Monday, 29 November, 2021

For Pakistan, Terrorism is a Currency

  • Dr Md Hussain
  • 24th November, 2021 08:09:55 PM
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For Pakistan, Terrorism is a Currency

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For four decades, Pakistan armed, supported and sometimes fought alongside the Taliban and yet virtually no one is talking seriously of punishing Pakistan. It has also armed other terror groups that operate across the world. Pakistan state was complicit in the orchestration of the 9/11 attacks, the 2005 London bombings that killed 56, the 26/11 Mumbai attack, the 2019 London Bridge attack, the 2016 Uri attack. Pakistan has a longstanding irresponsible policy of supporting and providing operational space for 'jihadi' terrorist groups. But it has been using the veil of taking actions against the terror organisations on its soil to extract aid benefits and prevent international action against itself.

None of the western nations are willing to take Pakistan to task seriously because there is a fear that pressuring it beyond a point will lead this nuclear armed failed state to completely fall apart and become a maelstrom of extremism that flows back into their own countries. Pakistan has convinced the west of its central role in the ‘war on terror’, and elicited some $33 billion in US assistance between 2002 – 2020. Every time it is threatened of international isolation on the allegations of its inability to act on countering terrorism it offers up lucrative terrorists, Osama Bin Laden, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Abu Zubaydah, Abu Laith al Libi and Sheikh Said Masri have all been captured or killed inside Pakistan. This double standard was highlighted by former British Prime Minister David Cameron who in July 2010, accused the Pakistani government of double standards, "We cannot tolerate in any sense the idea that this country is allowed to look both ways and is able, in any way, to promote the export of terror, whether to India or whether to Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world."

Pakistan’s double standard was further documented in a 2016 bill introduced in the United States House of Representatives calling for a declaration of Pakistan as a "state sponsor of terrorism," Chairman of the US House Subcommittee on Terrorism, Congressman Ted Poe from Texas, along with Dana Rohrabacher from California. It requires the US president to issue a report within 90 days detailing Pakistan's role in supporting international terrorism followed by discussion from the US Secretary of State. But again this bill also did not find support from most US politicians. In fact, Senator John McCain acknowledged Pakistan's losses in the fight against terrorism. When President Trump had accused Pakistan of ‘lies and deceit’, his military heads were hurrying to assuage Pakistani Army wrath.

Pakistan led the evacuation of about 5000 of the top leadership of the Taliban and AlQaeda who were encircled by Nato forces in the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. This event known as the Kunduz airlift, which is also popularly called the "Airlift of Evil", involved several Pakistani Air Force transport planes flying multiple sorties over a number of days.

The 2008 Mumbai attacks originated in Pakistan, and the attackers were in touch with a Pakistani colonel and other handlers in Pakistan. The testimony of David Headley, who was implicated for his role in the Mumbai attacks, points to significant ISI involvement in the activities of the LeT, including the Mumbai attacks.In October 2010, former Pakistan President and former head of the Pakistan Army, Pervez Musharraf revealed that Pakistani armed forces trained militant groups to fight Indian forces in Kashmir. Many Kashmiri militant groups designated as terrorist organisations by the US still maintain their headquarters in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Other resources also concur, stating that Pakistan's military and ISI both include personnel who sympathize with and help Islamic militants, and that ISI has provided covert but well-documented support to terrorist groups active in Kashmir, including the Jaish-eMohammed. Pakistan had arrested seven men, including LeT operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, for planning, financing and executing the Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people. However, their trial has been stalled for several years and Lakhvi is out on bail. Islamabad continues to provide pensions to dreaded and listed terrorists and hosts them on its territory as its state policy.

With the takeover of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Pakistan will pretend to offer cooperation, in the form of drone bases, overflights, and critically, selective intelligence sharing. It receives millions of dollars under the Coalition Support Funds (CSF) which apart from going into the pockets of the Pak army personnel, are used to buy conventional weapons for use against India. It has also surreptitiously passed on US tech to China - after the raid on Osama Bin Ladendefence specialists observed strong commonalities between China stealth helicopters and the Black Hawk. There is a strong likelihood that the billions of dollars’ worth of US weapons left behind in Afghanistan will find its way to China.

In December 2020, a Pakistani court ordered the release of al-Qaeda terrorists Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and his three aides involved in the murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl. And now six leaders of the banned Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) terror outfit, founded by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) chief and 26/11 Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed, were acquitted by a Pakistan's Lahore High Court (LHC) on charges of terror financing for LeT accounts. Hafiz Saeed has been named by the United States as a specially designated global terrorist, offering a $10-million reward for information since 2012, but he lives openly in Pakistan.

When FATF came down heavily on Pakistan and called it out for failing to take antiterrorism finance measures by threatening to blacklist the country, Pakistan put up a show displaying falsely that it was serious about putting down terrorist groups like LeT. Several of the LeT terrorists including its chief Hafiz Saeed were charge-sheeted. They were convicted by the trial court and sentenced to various terms of prison earlier this year. However, the ones who are well aware of the way Pakistan works understood it as a ploy to escape international sanctions. These judgments on Lakhvi, omar Sheikh, and other terror entities reveal Pakistan's attempt to deceive world on curbing terrorism.There is a pattern that the country follows- filing of the cases against the terrorists under pressure of the international community and succumbing to the fear of getting blacklisted by the FATF, then making the cases so weak against the arrested terrorists that the courts would not find it difficult to dismiss the charges. The Pakistani army has a significant role in making the cases of the prosecution ineffective.

Despite being globally recognised as one openly supporting, training, financing and arming terrorists as a matter of state policy, Pakistan has escaped complete international isolation or retribution for its actions. And it has escaped strong retribution ironically due to its own instability, with terrorists becoming the currency of exchange and barter. In Pakistan, which has an established history and policy of actively supporting them and holds the ignoble record of hosting the largest number of militants proscribed by the U.N. Security Council, terrorists enjoy a free pass. It is high time that Pakistan is held accountable for aiding and abetting terrorism.

(The writer is JNU Alumnus)

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