Continued from – Part II
Recently, while addressing a joint session of Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir's assembly in Muzaffarabad on 5th February, 2015 on their annual ritual of Kashmir Solidarity Day, Pakistani Prime Minister Mr Nawaz Sharif, among other things, said that he had an emotional bond with Kashmir from the childhood and would continue to struggle for the rights of people of Kashmir, which is the ‘jugular vein’ of Pakistan. The terminology was perhaps first coined by Muhammad Ali Jinnah and another former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had used it on several occasions pledging to wage a thousand-year war for Kashmir. Ever since the phrase has been endorsed and repeated by Pakistani political and military leadership at occasions whenever emotions and tempers run high.
"Lasting peace in South Asia is possible only with the just resolution of Kashmir issues... The only just solution of Kashmir is through giving the right of self-determination to its people,” Nawaz Sharif said, during his speech.
After fighting three wars with India in 1948, 1965 and 1971, Pakistan was convinced that it would not win Kashmir through any overt military operation. But it is this continuing obsession and rhetoric of successive Pakistani leaderships that is breeding and nurturing Pakistan sponsored terrorism across the LOC in Kashmir and elsewhere in India during the last twenty-five years or so. It has been over sixty-six years since independence and integration of Jammu and Kashmir with India through a democratic process but based on the demands of certain separatist groups in minority, Pakistan continues to indulge in an anti-India tirade and rhetoric of self-determination by Kashmiri people.
Only about a couple of weeks back when Pakistani Taliban attacked an Army School in Peshawar killing 148 people on 16th December, 2014, a majority of which were children, many political and military experts and analysts called it a game-changer. The violence caused on the children of army background was so barbaric and gruesome that it rattled the psyche of the entire country like never before. On the occasion, all major opposition parties had shown solidarity and resolve with the ruling party under Mr Sharif to fight against the terrorism. In the aftermath of the attack, the Pakistan army had widened its crackdown in the federally administered tribal areas to curb terrorism and the government declared to set up special military tribunals for prompt trial of the suspected terrorists.
When Pakistani Premier stated on the following day that he would wage a war against terrorism ‘until not a single terrorist is left’ and that there is nothing like a ‘good Taliban and bad Taliban’, it had generated a considerable hope globally and particularly in India that things are likely to change for the better. The problem in Pakistan is that the terror activities waged by different terrorist outfits on their western and eastern borders are perceived and defined in different perspective while it should be acknowledged as a crime against humanity irrespective of place where it is carried out.
Good and Bad Taliban or Militants
The terminologies good Taliban and bad Taliban and/or good militants and bad militants have often been used in various parlance in Pakistan. The ‘good Taliban or militants’ are essentially the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani Network, which traditionally have been loyal to the Pakistani state. These are elements which kill in Afghanistan and avoid killing Pakistanis basically representing Pakistan’s interests. The other prominent Deobandi “good militant group” is Jaish-e-Mohammed, which was raised to work against Indian interests to sabotage and kill Indians in Kashmir and beyond. Reportedly, there have been efforts to resurrect this group by luring and inciting militants from the Pakistani Taliban for operations against India. Another prominent non-Deobandi group namely Lashkar-e-Taiba (now operating under the alias Jamat-Ud-Dawa) under Hafiz Saeed mainly operates against the Indian interests. This group has roots in Pakistan and members are also considered as good militants because they have never operated against the interests of Pakistan.
On the other hand, the so-called ‘bad Taliban or militants’ have their origin in groups that the state has long sponsored, aided, abetted and in some cases even developed from the grassroots, either to fight in Afghanistan or India but now turned hostile operating on Pakistan soil against the State’s perceived interests. These militant groups basically belong to the Deobandi tradition of Islam. After the September 11 terrorist attacks by al-Qaeda on the United States in New York City and Washington, D.C., Pakistan was forced to join Americans in war against various terror outfits which led to increasing alienation and these Deobandi groups began disobeying and working against the interest of Pakistan. Over a period of time, these militant outfits were identified as the Pakistani Taliban.
The biggest dilemma and problem in Pakistan is that on one hand they continue to support and preserve the system that produces militants or terrorists because they serve their interests in India and Afghanistan, the so called ‘good militants’, and on the other hand when they turn against the very state and start killing Pakistanis, the so called ‘bad militants’, then they are constrained to identify and kill them. In Pakistan, the legal system is so decrepit and unreliable that many judges are afraid to convict them.
