But the banned organisations and their leadership were allowed to operate under new names.

Under Musharraf, Pakistan began differentiating between jihadi groups. While foreign terrorists with links to al-Qaeda were handed over to the United States, local and regional militants (sectarian, anti-India and anti-Afghan groups) were left alone. Some militants built capacity to challenge the writ of the state right under the nose of Pakistani security forces. They have inflicted huge casualties on security forces in Pakistan and Afghanistan over the years. Other groups such as the Haqqani network were ‘managed’ by intelligence agencies in a bid to exert influence on events in Afghanistan.

The current Pakistani problem of increasing terrorism at home is the result of that policy. While the state might differentiate among terrorists, the jihadis often tend to be sympathetic and supportive towards one another. The jihadis supported by the establishment end up supporting terrorists attacking Pakistan’s army and civilians. As is often the case with ideologically motivated militants, ideology takes precedence over strategy and, in the case of jihadis, even those accepting Pakistani state support see the value of some fighters using force to Islamise Pakistan further even at the cost of undermining the country’s stability. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, 19,152 civilians and 5,839 security force personnel lost their lives in terrorismrelated violence between 2003 and 2014, excluding the casualties of the latest massacre in Peshawar.

Pakistan’s adherence to an ideological nationalism based on Islam has allowed radical groups to propagate their message and raise large sums of money without much hindrance. Further, while the military and intelligence coercive apparatus has been strong, the local police has never been provided the political support, resources and skills required to be able to combat these radical outfits. Faced with a poorly trained and demoralised police force, some groups run extortion and kidnapping rackets in urban centres. They also raise money through narcotics trafficking and trade of smuggled goods. The militant organisations have thus a sophisticated system of raising funds to support their activities that would enable them to operate even after the Pakistani state has made a final decision to cut them off. So far, unfortunately, that decision itself seems elusive. For years, Pakistan has been living in denial. For years, Pakistan denied support for the Afghan Taliban or the existence of Kashmiri jihadi training camps. The presence of al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, was attributed to the inadvertent consequences of Pakistan’s involvement in the anti-Soviet jihad of the 1980s. But denial does not offer a way forward. Pakistan’s Islamo-nationalism has bred radicalism, diminished economic growth and weakened its international standing. Also unknown is the extent of ideological radicalisation within Pakistan’s armed forces, which remain the country’s dominant institution.


There have been numerous instances of military officers, non-commissioned officers and enlisted men co-operating with jihadists or deserting their service to join jihadist ranks. But the Pakistani military tends to hold back information on the matter, making an assessment of the extent of this problem difficult. Incidents such as the attacks on the Pakistani naval base ‘Mehran’ in 2011, air force base Kamra in 2012 and the 2014 foiled attempt by Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) to take over a navy frigate in Karachi harbour point to the persistence of jihadi influence within the ranks of the armed forces.

Jamat-ud-Dawaleader Hafiz Saeed during Arallyin Islamabad In May, Courtesy: AFPAs US and NATO forces withdraw from Afghanistan, it is unlikely that the Pakistani establishment would want to give up its decades-long pursuit of paramountcy over Afghanistan. Faced with international pressure as well as growing threats from the Pakistani Taliban, Pakistan has cleared out the known jihadist sanctuaries in North Waziristan. This has deprived Afghan groups such as the Haqqani network of their former headquarters. But Pakistan has neither acted against nor militarily confronted the Afghan Taliban leaders and the Haqqani network is believed to have relocated to other parts of FATA.

Pakistan’s policy in the immediate future would likely be to engage with the government of Afghanistan and the US in negotiations, with the stated objective of finding a negotiated settlement with the Taliban. At the same time Pakistan will most likely continue to try and militarily change the ground situation in Afghanistan in an effort to force the world to deal with de facto Taliban control of parts of Afghanistan as fait accompli. In Islamabad’s view, this would enable it to determine the final terms of an Afghan settlement, resulting in India’s exclusion from Afghanistan and the northwestern neighbour being acknowledged as Pakistan’s sphere of influence.

