Pakistan is a country that faced an unnerved degree of terrorism. Terrorist not only ripped apart innocent people but they even did not spare children. For over a decade terrorist’s wreaked havoc on Pakistani people but Pakistan’s political and military leadership seemed unimpressed by terrorist’s moves. However now the new Chief of Army staff is quite committed to unearth terrorism from Pakistan. Not only the world but USA seems satisfied with Pakistan efforts to eradicate this franker tine. Despite the US’s jubilation about the paradigm shift, we have been there, done that. In the immediate post-9/11 phase, the military dictator, General Pervez Musharraf, had banned a slew of jihadist organisations, ostensibly frozen their funds and jailed some of their leaders too. Similar to the current announcement via news reports, of a potential ban, the JuD’s forbearer, i.e. the Markaz Dawa-wal-Irshad was given enough lead time by the Musharraf regime to change its name to JuD in December 2001. Similarly, the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network melted away, rather than facing international forces, and were retracted into Pakistan to regroup. It was a matter of time before they resurfaced in Afghanistan in 2004. Musharraf had even promulgated the deeni madaris (religious seminaries) Voluntary Registration and Regulation Ordinance in June 2002, which was not much different from the madrassa reforms being touted by the present government. What is so exciting about the current mantra of change then? We are led to believe that the security establishment has learnt its lesson, jettisoned its good/bad jihadist distinction and taken a fresh start under new management.
The present Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Raheel Sharif, certainly comes across as a sober person compared to General Pervez Musharraf and a much more proactive one than General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. However, if his recent talk at the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) London is anything to go by, General Sharif seems no less India-centric than his predecessors. That the COAS zeroed-in on Pakistan’s dispute with India over Kashmir in his talk is understandable but the way the Line of Control (LoC) has lit up since he assumed office is a matter of concern. The Kashmir-oriented jihadists like Maulana Masud Azhar and Hafiz Saeed have become increasingly vocal and visible over the last several months, which raises the question whether Pakistan intends to decommission these India-oriented jihadists anytime soon. The answer is a cautiously pessimistic no. And therein lies the rub. One can reform and regulate the madrassas all one wants but so long as there is a demand for the jihadists, they will keep churning out more.
Moreover, the Pakistani establishment’s arrangement with new Afghan President Mr Ashraf Ghani also seems geared more towards neutralising the perceived Indian influence in Afghanistan than actually finding a permanent solution to the menace of terrorism. The Pakistani establishment is conveying that it has successfully pried away Mr Ghani from India and now Pakistan will help secure peace in Afghanistan. Never mind that by inference then, there was war and terrorism in Afghanistan thus far because Pakistan did not approve of its relationship with India. Mr Ghani is on a clock at home. He will have to show tangible results in the next three months before the whole shebang falls apart. So far, the Pakistani security establishment has not induced a single Afghan Taliban leader from the Quetta or the Peshawar Shura to make peace with Mr Ghani’s administration, which will tell whether Pakistan’s strategic calculus has truly undergone a paradigm shift or we are just daydreaming. As the Americanism goes: if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. The onus is on Pakistan to prove the bona fides of its claim.