New Delhi: It seems Pakistan never learns. Terrorists have attacked a Pakistan air force base in Peshawar today. Over thirty persons have been killed including terrorists and people at prayer. The Pakistan Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Attacking a military base is always a bad sign. It reveals a terrorist force in full power and undaunted. A successful attack always comes as a setback to the military. The setback may be temporary or longstanding.

It is not clear how the Pakistan army views this attack. It may make brave to say its present campaign against terrorists is going well. This writer would then beg to differ.

When a military base is attacked in the midst of an anti-terrorist campaign, objectivity suggests that things are not going according to plan. The campaign is probably wrongheaded.

Let us make that more definite. It is.

The Pakistan army is backing all kinds of anti-India and anti-Afghanistan terrorist groups. It is part of Pakistan’s state policy of terrorism. A policy usually runs a course of 25 years. If it has to succeed, it will within that time. If it overruns, it is not likely to succeed. It must be abandoned.

Pakistan is no closer to militarily wresting Kashmir from India than in the late 1980s when it began sponsoring terrorism in the Valley. In all the decades since, Pakistan has sunk to become a failed state. India has soldiered on to make something of itself. It is not nice to boast. But the country has come a long way since the 1980s.

Similarly, Afghanistan has changed. In one way, perhaps, it has not. The terrorists led by the Taliban have become emboldened after the retreat of another foreign power, the United States. But the change is this. The central government in Afghanistan is not about to curl up and die. Pakistan has been identified and exposed as the main enemy sponsoring local terrorism.

There is also greater appreciation of democracy in Afghanistan. There is enough will in Afghanistan to resist Pakistan’s colonization efforts. The old medievalism will be hard to re-impose. Foreign powers will not permit Afghanistan to go down or to turn into some kind of anti-Western Caliphate.

However, none of these changes in Afghanistan or India are appreciated for their strategic value in the circles where they should be so obvious and telling. The Pakistan military has no sound appreciation of the transformation in the neighbourhood. It still thinks like a mid-20th Century force in terms of limited war, strategic depth, etc. The world has gone well past that.

It is, however, in its lack of appreciation of the true contours of an anti-terrorism campaign that it abjectly fails. You cannot have a full-fledged terrorism programme directed against India and Afghanistan and not have a spill-over effect.

Terrorists are not sworn to a state’s constitution like soldiers. They don’t pass out of an academy nor are commissioned. They know no national flag and are not bound by military oath and discipline. They are solely guided by religious ideology and emotion. These can sway with time, situation and the preferences accorded by the terrorist leader.

The “good” terrorist can turn “bad” as he has for Pakistan. Neutralizing them in real or fake encounters will not diminish their numbers as more are rapidly added by the jihad factories. It is the jihad factories that the Pakistan army must shut down. It is both unwilling and incapable of doing so.

The jihad factories are the madrasas dedicated to the steady supply of suicide squads and the variety of religious schools whose syllabi spew venom against non-Islamic faiths. Pakistani students are fed on an anti-India, anti-Hindu diet which is far from the case in India.

In addition, there is the rampant poverty combined with illiteracy and hopelessness which puts tens of thousands of Pakistani youth in the hands of cynical and ruthless recruiters from terrorist groups. When a large section of the youth population is being radicalized on an industrial scale, how can the Pakistan army hope for any success with its rather circumscribed anti-terror campaign?

Blaming India won’t help. Making stirring declarations on Kashmir won’t minimize Pakistan’s existential issues. When Turkey emerged from the ruins of World War I, Kemal Ataturk privileged peace with neighbours over everything else. Peace is indispensable for growth and prosperity.

Pakistan must shut down the jihad factories, forsake the state policy of terrorism, secure peace with neighbours, outlaw religious and sectarian hate from coursework, and apply itself sincerely to growth and prosperity. It is its last chance.

Editor’s Note: The media hullabaloo about Rakesh Maria is baffling. It is rather odd for a city police commissioner to personally investigate a murder, however high-profile. And why shouldn’t Maria be transferred? How does it matter if he is decorated? Every second IPS officer is decorated in this country for no good reason.

Rather, for grandstanding to the media everyday about the Sheena Bora case, Maria should have been admonished by the courts. His conduct is disgraceful. All the pressure applied through the media to keep him on the case should be resisted.

If the media is starved of news, that is surely not the concern of the government, or is it? You cannot pimp a murder investigation. Enough of this Rakesh Maria drama.