But are fantasies of parity with India and paramountcy over Afghanistan realistic policies? For 67 years, Pakistan has developed one element of national power-the military one-at the cost of all other elements of national power. The country’s institutions, ranging from schools and universities to the judiciary, are in a state of general decline. The economy’s stuttering growth is dependent largely on the flow of concessional flows of external resources. Pakistan’s GDP stands at $245 billion in absolute terms and $845 billion in purchasing price parity-the smallest economy of any country that has so far tested nuclear weapons.

Twenty-two per cent of the population lives below the poverty line and another 21 per cent lives just above it, resulting in almost half the people of Pakistan being very poor. It is little comfort for Pakistanis living in poverty when they are told that poverty across the border in India or Afghanistan is even starker.

Soon after independence, 16.4 per cent of Pakistan’s population was literate compared with 18.3 per cent of the much larger population in India. By 2011 India had managed to attain 74.04 per cent literacy while Pakistan’s literacy rate stood at 57 per cent. What was atwo percentage points difference in literacy rates has expanded into a nearly 20 percentage points difference in 67 years. In 2009, Pakistan allocated 2.7 per cent of its budget for education-the school life expectancy is seven years.

A staggering 38 per cent of Pakistanis between the school-going age of five and 15 are completely out of school. With a population of 180-190 million out of which 60 per cent fall in the working age category of 15-64 and another 35 per cent under 14 years of age, Pakistan has a demographic dividend which can also turn into a demographic nightmare. The low literacy rate and inadequate investment in education has led to a decline in Pakistan’s technological base, which in turn hampers economic modernisation. Textiles is the country’s major industry but despite being a major cotton-producer, Pakistan has been unable to become a leader in value-added textile products.

With one of the lowest tax-to-GDP ratios in the world of around 9 per cent, a GDP growth rate of 1.7-2.4 per cent and population growth rate of 1.5 per cent, Pakistan needs foreign as well as domestic investment in addition to drastic changes in local laws, all of which need broad political consensus and stability, both of which are lacking.

With almost 40 per cent of its population urbanised, the Pakistan government spends around 2.6 per cent on public healthcare. As a result, social services are also in a state of decline. On the other hand, Pakistan spends almost 6 per cent of its GDP on defence and is still unable to match the conventional forces of India, which outspends Pakistan 3 to 1 while allocating less than 3 per cent of GDP to military spending.

Over the decades, Pakistan has managed to evade crises and failure status primarily because the international community has bailed it out. But now the rest of the world sees Pakistan as ‘jihad central.’ Training camps nestled in the tribal areas have trained and equipped militants who have gone on to fight in the name of Allah in different regions of the world. Foreign fighters trained in Pakistan have reportedly been in action in Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Mali, Nigeria and China’s Xinjiang region. It is no longer possible to keep Pakistani jihadis as a strategic reserve only to cause damage to India.

Instead of securing parity with India and paramountcy over Afghanistan, jihadis have only created greater internal crises and disruption within Pakistan. It might be a difficult decision but Pakistan must recognise the heavy cost being exacted by its pursuit of regional influence through asymmetric warfare. Fighting some jihadis while embracing others is self-defeating. Thirty years of escalated jihadism since the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan has caused erosion of the writ of the Pakistani state and decline in capacity of state institutions, especially the coercive apparatus.

Even with sporadic military operations, Pakistan’s tribal areas will remain host for some time to a wide range of militant organisations with local, regional and global agendas. Pakistan’s most populous area, Punjab, is now the main recruitment area not only for the Pakistani army but also for assorted jihadi groups. The growing presence of jihadis in south Punjab and northern Sind and even Pakistan’s financial hub, Karachi, does not augur well for Pakistan’s economy.

Pakistan’s jihadis are already exercising virtual veto over Pakistan’s relations with India. The Mumbai attack proved Lashkar-e-Toiba’s ability to undermine the initiatives of a civilian government for normalisation of India-Pakistan relations. They could, in future, force the Pakistani military’s hand in a similar manner. Pakistan needs to get out of denial that there are any jihadi groups that can be trusted or considered allies of the state. However useful they might have been for external purposes, non-state actors will always be a danger for the state internally. Instead of increasing Pakistan’s strategic options, as they were designed to do, the jihadis are now limiting Pakistan’s foreign policy choices.