A case in point could be the case against Lashkar-e-Taiba co-founder and the mastermind of 26th November, 2008 attacks in Mumbai in which 166 people were killed and several hundred injured. He and his associates were arrested in December, 2008, a case registered in February, 2009 and indicted in November same year. Ever since his trial was proceeding on snail’s pace. After his trial began in an anti-terrorist court (ATC) in Rawalpindi, it was transferred to the ATC in Islamabad in 2010. Then in April, 2014, the ATC special judge expressed his inability to conduct the trial quoting security reasons following a terrorist attack on the district court in Islamabad. Recently in December 2014, the ATC granted him bail citing lack of evidence or deficient evidence. Under sharp protest and criticism from India and elsewhere, he has again been arrested on other charges but his trial and conviction for the heinous terror crime remains doubtful.
Why Resort to Terrorism?
After fighting three wars and Siachen conflict with India, Pakistan is nigh well aware that they cannot win or annex Kashmir by applying overt forces, hence the focus on covert means of sabotage, disruption and killing. To resort to such subversive means, the so called ‘ good militants’ come handy through sabotage and indiscriminate killings and thus constantly keeping in news by giving it colours of an in-born freedom struggle. Then these so-called good militants are also helpful in creating confusion and chaos in Afghanistan where successive governments have usually been friendly to India. Reportedly during the recent development too, Pakistan army gave about a five-months warning to militants before undertaking operations in the tribal areas of the North Waziristan. The underlining idea has been that they perhaps wanted to give opportunity to militants, as many as possible, to return to the fold of good militants before commencing operations to kill the rest.
It is true that during the last decade or so, Pakistan too has been a victim and sufferer of terrorism with countless deaths of civilians and security personnel. But Pakistan’s main problem is its widespread, yet mistaken, belief in the establishment and public that militants operating in Kashmir and elsewhere on the Indian soil, as also militants fighting with the Afghan government are not terrorists but good people fighting for the righteous cause. Thus many in Pakistan believe that Afghan Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, and such other groups are not terrorists but freedom fighters or genuine people devoted to righteous cause in the name of God. So it does not come as a surprise when hardly few days after Peshawar massacre, the alleged mastermind of Mumbai terror attack and co-founder of the officially banned Lashkar-e-Taiba, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi is granted bail. In a way, almost every militant operating against Pakistan was at some point considered as good militant or good Taliban.
Acknowledging State Sponsored Terrorism
In 2009, then Pakistani President Asif Zardari had conceded at a conference in Islamabad that Pakistan had indeed created and used terrorist groups as a tool to serve its geo-strategic agenda. He had again acknowledged in July, 2010 that militants had been created and nurtured by the past governments as a policy to achieve certain tactical objectives and that they were heroes until 9/11 al-Qaeda terror attacks on US. India, US and UK on many occasions in the past have accused and even produced evidence of Pakistan’s link with these terrorist organizations operating against the interests of India and Afghanistan. Tribal regions of Pakistan along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir have often been termed to be the ‘haven for terrorists’.
In October 2010, the former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf too admitted the role of the state in training and pushing terrorists into Jammu and Kashmir. In an interview to a German Magazine, he said, “(Militant groups) were indeed formed. The government turned a blind eye because they wanted India to discuss Kashmir.” Recently, again in October, 2014, he boasted of using such capabilities of Pakistan to destabilize India in a television interview.
In a recent video released, Adnan Rashid, commander of one faction of Tahrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, disclosed at length how Pakistani ISI and army have been recruiting, training and misleading Muslim youth in the name of Jihad over the years to use them for terror activities against India in Kashmir. This of course was in retaliation of what Pakistan army is doing against the Tahrik-e-Taliban now.
Besides several independent journalists, authors, political analysts and neutral observers too have commented on Pakistan’s terror links from time to time. A renowned Welsh Author Gordon Thomas had stated in the past that while Pakistan has cooperated US in capturing al-Qaeda members, it is still sponsoring terrorist groups in the disputed state of Kashmir by funding, training and arming them in their war of attrition against India. Dr Daniel L.Byman, a professor at Georgetown University, considered Pakistan as the most active sponsor of terrorism. In an article on terrorism published in The Australian, he wrote, “…Following the terror massacre in Mumbai, Pakistan may now be the single biggest state sponsor of terrorism, beyond even Iran, yet it has never been listed by the US State Department as a state sponsor of terrorism.” A renowned journalist Stephen Suleyman Schwartz from Washington, D.C. based Centre for Islamic Pluralism, observed that several terrorist and criminal groups are backed by senior officers in the Pakistani army, the ISI and other armed bodies of the state.
How West Perceive Pakistan on Terrorism?
Pakistan has long been suspected by the West i.e. USA and its European allies of playing double game in the fight against certain militant groups in their global war on terrorism and supporting others whom the army and ISI regarded as strategic assets against perceived adversaries and neighbours, mainly India and Afghanistan. In the aftermath of the attack on the Peshawar school killing 134 children among others, Pakistan officially announced to stop differentiating between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ militants and to step up operations against their hideouts on the Afghan border. Recently, on 13th January, 2015 on a visit to Pakistan, US Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated that Pakistan must fight militant groups that operate against the Afghan, Indian and US interests. Addressing a news conference, Kerry said, “Terror groups like the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Taiba and other groups continue to pose a threat to Pakistan, to its neighbours and to the United States... And all of us have a responsibility to ensure that these groups do not gain a foothold but rather are pushed back into the recesses of (Pakistan’s) memory... Make no mistake. The task is a difficult one and it is not done."
