Residents stand outside Pakistan Navy base in Karachi,  as commandos were close to regaining control of a naval base as they hunted for any last holdouts among a team of Islamist militants who attacked and occupied the facility for 15 hours, destroying two US-supplied planes and killing 12 security officers. - AP Photo
Residents stand outside Pakistan Navy base in Karachi, as commandos were close to regaining control of a naval base as they hunted for any last holdouts among a team of Islamist militants who attacked and occupied the facility for 15 hours, destroying two US-supplied planes and killing 12 security officers. - AP Photo

The official reaction is still awaited to a WikiLeaks cable about money from some Arab countries finding its way to extremists in southern Punjab districts.

The cable was sent in November 2008 by the then principal officer at the US consulate in Lahore. It was estimated that $100m was routed to some clerics in southern Punjab and that part of the amount was used to recruit and indoctrinate youngsters, turning them into jihadis and potential suicide bombers.

The messenger said he based his observations on information gathered from local residents and officials, including a nazim who complained how politics hampered the proper tackling of the issue. The officer had southern districts such as Bahawalpur, Dera Ghazi Khan and Multan in mind.

Some information in the message matched the details that journalists have come up with in their reports confirming developments such as a campaign by hard-line sects to take over mosques run by the majority Barelvi school of thought.

Obviously, not meant as a public document that would require vetting of more facts including the names of individuals, the cable went as far as to say that a couple of jihadi camps were operating in Bahawalpur while another was being run on the outskirts of Dera Ghazi Khan.

Unfortunately, a significant section of Pakistanis have been dismissing the identification of southern Punjab as a jihadi sanctuary, saying that this was part of a conspiracy. There have been arguments, not all of them fanciful, about the dangers and futility of focusing exclusively on these parts of Punjab.

The theory that seeks to take the focus off southern Punjab by stating the influence of the Gulf states was common to all areas of Pakistan is not without substance. Having said that, the mention of southern Punjab in the context of terrorism and jihadi violence has been too frequent to allow the administration to sit idle. The best way to address the issue is to carry out a transparent fact-finding exercise in the area. Mere denials won't do, especially at a time when the government's credibility is low.

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