Instead of doubling down on its jihadist misadventure, Pakistan could plot its course out of the disaster. To do so, it would have to change the defensive national narrative about Pakistan’s creation, raison d’etre and prospects of survival. So far, any discussion of the nation’s origins that does not conform to the ‘ideology of Pakistan’ has been treated not as history but as an attack on the country’s foundation.


After mobilising support for the demand for Pakistan, and establishing it as an independent country, successive Pakistani leaders have chosen to keep alive the divisive frenzy that led to Partition. If Pakistan was attained with the slogan ‘Islam in danger’, it has been built on the slogan ‘Pakistan in danger’, creating a constant sense of insecurity among its people, especially in relation to India and internal demands for ethnic identity or pluralism. This might be the time to revisit the ideas of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Bengal’s Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, who had opposed the conjuring of this ‘ideology of Pakistan’.

Suhrawardy had told Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly in March 1948 against building Pakistani nationalism around the notion of Islam being under threat. According to him, the rhetoric used to mobilise Muslims for the creation of Pakistan was no longer needed after independence. “You are raising the cry,” he said, “of Pakistan in danger for the purpose of arousing Muslim sentiments and binding them together in order to maintain you in power.” Suhrawardy warned against transforming Pakistan into a state “founded on sentiments, namely that of Islam in danger or of Pakistan in danger”. He declared that “a state which will be held together by raising the bogey of attacks” and “friction” with enemies “will be full of alarms and excursions”. Suhrawardy’s words seem almost prophetic today. He said, “You think that you will get away with it but in that state there will be no commerce, no business and no trade. There will be lawlessness and those lawless elements that may be turned today against non-Muslims will be turned later on, once those fratricidal tendencies have been aroused, against the Muslim gentry and I want you to be warned in time.” He also defined the two key issues for the new country.The “fundamental aspect of the foundations of Pakistan”, he asserted, should be “the goodwill of the people and of the citizens of Pakistan within the state” and “the mutual relationship between the Dominion of Pakistan and the sister dominion, Indian Union”.

If the Pakistani establishment decides to turn the corner, it would have to stop treating Pakistan’s anti-jihadists as its enemies and gradually embrace a new national narrative for the country. Confronting the jihadists comprehensively would make Pakistan more secure, paving the way for greater prosperity and a place under the sun. Refusing to confront and marginalise them will only lead to recurrent tragedies like the one in Peshawar, followed by grief and outrage.

Pakistan’s Greatest Enemy is Denial

Over the last few decades, Pakistanis have become accustomed to terrorists, as well as terrorism. But the Taliban’s slaughter of schoolchildren in Peshawar on Tuesday was an unprecedented act of savagery. It has caused grief and generated outrage that earlier attacks on hotels, mosques, shrines and even the army headquarters did not.

But will Pakistanis respond to the Peshawar school attack by starting to change the national narrative that has brought us to this point? Or will the narrative take over, as it has done after previous tragedies, allowing tweaking of Pakistani policy without significantly changing it? The December 16 attack is the result of a sustained national policy gone wrong. It can only be changed by a new, sustained policy.

The origins of Pakistan’s ill-fated romance with jihadism lie in the notion that the country faces an existential threat from India. Driven by six decades of insecurity, the Pakistani deep state wants the country to have parity in status and power with India, a country more than six times the size of Pakistan and increasingly wealthier. Arguments about the 1947 Partition and the two-nation theory, hardly relevant in the current context, continue to fuel the ideology of Pakistan. The division of Pakistan and the birth of Bangladesh, with support from India, in 1971, also still looms large in the Pakistani elite’s imagination.

Jihadi militancy and terrorism have just been ways of enabling Pakistan to stand up to a bigger and increasingly powerful India through asymmetrical warfare. During the war against the Soviets, Pakistan used American money, weapons and training not only to equip fighters to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, but to also raise brigades of irregular fighters for Jammu and Kashmir and for permanent influence across the Durand Line.

