• Wednesday, March 11, 2015 - 05:30

By Nitin Gokhale | The News Minute | December 17, 2014 | 7:20 am IST

That Tuesday's Peshawar massacre is the most despicable terrorist attack in Pakistan is undeniable. 

That this is a moment of truth for the Pakistani Army is also indisputable. 

It has to now choose between eliminating the very Frankenstein it created and continuing to nurture 'strategic' assets in the form of 'good' Taliban. 

Pakistan is in fact a perfect example of the devil devouring its master. The army created the ISI to destabilise the neighbourhood and even its own politicians. The ISI created the Taliban and its bunch of 'good' terrorists. The Tehrike Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is just one of the terror groups the ISI has nurtured. But somewhere down the line, old allies have fallen out once Pakistan Army launched Zarb-e-Azb, its operation against TTP in North Waziristan.

By choosing a Pakistan Army run school as a target for its most outrageous attack, the (TTP) or one of its faction, was sending a message to the Pakistani Army on its duality: You cannot be brazenly sustaining the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and at the same time attack us. Many of the victims in the Peshawar attack were children of Pakistani army and para-military personnel.

A statement by Taliban spokesman Mohammad Khurasani gives credence to the theory. The attack, he says was a response to anti-militant offensives in North Waziristan and the Khyber region. "The children of our tribes are our children. The women of our tribes are our mothers and our sisters. Six hundred people have been killed in just one year, innocent people who were killed, their bodies mangled." Mohammad Khurasani added: "These are the soldiers who have thrown their bodies in sacks. We were forced to make this decision, so that they should be hurt in their homes. When you are wounded in your own home then you realise. They burnt our homes and we were forced to set their homes on fire."

The TTP is a virtual surrogate of the ISIS. It is attempting to adopt the ISIS model of using extreme cruelty and irrationality to spread paralysis and fear among established states. There is another possibility. The TTP has fragmented of late and rival groups are competing for influence in different areas of Pakistan and in all likelihood one of the groups mounted the attack to establish its credentials. Whatever the cause, Pakistan will now have to come to terms with the fact that its policy of using terror and terror groups as strategic assets has boomeranged.

It is up to the Pakistani civil society and common citizens to put pressure on the politicians and the army to act more decisively, the question uppermost in the minds of Indian security establishment will be about any possible fallout of such a brazen, cold-blooded attack in India. For, in the networked, flat world terrorist organizations else where take motivation from such acts. Will groups operating in India take a cue from Tuesday's attack and go looking for soft targets? Will suicide bombing, so far rare in India, be an instrument of choice for terrorists who target this country? 

One of the early intelligence warnings in the wake of emergence of ISIS had spoken about the possibility of a 'lone wolf' attack in India. The incident in Sydney and discovery of Mehdi Biswas as a closet ISIS supporter in India, has increased the worry for India's security managers manifold.

9/11 was a turning point in many ways in the fight against terrorism. Will Tuesday's attack, coming as it does on a day when Pakistan was dismembered exactly 43 years ago, spur Pakistani Army towards a more practical and pragmatic approach or will it be business as usual at GHQ in Rawalpindi?

(The author is among the most well-informed strategic affairs analysts in the country)