Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Mercenaries of God

Machiavelli got it right: mercenaries bring nothing but loss. The cricket killings in Lahore are part of an unfolding tragedy for Pakistan. The terror groups cultivated first to fight Soviet troops in Afghanistan and then to wage war against India in Kashmir have turned upon the civilian government. Loyal only to their version of religious truth and thirsty for power, these groups have morphed with parts of Pakistani elite - finding shelter and succour in high places. The result is bloody blowback.

The growing tribalism and lawlessness of even the country's great cities underlines how much the state has withdrawn in the past few years. Into the vacuum have sprung up huge charities, running schools and hospitals, funded by zakat contributions. The mullah, the military, the bureaucracy have been unwilling to counter hardline propaganda, seeing it as an essential service to a nation born to save Islam.

This saviour complex haunts the country in which many are simply in a state of denial about the men with guns. These mercenaries fight no holy war on poverty, illiteracy and discrimination. They see divinity in the wreck and ruin of human life. The powers that be in Pakistan need to understand that these are not armies of Allah. These are dangerous, disloyal and undisciplined condottiere. Sure they will trade bullets with the infidel armies of America and India. But at what cost? The price for Pakistan is being paid on the streets of Lahore.

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