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Jihadis targeting India are seen as ‘the good guys’: Haqqani

Pakistani scholar and author Husain Haqqani talks about his recent book 'India vs Pakistan: Why Can't We Just be Friends?'

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Former Pakistani Ambassador to the US, scholar and author Husain Haqqani who is an integral part of the powerful elite in Islamabad, talks about his recent book ‘India vs Pakistan: Why Can’t We Just be Friends?’, discussing jihad, relations with India, terrorism and the connection between Pakistan’s military intelligence service – the ISI and Islamic jihadi forces.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q. Can you explain ex-ISI chief Shuja Pasha’s statement on 26/11 terror attack, “Log hamare the, operation hamara nahi tha” (our people but it was not our operation)?
A. Pasha said, “our people” were involved, he didn’t say it was Pakistan army officers or ISI men. Pasha could have meant Pakistanis or he could be referring to LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) as “our people.” However, Pasha had told ex-CIA Director, General Michael Hayden, that “retired Pakistani army officers and retired intelligence officers” were involved in the planning. General Hayden says so in his book. Condoleezza Rice, then Secretary of State, has also written the same.
Since 26/11, Pakistan never went into the depth of the case even though proof was presented. We did arrest some, but we have not successfully prosecuted those responsible and until that is done, questions will remain.

Q. Rice had warned Pakistan to shut down terror operations. However, nothing has changed.
A. Prosecution is difficult in a system where jihadis targeting India are seen as ‘the good guys’. Yes, Secretary Rice had told Islamabad to shut down all terrorist operations. But that wasn’t the first time and certainly not the last. Pakistan has persisted with the same policy since the 1990s. When pushed by US on terror: first deny, then list Pakistani grievances, bring up Kashmir and blame India, provide commitments and assurances and end again with denial. This is not working.

Q. Though US had named Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi of LeT as the 26/11 mastermind, he is roaming around freely in Pakistan. What is stopping Islamabad from taking action?
A. Pakistan sees jihad as a low cost option to bleed India. The security apparatus views terrorism as irregular warfare. Islamabad feels this is the only way to ensure some form of military parity.

Q. Is there a concerted attempt by the Pakistan army to thwart peace talks?
A. As an analyst, I have seen that over the last 69 years, Indian and Pakistani leaders have met 53 times and yet been unable to change the course of their ties. Whenever the two try to move forward, the military has reacted. Civilian and army leaders have lost power after attempting to make peace.

Q. What should be Pakistan’s policy on Kashmir?
A. Having a normal relationship, people-to-people ties and trade doesn’t mean giving up on legal or political claim. The question I ask is: Is Kashmir really Pakistan’s ‘jugular vein’ if it has survived for 69 years without it? Should the two risk nuclear mass destruction over a quarrel they have not been able to resolve for so long?
However, Pakistan’s military has insisted on resolution of the Kashmir imbroglio before opening trade or travel.

Disputed Areas of Kashmir, Wikimedia Commons
Disputed Areas of Kashmir, Wikimedia Commons

Q. Pakistan’s Kashmir policy remains by and large in the hands of the military even when a civilian prime minister holds office. How can we expect a solution?
A. Under civilian prime ministers, Pakistan has moved forward with India. But Pakistan’s security establishment insists on controlling foreign and security policy, including the Kashmir policy. They have not been able to reach any long-lasting solution. Pakistanis realise that it is only civilian leaders who can actually reach a solution.

Related article: The Fight for Kashmir

Q. In your opinion, Indira Gandhi had been magnanimous with the Shimla Pact, but Pakistanis saw the absence of pressure for a full settlement of Kashmir as an opportunity to keep the conflict alive. Should she have been more assertive on Kashmir?
A. Mrs Gandhi did not trust (prime minister) Zulfikar Ali Bhutto but she saw him as preferable to a military regime. For India, domestic unrest or balkanisation of Pakistan, is not a favorable development.
The compromise was to declare in Shimla that “the two countries are resolved to settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations.” This was meant to preclude any future war.

Q. The book mentions how Pakistan intelligence had passed on the information of 10 terrorists who sneaked into Gujarat in March. Do you feel that its a sincere move to preempt a crisis after Pathankot?
A. It’s very positive that Pakistan has shared intelligence with India. But it was more because pressure from India and US. India cancelled scheduled talks and (Prime Minister Nawaz) Sharif was eager to resume dialogue. It was less likely that this move reflected concern for possible Indian casualties and was more to do with the need to deflect international pressure.

