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Terrorism in Pakistan takes aim at China too

It would be tragic if so-called strategic competition with India blinds China to the dangers
from Pakistani terrorism. China would be courting disaster by permitting such Sino-
Indian strategic competition to intrude into the bigger war against Pakistani terrorism.
China and India encounter terrorism from nearly the same quarters in Pakistan, although
the combination of groups and interests that carry out the attacks may vary. China is
going down the same slippery slope of the United States in appeasing the Pakistani
military in the hope to contain Pakistani terrorism. This is an insatiable beast that bites
the feeding hand.

Terrorism against India and China are now epicentred in the Federally Administered
Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan, where the US is campaigning against Al-Qaeda and
Afghan and Pakistani Taliban terrorists with reluctant assistance from the Pakistani army.
The 26-28 November Bombay terror attacks were designed to provoke an Indo-Pak face-
off and halt the US campaign. Either the Pakistan army and ISI or the Al-Qaeda and the
two Talibans (but chiefly the Pakistani Taliban) or them together designed the Bombay
attack using the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) organisation.

The growing Uighur terrorism that China faces in Xinjiang province is also radiating out
from FATA, more specifically, Mir Ali, in North Waziristan (according to counter-
terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna), headquarters of the smallish but deadly East
Turkmenistan Islamic Movement (ETIM). ETIM is one of the oldest Uighur terrorist
groups to survive tough and, what critics call, often "repressive" Chinese counter-
terrorism measures in Xinjiang since at least the Nineties. Trouble for China arises from
the fact that ETIM has passed under protection of the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), which is
wholly influenced by the Al-Qaeda, and IJU receives the overall umbrella cover of the
Tareek-e-Taliban (TTP), a cooperative platform for Pakistani Taliban leaders lead by
Beitullah Mahsud, one of the most wanted men in FATA today. In other words, China
faces peak terrorist threats from ETIM, Al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban, and the last
two employ ETIM to enable establishing a regional Central Asian caliphate that includes
Xinjiang and with a second aim to undermine the rest of China.

The link in all this somewhere is the Pakistan military/ intelligence establishments, which
have evolved jihad so considerably since the Eighties' "mujahideen" war against the
(former) Soviet Union as to threaten and squeeze the more traditional pro-Chinese and
pro-US sections in them. While the US could cut away from Afghanistan after the Soviet
withdrawal (though it couldn't escape 9/ 11), China has faced the blowback of the so-
called mujahideen campaign with Uighur veterans returning to Xinjiang and opposing
Chinese rule with terrorism. So bad was it in 1992 (with a failed Uighur uprising in
Kashgar) that China for months closed the Karakoram highway with Pakistan because it
brought in Pakistani-trained terrorists, extremist Deobandi (not to be confused with the
original Indian Deobandi) ideology, smuggled opium, hashish and later heroin and AIDS.
The terrorism in Xinjiang (besides the other, non-traditional threats) has only gotten
worse despite massive police bundobast, military border deployments and exercises, total

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monitoring of mosques and madrasahs funded by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan in the
libertine Eighties, and almost complete absence of media coverage of the violence and
casualties in the belief that publicity gives oxygen to terrorists.

China is more than aware that Pakistan is a failed state and that large swathes of its
territory are under terrorist control. Nor, presumably, does it entirely trust Pakistan's
military any longer. Despite Pakistan president Asif Zardari's pleas on a state visit in
October last and attempts to play the India card, China evaded committing to a Sino-Pak
civilian nuclear deal like the Indo-US one. Within days of Zardari's visit, China put out a
list of ETIM terrorists "that…were involved with similar groups and base camps" in a
"South Asian country" (meaning Pakistan). One out of the list is Memetiming Memeti,
ETIM head since 2003 when his predecessor, Hasan Mahsum, was killed in FATA. Bar
the Mahsum incident, China has not very successfully pressured Pakistan to turn over
hundreds of Al-Qaeda- and Taliban-trained ETIM and East Turkmenistan Liberation
Organization (ETLO) terrorists who fought US allies during Operation Enduring
Freedom.

What appears to be the case is that a hierarchy of terrorism victimhood has been
established, with less and less recognition of victimisation as you go down the rung.
While under Chinese pressure, the US and then the UN banned ETIM. However,
America still does not readily and willingly differentiate Uighur terrorism from genuine
Tibetan protests, condemning China for countering both (Seventeen ETIM terrorists in
Guantanamo Bay won't likely be repatriated to China, though China has demanded them,
if the facility is closed). Equally, China is loath to readily and willingly accept Indian
victimisation from Pakistani terrorism, despite irrefutable evidence gathered from the
Bombay attacks and from earlier ones. Having blocked it before, China unwillingly
agreed to the UN Security Council ban of Jamiat-ul-Dawa, LeT's parent organisation.
And its official media initially regurgitated the Pakistani lie that the Bombay attackers
were Hindus masquerading as Muslims. Only days ago, the Chinese foreign minister,
Yang Jiechi, called his Indian counterpart, Pranab Mukherjee, suggesting that China is
going beyond proforma condemnation of terrorism against India, which is a change. But
a more pro-active coming together is unavoidable.

No longer can terrorism raying out from Pakistan be combated singly by states (India,
China or the US) or by blocs (NATO, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation), and their
competition in other strategic spheres will have to be temporarily deferred or modified to
overcome international jihad. Nor will the old crutches and dependencies serve any
longer. For example, at the first hint of Indo-Pak trouble on Pakistan's eastern flank, the
Pakistani Taliban has committed to fully back the Pakistan military and vowed hundreds
of suicide attacks on Indian forces. This same Pakistani Taliban allied to the Pakistan
army is behind ETIM, and China still (misguidedly) trusts the Pak army to deliver on
ETIM terrorists. And this should also make it unreservedly clear to the US that the
Pakistan army is growing to represent the Pakistani Taliban in uniform, and, beyond a
point, they won't fight one another in FATA despite all the American threats and
blandishments. The writing is on the wall for anyone to see. Pakistan is creepily
becoming a jihadi state with nuclear weapons.

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