The problem with ideologically motivated warriors is that their ideology can morph and mutate in directions unacceptable to a pragmatic state. The attacks within Pakistan by the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) and other militant groups should have made the Pakistani deep state realise some time ago that asymmetric warfare through ideologues is not a reliable military capability.

Islamist extremism has always brought with it a domestic component that hampers Pakistan’s evolution as a modern state. There will always be extremists who say, “Why are women wearing Western dress? Why are girls going to school? Why are we accepting Shias or Ahmadis or non-Muslims as equal citizens?” Similarly, the Inter-Services Intelligence might feel reassured by commitments from the Haqqani network, Mullah Omar’s Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Toiba/ Jamaat-ud-Dawa to not conduct militant operations inside Pakistan. But there is no guarantee that these instruments of regional influence would not, in turn, support groups such as Sipah-e-Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Pakistani Taliban, which can attack inside Pakistan.

Hillary Clinton, the then US secretary of state, had told Pakistani officials in October 2011, “You can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbours.” She also predicted that “Eventually, those snakes are going to turn on whoever has them in the backyard.” There was wisdom in those words that Pakistani leaders have yet to heed.

The policy of allowing militant groups to operate on Pakistani soil has proved disastrous. Jihadi militants do not accept the neat divisions between global, regional and local conflicts. Once they are convinced of the righteousness of their cause, they are willing to fight and blow themselves up anywhere.

Pakistan’s greatest enemy at the moment is denial. It is time to acknowledge that jihadi groups cannot be trusted or considered allies of the state. However useful the Pakistani deep state might consider them for external purposes, they will always be dangerous internally. And their usefulness in expanding Pakistan’s external influence is also severely overstated.

Armed with a nuclear deterrent, Pakistan can shed the paranoia and insecurity that have led to the current establishment mindset. Instead of being content with sporadic battles against groups like the TTP, as in Swat in 2008 and North Waziristan more recently, the Pakistani military could take the lead in trying to change the national narrative completely.

The new narrative would acknowledge the dangers of jihadist extremism without ifs and buts and would give up on the projection of national power disproportionate to Pakistan’s size and resources. Without that fundamental change, we will continue to have tragedies similar to the one on Tuesday, followed by transient anger and remorse.

Instead of cultivating only those elements in the Pakistani discourse that support the jihadi perspective, maybe it is time for the Pakistani establishment to stop treating the anti-jihadists within the country as its enemies. As out of control extremists widen their war to take Pakistan back to medieval times, those deemed traitors by Pakistan’s establishment might prove to be the only ones interested in saving Pakistan as a contemporary state. Alas, the establishment, set in its ways, does not change easily.

CNN Interview: Husain Haqqani on the Pakistani Taliban School Attack

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I’m Wolf Blitzer, reporting from Washington.

Let’s get back to our top story, slaughter in Pakistan. After one of Pakistan’s bloodiest days, there are defiant pledges to strike back against terrorism. But we must remember, this is a country that has been gripped by an insurgency now for more than a decade. The Pakistan Taliban, other terror groups, they’ve killed tens of thousands since Pakistan joined the United States in the war on terror.

We’re joined now by the former Pakistan ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani. He’s also the director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute here in Washington, a think tank.

Ambassador, thanks for coming in.

Who are these terrorists, these savages that can go into a school and say, if you’re below puberty, you’re not going to die, but if you’re 13, 14, 15, you’re dead? Why would these people do that to young school kids?

HUSAIN HAQQANI, FORMER PAKISTAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: Wolf, we’ve already seen Boko Haram in Nigeria which does the same thing. They’re all chips off the same block. They all believe in just wanting to overrun the countries where they are trying to wage wars and they want basically no one to learn anything that is modern. And they want their own way of life as they see it to be imposed on everyone by force. So they are savages. The issue is, how do we deal with it? And —

BLITZER: How? What’s the answer?

