Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a CIA drone strike in Afghanistan on Tuesday. Several UN-designated global terrorist live in Pakistan’s Punjab. Pakistan has been spreading terror in India since the 1980s. The Balakot attack was a clear message that India will hit terror at the source

It was in a palatial multi-storey bungalow downtown Kabul that Ayman al-Zawahiri, the al-Qaeda number one, was hiding in plain sight when two Hellfire missiles fired from the Reaper unmanned combat aerial vehicle took him out. Twenty-one years after the worst terror attack on US soil killed close to 3,000 people, the US succeeded in neutralising the successor of Osama Bin Laden.

Incidentally, Osama Bin Laden was also hiding not in the remote Tora Bora mountains but barely 100 metres from Pakistan Military Academy in Kakul, Abbottabad, Pakistan, when US Navy Seals took him out.

But what do both these incidents tell you about the billions of dollars and thousands of lives lost in the US war on terror post 9/11? Two of the world’s most wanted terrorists were living in Kabul and Abbottabad. Were the lives of thousands of US and allied soldiers lost in vain, with al-Qaeda and Taliban back in control of Kabul?

What adds insult to injury is information that the palatial multi-storey bungalow in an upscale locality in Kabul was owned by a close aide of the interior minister of Afghanistan Sirajuddin Haqqani. The Haqqani network is seen as a veritable arm of Pakistan’s notorious counterintelligence agency, the ISI. Join the dots. The source of terror whether al-Qaeda or Taliban, is Pakistan.

On January 1, 2018, then US President Donald Trump hit out at Pakistan, exposing its doublespeak on the war on terror. He tweeted that the US had foolishly given Pakistan over 33 billion dollars and Pakistan continued to harbour terrorists the US was hunting in Afghanistan.

And yet, despite the US withholding aid, Pakistan did not crack down on either senior al-Qaeda terrorists or the Haqqani Network. Today, Sirajuddin Haqqani is the interior minister of Afghanistan. And this has been the biggest failure of the democratic world not holding Pakistan’s feet to fire on cracking down on terror.

Pakistan has been spreading terror in India since the 1980s first in Punjab through the Khalistan movement and then in Jammu and Kashmir through radical Islamists. The 1993 Mumbai blasts that killed 257 innocent Indians and injured over 700 were traced back to Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar, an international terror financier living in Karachi, Pakistan.

Several UN-designated global terrorists, including Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar, live in Muridke and Bahawalpur in Pakistan’s Punjab province. These terrorists and their terrorist organisations like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed have been involved in a series of terror attacks in India: from the hijack of IC-814 Indian Airlines aircraft to the attack on Indian Parliament and from the attack on multiple temples and marketplaces and the train networks in 2005 that killed over 200 people to the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks in 2008 which resulted in the killing of 166 people from a dozen countries.

However, despite a mountain of evidence, Pakistan took no action against Hafiz Saeed. India even permitted Pakistan’s ISI to visit the Pathankot air base after the Jaish-e-Mohammed-sponsored terror attack, and yet no action was taken against JeM terrorists. After the Pulwama vehicle-borne IED strike by JeM terrorists that resulted in the killing of 40 CRPF personnel, India decided enough is enough, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered the IAF to hit terror at the source.

The JeM training camp at Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was selected as the target, with intelligence inputs indicating a number of terrorists undergoing training at the camp. IAF Mirage 2000 fighter jets not only crossed the LoC but hit the terror training camp in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa mainland Pakistan province.

The message was clear India will hit terror at the source. But that should be the norm. From now to 2024, Hafiz Saeed, Masood Azhar and Dawood Ibrahim should be on notice the countdown to justice must begin.