Of late along with the stepped up military operations of the Indian army against the terrorists in Jammu & Kashmir, the instances of terror attacks are also on increase. In yet another dastardly attack on 11th February 2018, four terrorists of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed managed to enter into the Sunjuwan military base near Jammu and attacked army residential area in which five security personnel including two junior commissioned officers and one civilian were martyred and several others injured including women and one commissioned officer. During the operation that lasted over two days, all the four terrorists were eliminated. The Defence Minister blamed Pakistan for the terrorist attack and asserted that it will pay the price for its "misadventure" making it clear that the Indian army will retaliate adequately at the time and place of own choosing.
Two additional points emerged from the statement of the Defence Minister: First, the evidence collected will be compiled and handed over to Pakistan to prove that the handlers back in Pakistan were influencing the attack. This has been done in the past too but Pakistan has not acted conclusively so far in any case in spite of giving dossiers after dossiers. People responsible for the Mumbai attack and many others are still free and roaming happily in Pakistan but giving evidence to Pakistan would have to be a continuous process to prove over and over again, so that their involvement is known to everybody; Secondly, there are strong reasons to believe that the terrorists might have some local support too. The JeM module that conducted the attack might have infiltrated sometime back and possibly enjoyed local assistance as the demography of the cantonment and adjoining areas indicates the possibility of such support to the terrorists.
While referring to the local support, she was pointing towards the illegal Rohingya population in the adjoining areas whose alleged links with the Kashmiri terror outfits have been a cause of concern for some time. The government has not been able to expel or shift these people due to pending litigation in the Supreme Court and these illegal immigrants enjoy sympathy and support of some local groups and political parties, including some Congress leaders. The Defence Minister also hinted that Pakistan is now trying to expand its 'arc of terror’ by resorting to ceasefire violations to assist infiltration in areas south of the Pir Panjal Range in the Jammu region.
A lot has been written, discussed and debated in India and elsewhere about the Pakistan ISI and army’s role, active support and patronage to militants and terror outfits. Pakistan’s Taliban connection in Afghanistan and at home is well known for long. Terrorist outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Hizb-ul-Mujahedeen (HUM) and a score of others, responsible for numerous terror attacks in Kashmir and other parts of India, are known to be operating from the Pakistani soil including the Pak-occupied Kashmir (POK). Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of 26th November, 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, and score of other terrorists wanted in India for various terror crimes are still freely living and moving under the state patronage in Pakistan.
Recent Pakistani Rhetoric & Overtures
Pakistani leaders have always used Kashmir as an emotive issue to attract electorate as also for diverting public attention from crucial domestic problems and issues. Ex-prime minister, Nawaz Sharif who had been ousted under the orders of the Supreme Court last year on serious corruption charges, is once again trying for a comeback using the same old trick of the anti-India rhetoric and Kashmir raga. Recently, in the first week of February 2018, he addressed a rally in Muzaffarabad along with his heir apparent daughter Maryam to mark Kashmir Solidarity Day where he claimed that he had stood and spoken the Kashmiri cause at every possible forum. While condemning India (without calling name) for the alleged (imaginary) brutalities, he stressed that his heart beat only and equally for Pakistan and Kashmir. His daughter too on her turn raised the slogan of celebrating the freedom of Kashmiris next time in Srinagar.
The former military ruler Pervez Musharraf had last year declared that he was the ‘biggest supporter’ of the LeT chief Hafiz Saeed justifying his terrorist activities for the freedom of Kashmir. After the prolonged house detention of the terrorist mastermind was lifted under the orders of the Judicial Review Board of Pakistan’s Punjab province in November 2017 citing lack of evidence against him, Saeed expressed his desire to enter into election fray in Pakistan by raising a political party. While holding Saeed in high esteem, Musharraf maintained that he was willing to forming a political alliance with his Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) and LeT for the general election in 2018, glorifying them as NGOs working for the welfare of the country. He also held that no one has made as many sacrifices in Kashmir as the LeT, yet the international community called its activities as terrorism. Incidentally, Musharraf is currently living in self-exile in Dubai while facing a score of serious criminal charges of the treason, murder and corruption.