It may be recalled that the United States had identified Pakistan as a key partner in its war against terror in the aftermath of 11th September, 2001 attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. and has been spending billions of dollars on Pakistan in military assistance to fight insurgents. There has been growing pressure on US from within and outside to restrict assistance unless Pakistan shows firm evidence of using these funds to destroy terrorist network operating in its territory. Contrary to the claim of the National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz that the Haqqani Network’s infrastructure has been totally destroyed by the Pakistani army, the independent observers feel that some progress has been achieved but Pakistan is yet to show firm commitment to act against all outfits, including the notorious Haqqani Network which attacks Afghan interests from its bases on Pakistan soil.
During the recent visit of President Barack Obama to India in 2015 on the eve of the 66th Republc Day, the two sides stressed the need for the joint and concerted efforts against the terror outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba, D-Company and the Haqqani Network citing terrorism as a major challenge besides asking Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of 26/11 terror attack to justice. The joint statement said, “The leaders reaffirmed the need for joint and concerted efforts to disrupt entities such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e- Mohammad, D Company and the Haqqani Network, and agreed to continue ongoing efforts through the Homeland Security Dialogue as well as the next round of the US-India Joint Working Group on Counter Terrorism in late 2015 to develop actionable elements of bilateral engagement."
Under the intense international pressure, Pakistan has reportedly banned Jamaat-ud-Dawa and the Haqqani Network along with some other terror outfits. Reportedly, it has also put foreign travel restrictions on the 2008 Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed. Speaking about the reported ban on terror outfits, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson said, "Pakistan took this decision under the UN obligation and not under pressure from any other quarter including John Kerry (US Secretary of State)."
Notwithstanding these perceptions and diplomatic overtures from time to time, the ground realities remain entirely different. The case in point could be the two-days congregation held by the Jamaat-ud-Dawa in December 2014 with full cooperation from the Pakistani establishment wherein its head Hafiz Saeed, openly made inflammatory and hate speeches against India. Several Kashmiri militant groups designated as terrorist organisations by the US reportedly still operate from the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. This has been cited as proof in the past by the Indian government that Pakistan continues to support terrorism. Many terrorist organisations which have been banned by the United Nations, continue to operate from POK and Pakistan soil under different names.
Pakistan’s Terror Links
In previous two articles, the author had addressed this issue at length giving details of various terror outfits being aided, abated and sponsored by Pakistan ISI and army. Pakistan is often alleged to be a safe haven for the terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Lashkar-e-Omar, Jaish-e-Mohammad and various Taliban groups. Who can deny that Osama-bin-Laden had been living in the north-eastern Pakistan for years in a fortified compound in Abbottabad, an important military cantonment under the nose of the army before being identified and killed by US Navy seals in an operation kept secret with the Pakistani establishment. Then terror masterminds like Dawood Ibrahim and Hafiz Sayeed wanted by the Indian government for various terror crimes are stated to be living and moving in Pakistan as free citizens.
Pakistan has been often blamed for recruiting, training, funding, supplying arms and providing diplomatic support for the Taliban. Such allegations have come from the countries like India, US and UK, and even independent NGOs like Human Rights Watch in the past. Indian army sources maintain that even now more than fourty terrorist camps are operating from across the border. Many militant Kashmiri groups maintain their base in the POK. Pakistan, however, constantly deny any involvement in the terrorist activities in Kashmir or elsewhere, stating that it only provides political and moral support to the 'secessionist' groups.
Jamaat-ud-Dawa aka Lashkar-e-Taiba
The terrorist group Laskar-e-Taiba (LeT) is accused of carrying out November, 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai and an attack on Indian parliament in December, 2001. LeT is banned by India, US, European Union and Russia as a terrorist organization and was officially banned by Pakistan too in 2002 after the attack on the Indian parliament. As mentioned earlier, the US has put a bounty of $10m on its founder Hafiz Saeed in 2012 for his alleged role in Mumbai terror attacks in 2008. Consequently, Hafiz Saeed formed Jamaat-ud-Dawa which is considered as a front for LeT only to escape action against them. JuD too is currently banned by the US, the EU, India and Russia as a terrorist organisation. The United Nations too have declared Jamaat-ud-Dawa as a terrorist organisation in December 2008 and Hafiz Saeed a terrorist as its leader.