Q. Are you hopeful of a breakthrough in Indo-Pak relationship after Pathankot?
A. The two foreign secretaries met in New Delhi for the Heart of Asia conference and Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi is scheduled to travel to Islamabad for the SAARC summit in November this year. So, talks will continue as before but for a breakthrough, the two sides need to move beyond simply cancelling or rescheduling talks and create an environment for change.

Q. You also talk about the shrinking space for friendship and increasing ‘saffronisation’ of India. How harmful is this for ties?
A. Indo-Pak ties have become a victim of two parallel and contending nationalisms. In recent years, we are increasingly resembling each other in rage, resentment and public displays of religion.

Q. How do you see US policy towards Pakistan in the wake of US elections?
A. Neither of the current Presidential candidates have expressed a positive view of Pakistan. What should worry my countrymen is that entire US think tank and the average American share the same view.
Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State in 2011 said, “You can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbors.” US policy towards Pakistan has been built on what I call ‘Magnificent Delusions’. Pakistan saw the US as its superpower ally who would build its resources to stand up to India, but Washington never saw India as a threat. US and Pakistan have very different goals but still assume they can get the other to work to their advantage.

Source: IANS
(Preetha Nair can be reached at preetha.n@ians.in)

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Fight Against Terrorism: Iran, Pakistan Agree To Set Up Joint Border ‘Reaction Force’

Stressing that "no third country" could harm Iran-Pakistan ties, an apparent reference to the United States, Rohani said Tehran was ready to boost trade and business ties with Islamabad.

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Iranian President Hassan Rohani (left) and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan reviewing an honor guard in Tehran on April 22. RFERL

Iranian President Hassan Rohani and visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan have agreed to set up a joint border “reaction force” to counter terrorism, Iranian state media reported.

“We agreed to create a joint rapid reaction force at the borders for combatting terrorism,” Rohani was quoted as saying on April 22 during a joint press conference with Khan, who was officially welcomed in the Iranian capital earlier in the day.

The announcement comes following tensions between the two countries who have in recent months accused each other of not doing enough to stamp out militants allegedly sheltering across the border.

“Pakistan will not allow any militant group to operate” from its soil, Khan said at the press conference while adding that the problem of terrorism was “increasing differences” between both countries.

“So it was very important for me to come here and come with our security chief that we resolve this issue,” Khan said.

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The visit comes a day after Pakistan asked Iran to take action against terrorist groups believed to be behind the killing of 14 Pakistani soldiers earlier this month. Pixabay

Citing a militant attack on Pakistani security forces in Baluchistan on April 18, he said, Pakistan’s security chief will be meeting his Iranian counterpart on April 22 to discuss how both countries can cooperate in not allowing their soil to be used by militant groups.

Stressing that “no third country” could harm Iran-Pakistan ties, an apparent reference to the United States, Rohani said Tehran was ready to boost trade and business ties with Islamabad.

For his part, Khan said his visit to Tehran aimed to “find ways to increase trade and cooperation…in energy and other areas,” noting that two-way trade was “very limited.”

Khan arrived in Iran on April 21 on his first official visit to the Islamic republic for talks set to focus on strengthening bilateral ties, “fighting terrorism, and safeguarding borders,” Iranian state media reported.

The two countries have in recent months accused each other of not doing enough to stamp out militants allegedly sheltering across the border.

The two-day trip started with a stopover in the holy city of Mashhad, where Khan visited the shrine of Imam Reza, who is revered by Shi’ite Muslims.

The visit comes a day after Pakistan asked Iran to take action against terrorist groups believed to be behind the killing of 14 Pakistani soldiers earlier this month.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on April 20 that 15 gunmen wearing military uniforms ambushed a bus in southwestern Balochistan Province on April 18, killing 14 Pakistani Army personnel.

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“We agreed to create a joint rapid reaction force at the borders for combatting terrorism,” Rohani was quoted as saying on April 22 during a joint press conference with Khan, who was officially welcomed in the Iranian capital earlier in the day. Pixabay

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a letter to the Iranian government that the assailants came from an alliance of three Baluch terrorist organizations based in Iran.

Qureshi told reporters that Khan would take up the matter with Iranian authorities.

Earlier this year, Iran called on Pakistan to take action against a militant group behind a deadly attack on the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

Also Read: Measles Could be Completely Wiped Off, Instead it’s Making a Comeback

Twenty-seven IRGC members were killed in the February suicide car bombing near the border with Pakistan.

The Sunni Muslim extremist group Jaish al-Adl claimed responsibility for the attack in southeastern Iran. (RFERL)