The current Prime Minister of Pakistan Shahid Khaqan Abbasi too spoke in Pakistan occupied Kashmir Legislative Assembly recently giving a call to maintain unity for the sake of keeping the Kashmir issue alive. He went on suggesting that the unity among the parties and people of Pakistan on Kashmir issue would strengthen the separatist leaders like Syed Ali Gillani and Burhan Wani. He said the Government of India has tried all measures but they cannot finish the freedom struggle (a reference to terrorist activities in Jammu & Kashmir).
The author doesn’t want to go into more past details of the stand, accusations and allegations of the either side but one thing is for sure that terrorists cannot be justified as freedom fighters by any stretch of imagination as is being done by Pakistan. Burhan Wani was a dreaded terrorist commander of HUM responsible for many terror attacks and deaths whom Pakistan prime minister was justifying as Shaheed (martyr). The history of freedom struggle in various parts of world is a witness that nowhere ever a freedom fighter had killed innocent civilians, women and children to achieve their intended objective and goals.
Terror Modules as State Option
After fighting three wars with India in 1948, 1965 and 1971, Pakistan was convinced that it cannot win Kashmir by direct application of force through military action. So with implicit support of the successive civilian and military rulers, the Pakistan army and ISI evolved the strategy of alluring and recruiting the young and unemployed Kashmiris and Pakistanis to push into subversive and terrorist activities after training and arming them in the name of Jehad in Pak-occupied Kashmir and Kashmir Valley during the late 1980s. Later, mercenaries and radical elements from the other Islamic countries in West Asia and other parts too joined it. It is this continuing obsession and rhetoric of successive Pakistani leaderships which is breeding and nurturing terrorism across the Line of Control (LOC) in Kashmir and elsewhere in India for almost three decades now. It has been over seventy years since independence and integration of Jammu & Kashmir in India through a democratic process but some minority separatist groups in Kashmir supported with the connivance and active support from Pakistan continue to indulge in an anti-India tirade and rhetoric of self-determination by Kashmiri people.
About three years 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 interpreted it as 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 and outside like never before. Consequently, all major opposition parties had shown solidarity and resolve with the ruling party 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 declared 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 might now change for the better. But the hope was soon diminished to disappointment because, except for the lip service, Nawaz Sharif government didn’t take any substantive measures to eliminate or check India specific terrorist outfits from its soil.
Concept of Good and Bad Militants
The jargons good Taliban and bad Taliban and/or good militants and bad militants are indigenous to Pakistan used in various parlance. 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 attack and kill people in Afghanistan and avoid causing any harm to Pakistani interests. The other prominent Deobandi “good militant group” is JeM, which was raised in Pakistan to work against the Indian interests to sabotage and kill Indians in Kashmir and beyond in the Indian Territory. Another prominent non-Deobandi group namely LeT (now operating under the alias Jamaat-ud-Dawa) under Hafiz Saeed exclusively operates against the Indian interests in Kashmir and other parts. These groups, HUM and many other smaller groups are rooted in POK and Pakistan but considered as good militants because they do not cause harm to Pakistani interests.
On the other hand, the so-called ‘bad Taliban or militants’ are the groups that were sponsored, aided, abetted and in some cases even raised by Pakistan, either to fight in Afghanistan or India but later turned hostile against Pakistan due to various reasons. The main reason for them to turn hostile was the treacherous role of the state which on one hand pretended to be fighting against terrorism in support of US and allies and, on the other hand, actively supported the very groups through overt and covert means. The so-called bad militant groups basically belonged 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 terror groups which increasingly alienated Deobandi groups who began disobeying and working against the interests of Pakistan. These militant outfits are also identified as the Pakistani Taliban.
The biggest paradox and problem in Pakistan is that, on one hand, they continue to support and preserve the very system that produces terrorists because they serve their political interests in India and Afghanistan, and on the other hand when they turn against the very state and start killing Pakistanis, then they are constrained to identify and kill them. In Pakistan, even the legal system is so decrepit and unreliable that many judges are afraid to handle their cases and convict them. A case in point could be the cases against the LeT co-founder and global terrorist Hafiz Saeed. He and his associates were arrested in December 2008 in the context of Mumbai terror attacks leaving 166 people killed and several hundred injured. The case dragged on for several years during which courts and judges were changed and finally he was released in December 2014 citing the lack of evidence.