Jamaat-ud-Dawa regularly organizes mass rallies and congregation preaching hatred to build opinion against India among Pakistani people besides calling for a jihad in Kashmir. Recently in December 2014, it had organized two-days at Pakistan’s national monument Minar-e-Pakistan with full support of state agencies including the security establishment. Reportedly, Pakistani establishment had even run two special trains to carry the crowd to and fro Lahore. Since 2008, the Indian government have demanded extradition of Hafiz Saeed for trial against his alleged role in Mumbai terror attacks, a claim constantly refuted by the Pakistan government.
Officially, the JuD maintain that they are engaged in philanthropic and relief activities besides Islamic propagation work in Pakistan. Currently, there appears to be no ban or restriction on the activities of the JuD in Pakistan. Reportedly, however, in the recent drive against the militant groups after the Peshawar school massacre and mainly under the pressure from the US authorities, the JuD's bank account stands frozen and restriction has been imposed on its leadership's travel abroad.
Nuclear Weapons or a Tool for Blackmail
The United States had chosen Pakistan as an ally in the war against Taliban in Afghanistan mainly because of their dependence on logistics supply through Pakistan. Whether it was a right decision and sound strategy remains debatable because it severely restricted US options to pressurise Pakistan to support various terror groups. Nuclear weapons are another reason for the US to keep Pakistan in good humour. Pakistan clearly derives several advantages through nuclear blackmail. The first and foremost being its protection from any Indian military aggression as a retaliatory measure consequent to any terror attack(s). While India sticks to its professed doctrine of ‘No First Use’, Pakistan has made it clear umpteen times that in a conventional war if its existence is threatened by territorial or otherwise loss, it will have no hesitation in using nuclear weapons against India. Then due to nuclear weapons in their possession, the US and other NATO allies never try to belittle their importance in international polity. Another advantage of Pakistan holding nuclear weapons is that in the event of any crisis involving India, the international community will immediately intervene to put pressure on India to avoid escalation of hostilities.
Will Pakistan Abandon Terrorism?
Like the author mentioned in one of the previous articles on the subject, Pakistan today is unable to effectively control and counter the very terror module which it created for India and Afghanistan in the past and now it is posing serious threat to their own existence. It is sad that Pakistan is still working half-heartedly to curtail terrorism holistically on its soil. While they are pitted against the Pakistani Taliban, they are still soft-pedalling terrorism directed against India and Afghanistan from its soil considering them as strategic assets.
Paradox in Pakistan is that terrorists operating against India are considered as good militants and freedom fighters carrying out holy Jihad for Kashmir’s freedom against (so called) Indian atrocities while terrorists causing domestic violence are the bad militants. They need to realize sincerely that there is nothing like a good militant or a bad militant. Anyone who is killing and inflicting atrocity to innocent people, women and children anywhere in the world is a terrorist and deserves to be treated accordingly. It is of common knowledge that several terrorists and criminals wanted in India for various crimes are actually living as free citizen or in safe hideouts in Pakistan, some of them even under active state patronage.
For any reference from the Indian side about the laxity in handling such elements on their soil, Pakistan invariably poses itself as the victim of terrorism citing heavy casualties suffered in terror incidents to make a case for its innocence. Also as a counter, it charges India for maligning its image before international community besides making allegation of India’s role in Afghanistan or troubled Baluchistan. The past experience shows that on one hand it blames India for denying or being reluctant to hold negotiations for the peaceful settlement of disputes, on the other hand if such an initiative is taken by India to ease tension and normalize relations, Pakistan resorts to belligerent actions like negotiating separatist leaders, beheading Indian soldiers on border or resorting to breach on LOC through intermittent unprovoked firing.
Coming back to the question as to whether Pakistan will abandon links with terrorism and terrorists, and cooperate with India in the fight against terrorism in South Asia. The point is that Pakistan fought three bitter wars with India over Kashmir and failing which they started indulging in two-pronged strategy of inciting separatists movement and resorting to terrorism through recruitment, training, funding and facilitating their infiltration in the Indian territory. It has been more than sixty-six years of independence and the integration of Jammu and Kashmir with India is complete through a democratic process. This integration is now a historical, geographic and demographic reality and this position is irreversible. At the same time, the part of Kashmir occupied by Pakistan has also changed and realizing its geo-political realities, India has never shown any aggression or strong demand for its restoration back.
If Pakistan realizes and accepts these realities, it would be easy to reconcile and abandon the path of confrontation and terrorism. For now, it is not showing such resolve or feelers which is evident from the speech of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on their annual ritual of ‘Kasmir Solidarity Day’ on 5th February , 2015. Obviously, if Pakistani continues with its obsession and rhetoric over Kashmir calling it the ‘jugular vein’ of Pakistan, it leads us only to the path of bitterness and confrontation leaving hardly any hope for the normalcy and peace in the region.