Pak safe haven for different terrorist power centres


The terrorist attack in Pathankot was all over the Indian media. There were many talks about it but the one which went overboard was the “news” of the detention of Masood Azhar, Chief of Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed, suspected by Indian media to be the mastermind behind the attack.

Masood Azhar is said to share very close ties with the Pakistani military and civil administration. It was later clarified that he was only taken under “protective custody”. It was however openly clarified by the Pakistani establishment that Masood Azhar was not arrested. And this is enough to quiver the foundation of Pakistan’s state. It finally establishes Pakistan’s image of a territorial conglomeration of different terrorist power centres.

The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) is not fully controlled by Islamabad’s writ now. In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is supreme. Despite the fact that only PTI’s provincial government runs in the area, it holds a chance to win the election due to TTP’s tacit support.

Different terrorist organizations have in fact divided Sindh among themselves and have carved out their own territorial jurisdictions. In Punjab four terrorist organizations – Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-i-Sahaba – are really powerful. Of late the TTP has also penetrated deep inside the province.

Especially after US President Barack Obama’s comments that Pakistan could become a safe haven for terrorists and that the country would continue to face instability for decades to come, Pakistan holds the burden to prove to the world that it is not a terrorist state.

However, a significant change can be witnessed in the equation between Pakistani Army and administration, and the terror groups associated with it since the aftermath of the Pathankot incident differentiates to a great extent from the Mumbai attack of 2008. Pakistan had denied any connection with the terrorists and washed its hands off the charge during Mumbai attack. This time, the response, as well as cooperation from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, was prompt.

This change is, however, half-hearted and, therefore, Pakistan is now saying that it would take action against Masood Azhar if his culpability is proved “beyond doubt”. There is no need to wait for the completion of the probe as there is plenty of evidence against the Jaish-e-Mohammed chief and his organization. After it was banned in 2002, Jaish-e-Mohammed split into several cells which were linked to the Al-Qaeda. Masood Azhar coordinated the activities of these splinter groups from his underground shelter and launched two successive attempts to eliminate then President Pervez Musharraf. Azhar was also the principal brain behind the building up of Islamic fundamentalist insurgency around Islamabad’s Lal Masjid.

The Pathankot terrorist strike affects Pakistan very seriously since it disrobed the extreme vulnerability of the country’s security and stability by a single stroke. Both India and Pakistan have exhibited prudence by only deferring the foreign secretary-level talks and rescheduling it in the “very near future”. But saner voices in Pakistan are now questioning the policy of the state in giving a long rope to some non-state actors who are creating havoc with impunity.

But Pakistan needs to undertake some surgical operations into its polity if it really wants to come out of the quagmire and stave off destruction. There is a limit to which it can go so far as operations in the FATA area are concerned. Moreover, the Pashtun community lives on both sides of the Durand Line that separates Pakistan and Afghanistan. But the agreement creating the Durand Line expired long ago and if the Pashtuns living on the Pakistan side and facing military action now want to join Afghanistan, it will mean the dismemberment of Pakistan.

Patronization of the Deobandi school of thought has now become the bane of Pakistan. Fundamentalism has now struck so deep a root that even the Election Commission has not been left untouched. During the last election, the commission had invoked articles 62 and 63 of the constitution which forbade anybody who was not a practicing Muslim from contesting. Even the candidature of a renowned journalist like Ayaz Amir was rejected on the charge that he drank.

The Pakistan Army must immediately dismantle the unholy alliance between a section of it and the fundamentalist outfits. Unfortunately, no such serious attempt is in sight. On the contrary, quite a few Army and naval officers, many of them being Shias, have been murdered after they protested against inaction on the part of their superiors against organizations like the Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Lashkar-e-Taiba. (picture courtesy: (IANS)