On June 22, 2015, the Afghan Parliament was attacked by Jihadi extremists while it was in session. According to Haseeb Sediqi, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s intelligence agency the National Directorate of Security, preliminary investigations had revealed that Bilal, an ISI officer, had helped the Haqqani Network’s operational commander Maulvi Sherin plan the attack.
In a meeting of the United Nations Sanctions Committee on June 23, 2015, India’s efforts to have Pakistan censured for having released Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the mastermind of the 26/11 terror strikes in Mumbai, were blocked by China on the specious plea that India had not provided sufficient information.
Pakistan’s ISI has for long been directing trans-Durand Line hit-and-run strike operations from safe havens on Pakistani territory against targets in Afghanistan.
While China showed that its friendship with Pakistan was indeed “higher than the mountains, deeper than the oceans, stronger than steel and sweeter than honey”, it appears to have forgotten that it is itself a victim of terrorist activity that has its roots on Pakistani soil. Only a day after this gross error of judgement, 18 Uighur policemen were killed in Xinjiang, China’s restive north-western province. The East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), that receives weapons and equipment from Pakistan-based terrorist organisations, has been blamed for the killings.
Two weeks ago, the US State Department said in its annual report on terrorism that Pakistan has not taken any action against the anti-India Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which continues to “operate, train, rally, propagandise and fundraise” despite having been banned. The Afghan Taliban, including the Haqqani Network, are still being provided safe haven in Pakistan even as the army battles terrorist organisations that threaten Pakistan’s integrity like the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
Pakistan’s ISI has for long been directing trans-Durand Line hit-and-run strike operations from safe havens on Pakistani territory against targets in Afghanistan. Mullah Omar’s Quetta Shoora, the Paktia-based Haqqani Network and the Hizb-e-Islami, founded by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, all operate out of bases inside Pakistan. Pakistani Ulema Council chairman Tahir Ashrafi sought to “legitimise” the Taliban insurgency by saying that suicide attacks in Afghanistan were permitted under Islam as long as US forces were present.
Indian assets in Afghanistan have been repeatedly targeted by Pakistan’s so-called ‘strategic assets’.
General Sher Mohammad Karimi, Chief of Staff of the Afghan army, said during an interview with the BBC some time ago, that the war with the Taliban would be over in weeks if Pakistan so wished. Hanif Atmar, the Afghan NSA, has identified threats from five types of terror networks — the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban and the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the al-Qaeda, Islamic State or “Da’esh” and Chinese groups like the ETIM. The Afghan National Security Council (NSC) has called for Pakistan’s ISI to be blacklisted.
Indian assets in Afghanistan have been repeatedly targeted by Pakistan’s so-called ‘strategic assets’. The ISI continues to sponsor terrorist strikes in Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of India. While there have been no large-scale attacks like the 26 November 2008 Mumbai one, a large number of smaller incidents have occurred fairly regularly. In J&K, infiltration along the LoC has been increasing and there have been more incidents of violence in the last two years than in previous years. Wireless intercepts and the interrogation of arrested Jihadi extremists reveal direct linkages with ISI handlers based in POK and Pakistan. The ISI provides funding, weapons, training and intelligence support to the infiltrating groups. The Pakistan army helps them cross the LoC by providing covering fire. The Pakistan government continues to claim that it provides only ‘diplomatic, political and moral’ support to Kashmiri ‘freedom fighters’.
Through a process of slow motion implosion, Pakistan is gradually becoming a failed state. Its integrity has never before been threatened the way it is under threat now due to internal instability, radical extremism, creeping Talibanisation, fissiparous tendencies, sectarian violence, political dissonance and a sliding economy. While the army faces an almost full-blown insurgency in Balochistan, there are subterranean tensions in Sind and Gilgit-Baltistan as well. Yet, despite the risk of disintegration due to internal strife, the Pakistan army and the ISI continue to sponsor terrorist strikes in Afghanistan and India.
The time has come to stop mollycoddling the Pakistan army on the grounds that it must be supported in order to ensure that its nuclear weapons do not fall into Jihadi hands.
It emerges clearly from the Pakistan army and the ISI’s proclivity to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds that the country prefers to have become the epicentre of Islamist fundamentalist terrorism despite itself being in the throes of disintegration. The international community must censure Pakistan in the strictest possible terms and give the government six months’ time to stop all activities aimed at destabilising its neighbours. Failing satisfactory progress, UN-approved economic, military and travel-related sanctions should be imposed on Pakistan.
Also, countries supplying weapons and defence equipment to Pakistan must stop doing so, especially surplus military equipment that is being gifted, for example by the US. There have been reports of the proposed sale of attack helicopters by Russia. Military aid strengthens the Pakistan army and gives it greater confidence to operate with impunity. It also enables the army to drive Pakistan’s foreign and security policies, denying the elected civilian government its legitimate right to guide policy.
The time has come to stop mollycoddling the Pakistan army on the grounds that it must be supported in order to ensure that its nuclear weapons do not fall into Jihadi hands. This is a bogey that has been perpetuated very successfully by the Pakistan army to enable it to continue to call the shots in Pakistan’s polity. The ‘deep state’ and its strategic assets must be gradually dismantled.