HAQQANI: And what we need essentially is that there is a lot of sadness today and there’s a lot of outrage in my country, Pakistan. And I share it. But we need to transform it into resolve. Pakistan has seen these attacks for many, many years. We’ve lost at least 20,000 civilians and more than 6,000, 7,000 soldiers fighting the menace. But unless and until we decide that all terrorists need to be eliminated and that their ideology needs to be delegitimized instead of saying they have some legitimate grievances against the West, basically no grievance actually allows something like what happened in Peshawar.

BLITZER: They don’t want any education, certainly not for girls, right? HAQQANI: They don’t want education for girls. They don’t want

Western education. They want a specific type of education. But I don’t think this was about education. This was about retaliation for the Pakistani army’s very belated but brave effort to deprive them from having a safe haven in the north, where they have been ensconced for a long time. But unfortunately, Pakistan’s problem has been, as Hillary Clinton put it, that you can’t have snakes in your backyard in the hope that they will only bite the neighbors. Today these snakes, of course, are biting Pakistanis, and Pakistan needs to have a comprehensive strategy against all jihadi groups.

BLITZER: These children, 130 out of 141 people who were killed, 130 at least school kids, they’re children of Pakistan military officers —

HAQQANI: Not all of them. A lot of them are civilians. But, Wolf, every child is your child, every child is my child. And if their father is in the Pakistani military, that’s something for them to be proud of and for us to be proud of. The real issue here is it confused society where some political leaders, for their own objectives, many media leaders, have told the people of Pakistan that somehow this extremism is an outgrowth, a product of just politics. It’s not. It’s a mindset. And that mindset needs to be fought and competed with. And it hasn’t been done. That’s why we are having these attacks.

BLITZER: What is the connection between the Pakistan Taliban and ISIS, al Qaeda, al Shabaab?

HAQQANI: They all share a similar ideology. Most of them were borne out of the war against the Soviets. That’s when they got military training. But since then, they’ve all gone on their own. There are elements within the Pakistani Taliban who actually have pledged some kind of allegiance or support for ISIS. There are others. There are factions. The problem is that this cannot be seen as like a company having another spin-off. These are people with a shared world view, but with different organizations who operate. And all of them, all of them are a problem for the whole world and for Pakistan.

BLITZER: How good or bad is U.S./Pakistan cooperation in the war on terror right now?

HAQQANI: Well, the U.S. and Pakistan have continued to struggle in having cooperation. The biggest problem is that Pakistan has not made the decision to treat all terrorist groups as equally bad. The consequence of that is, for example, only a few days ago, a terrorist group, which is believed by the Americans, by the Indians, by the rest of the world as being responsible for the Mumbai attacks just a few years ago, that group openly held its convention in the Pakistani city of Lahore. Now, that annoys the Americans. But the American government continues to give financial support to Pakistan and military support. The question is, will Pakistan be able to transfer its grief and anger into serious policy which basically delegitimizes all jihadi extremists, all Taliban, all factions of militant groups that are operating in Pakistan.

BLITZER: Ambassador Haqqani, thanks for joining us.

HAQQANI: Pleasure being here.

BLITZER: Husain Haqqani is the former Pakistani ambassador to the United States.

Pakistan’s Tolerance of Jihadis Backfires Badly

Pakistanis are still grappling with the tragedy of the Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar that left at least 141 people, most of them children, dead and scores injured. There has been an outpouring of grief internationally, and the Pakistani public is visibly outraged. But the question being widely asked is whether Pakistan’s military and political leaders can transform grief and outrage into a clear policy that would rid the country of its reputation as both a victim of and magnet for terrorists.

Even before this incident, Pakistan had one of the highest casualty rates at the hand of terrorists. About 19,700 civilians and 6,000 security force personnel have been reported killed in terrorism related violence in Pakistan since 2003. But the country refuses to develop a comprehensive approach to fighting or containing the 33-odd terrorist groups believed to be operating on Pakistani soil.