Acknowledging State Sponsored Terrorism
As back as in 2009, the 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 it 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 considered heroes until 9/11 Al-Qaeda terror attacks in New York and Washington. 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 India and Afghanistan. Tribal regions of Pakistan along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir have often been cited as 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 & Kashmir. In an interview to a German Magazine, he had said, “(Militant groups) were indeed formed. The government turned a blind eye because they wanted India to discuss Kashmir.” Again in October, 2014, he boasted of using such capabilities of Pakistan to destabilize India in a television interview. Ever since on several occasions, he had openly spoken of the state sponsored terrorism in Kashmir and elsewhere in India, which of course he tries to justify as freedom struggle. As already mentioned, now Musharraf has gone to the extent of calling himself as the “biggest supporter” of the UN listed global terrorist Hafiz Saeed and is even keen to jointly fight elections partnering him.
Sometime back in a video released, Adnan Rashid, commander of one faction of Tahrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, had disclosed at length how Pakistani ISI and army were engaged in recruiting, training and misleading Muslim youth in the name of Jihad over the years for using them in carrying out terror activities against India in Kashmir. This disclosure was of course in retaliation of the army action against the said terrorist group in Pakistan.
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 that while Pakistan has cooperated US in capturing Al-Qaeda members, it was 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 Byman, a professor at Georgetown University, considered Pakistan as the most active sponsor of terrorism. After the Mumbai terror attacks, 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.”
How West Perceives Pakistan on Terrorism?
Pakistan has long been suspected by the West i.e. USA and its European allies of playing double game of fight against some 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 i.e. India and Afghanistan. Notwithstanding this, Americans have traditionally been soft on Pakistan whom they traditionally considered as the strategic and key partner in their war against the terrorism in the aftermath of Al-Queda 2001 attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. and have been spending billions of dollars on Pakistan in military assistance for fighting against insurgents. This traditional approach and policy has seen a reversal only after the Republican President Donald Trump came in power in January 2017.
Pakistan’s Terror Network
Pakistan is often regarded as a safe haven for the terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda, LeT, JeT, Lashkar-e-Omar, various Taliban groups and now ISIS. US and NATO allies have now accepted the Indian claim that the various terror outfits are being aided, abetted and sponsored by Pakistan ISI and army with the implicit state support. Who can deny that Osama-bin-Laden had comfortably lived in Pakistan right under the nose of army in a fortified compound in Abbottabad, an important military cantonment before being identified and killed by US Navy seals in an operation kept secret from the Pakistan government. The terror masterminds and wanted criminals like Dawood Ibrahim, Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar for various terror crimes in India are living and moving in Pakistan as free citizens under the protection of the Pakistani establishment. The commanders of JeM and HUM too are operating from the soil of Pakistan.
Apart from the above stated anti-India terrorist groups, Pakistan has been often blamed for recruiting, training, funding, supplying arms and providing diplomatic support to various Taliban groups, particularly the Haqqani network pitted against the US-led NATO forces and the government of Afghanistan. Last year in November, the US has given Pakistan a list of 20 terrorist groups including LeT, JeM and HUM that they believe are operating from its soil to target India and Afghanistan, and recently they have again impressed upon the Pakistan government to act against these groups to dismantle and destroy these terror networks from its soil. In the US list, the Haqqani network is on top with identified safe havens in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in North-western Pakistan, from there launching attacks into Afghanistan. Indian intelligence sources too have identified scores of terrorist camps operating from across the border, particularly 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.
Sponsor and Modules Stand Exposed
Apart from earlier stopping security and civil aid, there are clear indications that the US has now moved a motion to place Pakistan on a global terrorist-financing watch-list with an international anti-money-laundering monitoring group. Ever since Donald Trump came in power, US has slowly but significantly moved towards taking punitive actions against Pakistan for their double standards of pretensions of cooperating international community in their fight against terrorism yet at the same time maintaining implicit and explicit support to terror activities and terror modules from its own soil.
This started few months back in 2017 when the American President himself chose to warn Pakistan bitterly criticising their double standards and speaks on terrorism citing stern action if they continue to fail in taking time bound action in dismantling terror modules and terrorists operating from its soil against the interests of Afghanistan and India. As expected Pakistan’s all weather ally China instantly came in support of Pakistan on the issue and Pakistan leadership reacted vehemently refuting the allegations of the US. Consequently, last month President Donald Trump’s administration suspended aid worth about $2 billion to Pakistan besides categorically warning them to take direct action against the terrorists on Pakistani soil if the latter continues to fail to do so.
While categorically refuting their involvement in Afghanistan and India, Pakistan reacted angrily to US threats against punitive measures perhaps due to confidence that financial loss from that country could be offset through China and Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia. But they clearly seem to be weary now in the recent weeks to avert being added to a list of countries deemed non-compliant with terrorist financing regulations by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a tough measure that Pakistan establishment fear could hurt its economy in the long run. The FATF is an intergovernmental body based in Paris which sets global standards for fighting illicit finance. Its meeting is shortly due in Paris, where the organization could adopt the motion against Pakistan.
In a damage control measure, with intent to stave off being put in the inglorious list, Pakistan has quietly now adopted sanctions against two groups namely the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Falah-e-Insaniat (FIF) which the US accuses of being fronts for the terrorist group LeT, moving to seize their schools, ambulances and other assets. The Punjab government in Pakistan has banned the said groups linked to Hafiz Saeed, just days before the proposed meeting of the global watchdog FATF in which a US-backed motion is likely to come up for vote putting Pakistan on the watch-list for failing to curb terrorist financing. It is a well-known fact that the United Nations and US had already put Hafiz Saeed and LeT on the international terrorism blacklist years back. Under tremendous international pressure, Pakistan had banned the LeT but allowed its alleged charity wings to continue operating and maintaining an extensive network of seminaries, schools, hospitals, a publishing house and ambulance services.
US have welcomed the action with caution that Pakistan has always been selective in cracking down on militants who use its territory as a base. It may be mentioned that Pakistan in the past too was put on the FATF watch-list from 2012 to 2015. What really appears to worry Pakistan is that being put on the watch-list again might serve as a red flag for the foreign investors and companies to do business in their country and hinder the country’s access to international markets as it is due to repay roughly $3 billion in debt in the coming months. Besides, US may also pressurise world institutions like International Monetary Fund and World Bank to put forth stricter terms for Pakistan.
Will Pakistan Buckle under US Pressure?
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 different 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 possible full scale Indian military aggression as a retaliatory measure consequent to terror attacks. While India sticks to its professed doctrine of ‘No First Use’, Pakistan has no such obligation in the event of a war. Also due to nuclear weapons in their possession, the US and other NATO allies never try to belittle its importance in international polity.
After the years of bickering, the present US President had finally shown guts to freeze some $2 billion in assistance to Pakistan as a punitive action for the country’s reluctance to crack down on the terrorist groups. The US indeed has plenty of incentives and punitive cards on sleeve to put pressure on Pakistan, which on one hand has long pretended to be an ally, but on the other hand has continued to aid the very militant groups fighting and killing US soldiers in neighbouring Afghanistan. Consequently, even after more than 16 years of the US intervention, Afghanistan has not returned to normalcy. It is doubtful whether the recent decision of the US administration to deploy additional troops would be of much help unless Pakistan decisively acts against the terror modules of Haqqani and other groups operating from its soil against the US and Afghan interests.
The main hindrance in the process is the role the powerful military and ISI, whose generals dictate terms and run the government by proxy in Pakistan dominating over the successive weak and toothless civilian governments. This powerful lobby appears to be protecting and even nurturing the terrorists and their organizations. In fact, army and ISI wilfully act against only those terrorists who threaten Pakistani interests. The US too is aware of this fact but far from holding Pakistani generals accountable for this in the past, the US had provided them large amounts of funds making Pakistan one of their largest aid recipients. Even when the US tracked and liquidated Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad cantonment, they avoided putting any direct blame on Pakistan’s army. Of course this carrot-only policy appears to have now changed to stick-and-carrot policy now, as is apparent from their punitive action yet making a substantial budgetary provision for the conditional civil and security assistance to Pakistan.
The Trump administration recently acknowledged their US policy failure on Pakistan by the previous governments. While the suspension of the security aid and economic assistance may have a marginal impact but it may not be suffice to compel Pakistan to make significant policy changes on their outlook on terrorism. Of late with China emerging as another major military and economic power in the world scenario, political equations too are changing globally. As such in Pakistan’s case, it seems that China is more than willing to fill the void created by US action. Then Pakistan also has benefactors in Islamic countries, particularly Saudi Arabia. Therefore, besides continuing to tighten economic screws, the US and NATO allies would have to look for other more stringent measures if they are serious about taming the errand Pakistan to fall in line. Some other immediate options could be formally putting Pakistan on the list of the countries sponsoring terrorism as also depriving Pakistan of the privileges of being NATO ally, thereby ending its preferential access to sophisticated weapons and technologies.
Of course, the US and allies would have to factor in the likely response of a belligerent Pakistan who could also react to sanctions by denying overland access to Afghanistan thereby increasing the cost of deployment and operation of the US forces. It is also to be seen as to what length China is willing to go by Pakistan with full knowledge of its duplicity and double standards. If the US is serious about Donald Trump’s famous outburst “Pakistan has given us nothing but deceit and lies”, they will have to decisively act against Pakistan to see that it abandons the double game of claiming to be a US ally while harbouring and abetting terrorists at the same time.
Will Pakistan Abandon Terrorism to Forge Peace with India?
Despite taking measures under the pressure of the international community, Pakistan is unable to effectively control and counter the terror modules which it created for India and Afghanistan in the past but some of them are now posing serious threat to its own existence. Some of the chief reasons are the reluctance of army to liquidate all terror modules, continued weak civilian governments and their own dilemma of taking only selective measures. Sadly, Pakistan is still working half-heartedly to curtail terrorism on its soil. While they are serious about terrorist groups working against their interests, 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 still 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 in Pakistan are the bad militants. Unless the realization comes that there is nothing like a good militant or a bad militant and anyone who is killing and inflicting atrocities on innocent people, women and children anywhere is a terrorist and deserves to be treated accordingly. It is of common knowledge that several terrorists and criminals wanted by India and US for heinous crimes are actually roaming free or cozying in safe hideouts in Pakistan, some of them even under active state patronage.
Coming back to the question as to whether Pakistan will abandon links with terrorism and terrorists, and cooperate with US and India in their fight against the terrorism. The moot point for consideration is that Pakistan fought three bitter wars with India over Kashmir and failing which they started indulging in two-pronged strategy of inciting separatist movement in Kashmir and actively endorsing terrorism by recruitment, training, funding and facilitating their infiltration in the Indian Territory. The integration of Jammu & Kashmir in India is a historical, geographic and demographic reality but Pakistan’s obsession with Kashmir has not diminished. If Pakistan realizes and accepts these realities, it would be easy to reconcile and abandon the path of confrontation and terrorism. However, if their past rhetoric and the recently held annual ritual of ‘Kasmir Solidarity Day’ on 5th February, 2018 are of any indication, Pakistan is not likely to abandon the path of confrontation and terrorism.
There is yet another reason why Pakistan will continue to trouble India as an enemy nation in the years to come. Not many people in India and elsewhere are aware that many Pakistani Ulema, Clerics, professional scientists, army personnel and defence experts are actively engaged for years, allegedly citing it a Hadith, in constantly spreading the ideology of “Ghazwa-e-Hind”, that means conquest of India. Ghazwa means a war to kill Kafirs and Hind is the part of the land of Kafirs today known as India. These people keep on poisoning the minds of Pakistani masses to be ready for the day when the Idolaters of the Hind (Hindus) will be conquered and wiped out from the face of the Indian subcontinent.
A person hearing about Ghazwa-e-Hind for the first time might think it is a cruel joke but it is a reality how minds of common people in Pakistan are systematically turned and tuned against Indian people and land. The state policy of Pakistan too appears somewhat similar to this concept. The DNA* of Pakistan is built on anti-India ideology; hence it is not likely that Pakistan will ever be at peace with India even if someday the issue of Kashmir is resolved.
*Deoxyribonucleic Acid, a self-replicating material in living beings carrying genetic information.