Price of inaction

SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association)

PAKISTAN’S drift towards international isolation is only matched by the state’s denial of this truth.

On Wednesday, the joint US-India statement issued at the end of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington D.C. contained direct language seemingly focused on Pakistan.

It is worth reproducing the relevant part of the text: “The [US and Indian] leaders stressed the need for joint and concerted efforts, including the dismantling of safe havens for terrorist and criminal networks, to disrupt all financial and tactical support for networks such as Al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, the D-Company and the Haqqanis. They reiterated their call for Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of the November 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai to justice.”

On the same day, the US Treasury department announced sanctions against three Pakistanis, including Fazlur Rehman Khalil, and two Pakistan-based entities for links to the LeT and Harkatul Mujahideen, the foremost of the Kashmir-orientated militant groups in the country. Certainly India has its own reasons for trying to build an anti-Pakistan alliance, but our refusal to address militancy concerns has created more space for Delhi’s anti-Pakistan rhetoric.

Take the official reaction by the Foreign Office yesterday in which the FO spokesperson focused on a UN terrorist watchlist and denied that the US move is “binding” on Pakistan.

Therein lies the problem: while Pakistan continues to baulk at acting against certain militant groups, the countries under threat from those organisations are moving closer to each other in order to counter the threat.

Consider that the joint US-India statement also refers to “dismantling” terrorist safe havens: is that an ominous sign that however remote the possibility at the moment, the US and India have begun contemplating the possibility of targeted counterterrorist operations on Pakistani soil at some point in the future?

Surely, that would be nothing short of a catastrophe for Pakistan with unknowable consequences for peace and security in the region. Yet, the country’s national security and foreign policy apparatus remains indifferent to or unaware of the storm that appears to be brewing.

In truth, many of Pakistan’s problems are self-inflicted. The best that has ever been managed when it comes to pro-Kashmir militant groups is to put the state’s sponsorship of jihad in cold storage, as was done by Musharraf in the early part of the last decade. But, a decade on, the security establishment seems bent on continuing the policy of politically mainstreaming the leadership of groups such as the LeT, HuM and now even the Punjabi Taliban.

That is what allows Hafiz Saeed and Fazlur Rehman Khalil to address rallies, appear routinely on TV and to go on organising their ranks and developing their organisations with a brazenness and confidence that has the rest of the world looking on with alarm. Truly, the outside world can legitimately ask why the Mumbai-related Rawalpindi trials are stuck in limbo. The signals from D.C. are clear: if Pakistan doesn’t act, others will.

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