Pakistan's terror empire

Terror is terror, and there can be no differentiation between a Masood Azhar, Hafiz Saeed or Umar Khorasani. Till Pakistan accepts this fundamental truth, global terrorism will keep raising its head

by Bhopinder Singh

Pakistan is a land where proverbial home-grown chickens come home to roost. From its genealogically flawed ‘two-nation’ theory to its deliberate attempts to ‘Shariaze’ itself during the 1980’s regime of dictator General Zia-ul-Haq — the consequences of its surrender towards puritanical religiosity has been a saga of steady regression.

According to a US report 10 years back, ‘World at Risk, 2008’, all global roads leading to weapons of mass destruction, proliferation and terrorism were said to pass through Pakistan. This was even accepted in the corridors of power in 2009, when the then head of Pakistan’s infamous Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Lt Gen Shujaa Pasha, had unprecedentedly declared, “Terror is our enemy, not India”.

Today, the Pakistani establishment cries wolf about the “cost” that it has incurred for the “war on terror”, when it rattles of figures like over 74,000 casualties in 14 years and an economic cost of $123 billion! True as the figures may be, the patented Pakistani duplicitousness on handling terror, had led to US President Donald Trump’s irate and frustrating tweet, “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years,” and added that in return, “they have given us nothing but lies & deceit”.

Closer home, double-standards of Pakistan on terrorism has already riled its neighbours ie, India, Afghanistan and even Iran. While India was well-versed with Pakistani insincerities since independence, with Islamabad’s fingerprints across various insurgencies in India. Afghanistan woke-up to the poison unleashed and nurtured by the likes of Pakistani politicians like Naseerullah Babar and radicalised military men like Lt Gen Hamid Gul (known as the ‘father of the Taliban’; ‘butcher of the Afghans’ among others) — making the continuous Pakistani support and abetment to terror groups, the single biggest factor deterring peace in Afghanistan.

The misguided Pakistani attempt to continuously use terror groups as levers of influence for ‘strategic depth’ within Afghanistan, led Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani to quote, “As a Taliban figure said recently, if they had no sanctuary in Pakistan, they wouldn’t last a month”.

Even the Iranian Chief of the Armed Forces, Major General Mohammad Baqeri had vented his angst against Pakistani machinations by saying, “We expect the Pakistani officials to control the borders, arrest the terrorists and shut down their bases” and then added for good measure, “If the terrorist attacks continue, we will hit with crushing blows to their safe havens and cells, wherever they are”.

Meanwhile, India dealt with backhand Pakistani chicanery at the high-tables of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), where repeated attempts to declare Masood Azhar (terrorist leader behind Mumbai 26/11, Pathankot 2016 and other terror attacks) of the Jaish-e-Mohammed group, a

‘global terrorist’, was repeatedly disallowed in connivance with Pakistan’s ‘all-weather friend’ China, vetoing the proposal. This despite the fact that his group Jaish-e-Mohammed was earlier blacklisted as a terrorist group in 2001 for “participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing or perpetrating of acts or activities by, in conjunction with, under the name of, on behalf or in support of” of Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, besides his India-centricity on terror.

However, owing to electoral technicalities of ‘veto’ and the implausible logic of ‘non-state’ actors, Pakistan got away without Masood Azhar’s individual listing. Further, with a $10 million US bounty on the head of another India-facing and UNSC declared terrorist, Hafiz Saeed — the brazen free run afforded to him in Pakistan — cocks a snook at any portents of Pakistan’s supposed sincerity on ‘war on terror’.

Recently, in an eerie reversal of fate, Pakistani efforts to blacklist the Pakistan-facing terror group, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) leader, Umar Khurasani, as a UNSC-designated terrorist met with parallel ‘technical’ disallowance by the US. Like in the case of both Masood Azar or Hafiz Saeed for India, Umar Khurasani is believed to have made over 150 attacks on Pakistani interests and lives with impunity. The failure to designate him a UNSC listed terrorist led to very familiar woes by the Pakistani Foreign Office, “This action demonstrates the double standards prevailing in the international fight against terrorism and also shows complete disregard of the sacrifices rendered by Pakistan in this fight”.

Like the point made earlier by the Indians on the fact that Masood Azar should get listed as a UNSC designated terrorist, since his organisation (Jaish-e-Mohammed) was already blacklisted — was exactly and incredously invoked by the hapless Pakistanis in their own case, “If the organisation has been listed by the sanctions committee, its leader should also have been listed”.

In this specific case, the technicality of Umar Khurasani ‘operating in Afghanistan’ was supposedly stated by the Americans, akin to the equally untenable line of ‘non-state-actors’ that is routinely made by Pakistan, whenever it is pushed to a corner on its complicity on terror. Indians were still licking their wounds on the unfairness of the circumstances leading to its inability to have an open-and-shut case like that of Masood Azar ratified, when this seemingly parallel narrative elicited a hauntingly similar concern by the Pakistanis on the sanctity of multilateral platforms like the UNSC, “Instead of supporting Pakistani request for listing a terrorist, the US raised an objection. The US needs to act fairly to root out terrorism. Such actions by the US undermine the credibility of the UN sanctions list”!

Pakistan has paid with blood for its intransigence, incorrigible duplicity and half-sincerity on the ‘war on terror’, and today the highly inflammable tinderbox of Pakistan is imploding with its own contradictions and patronages.

The recent admission of irrefutable-complicity on terror by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, only reconfirms what is already known on Islamabad’s patented double-standards.

Terror is terror, and there can be no differentiation between a Masood Azar, Hafiz Saeed or an Umar Khurasani — till Pakistan accepts this fundamental truth, global terrorism will keep raising its head, and more frequently, the Pakistanis will get a dose of their own medicine.

The writer, a military veteran, is a former Lt Governor of Andaman & Nicobar Islands, and Pondicherry