The latest attack is the Taliban’s response to the Pakistan army’s military operation against the terrorist safe haven in North Waziristan, part of the tribal region along the border with Afghanistan. Jihadis from all over the world had congregated in the tribal areas to fight as Mujahedeen against the Soviets during the 1980s. After the Soviets left, Pakistan used the militants for its own objectives of expanding Pakistani influence in Afghanistan, leading to the rise of the Taliban.

After 9/11, Pakistan cooperated with the United States in dislodging the Taliban from power in Kabul, only to give them sanctuary on its territory. Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who ruled as military dictator from 1999 to 2008, crafted a graduated policy that differentiated between various terrorist groups. While many foreign (mainly Arab) terrorists with links to Al-Qaeda were handed over to the United States, local jihadis as well as the Afghan Taliban were left alone. Covert support for the Afghan Taliban was Pakistan’s insurance policy to deal with the aftermath of a U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

While the Afghan Taliban may have felt indebted to Pakistan’s intelligence service, the Pakistani Taliban had no such feelings. Inspired initially by Al-Qaeda and more recently by Daesh (the Islamic State), various factions of Pakistani Taliban have waged war against the people and state of Pakistan. While they have been consistent in their savagery, Pakistani authorities have not been consistent in their response to their threat.

In 2008, Pakistan’s military cleared out the Taliban from the Swat valley, home of Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai. More recently, new Army Chief General Raheel Sharif ordered his troops into North Waziristan. Although the Pakistanis have routed and displaced several jihadi groups based in the tribal areas, the terrorists retain the ability to regroup and resume operations in other parts of the country.

The savage attack in Peshawar demonstrates the futility of attacking one group of jihadis while leaving others in place. But there is still no sign that Pakistan will give up its policy of embracing some jihadis for regional influence against India and Afghanistan while fighting others.

Pakistan’s military and intelligence service still hold on to the notion that the country faces an existential threat from its much larger neighbor, India, out of which Pakistan was carved out in 1947. The division of Pakistan and the birth of Bangladesh, with support from India, in 1971 also still loom large in the Pakistani elite’s imagination.

Although nuclear deterrence should have bolstered Pakistan’s national self-confidence, the nation feels more insecure now than it did in its early years. Pakistanis readily believe conspiracy theories about the United States and Israel, in addition to India, wanting to take away its nuclear weapons.

Jihadi militancy and terrorism have traditionally been ways of enabling Pakistan to stand up to a bigger and increasingly powerful India through asymmetrical warfare. During the war against the Soviets, Pakistan used American money, weapons and training not only to equip fighters for fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, but also to raise brigades of irregular fighters for Indian-controlled Kashmir.

The policy of allowing militant groups to operate on Pakistani soil has proved disastrous. The jihadi militants do not accept the neat divisions between global, regional and local conflicts. Once they are convinced of the righteousness of their cause, they are willing to fight and blow themselves up anywhere. Rising militancy coupled with a significant decline in the capacity of the state has enabled Pakistan-based jihadi groups to wreak havoc not only in India and Afghanistan but also in Pakistan and its friendly neighbors, Iran and China.

Extremist Islamists and jihadists have benefited from Pakistan’s self-definition as an Islamic state. Given the centrality of Islam in Pakistan’s national identity, secular leaders find it difficult to create national consensus against groups that describe themselves as soldiers of Islam. But a consensus against militancy is what Pakistan badly needs. On several occasions during the last few years, Taliban atrocities have resulted in backlash that has subsequently abated as a result of propaganda against India or the West.

In October 2011, Hillary Clinton had told Pakistani officials that “you can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbors.” Her dire prediction that “eventually those snakes are going to turn on whoever has them in the backyard” has been coming true with considerable regularity. The senseless massacre of schoolchildren in Peshawar represents a new level of atrociousness in the Taliban’s behavior. Will it finally convince Pakistanis to hunt down the snakes in their backyard?

Ex-Pakistani Ambassador to US: Get Tougher With Islamabad

A former Pakistani ambassador to the United States who now lives in exile in the West told Newsmax TV on Wednesday that trust between the two countries will always be strained as long as the U.S. remains an ally of Pakistan’s greatest adversary: India.

Link to watch interview: