No way to fight terror

  By Vijay Darda | 04-04-2016

Sometime in January this year at an international event, Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif told his audience: “Pakistan has paid a very heavy price in terms of lives. There is a huge economic loss also. But our resolve to fight against terrorism is getting stronger every day. ” Prime minister Narendra Modi has taken his counterpart on face value, and believed that this was not just a hollow promise or mere lip service. After all, Pakistan too is in the grip of terrorism, and a grim reminder came when holiday revellers at the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore on Easter Sunday came under terror attack. Its rulers and defenders keep reminding us that they too are the victims of terror.

It was this belief in Sharif’s sincerity and seriousness to fight terror that persuaded Modi to allow a joint investigation team from Pakistan to visit India and even go to the high security Pathankot air force base that had come under attack from Pakistan based terrorists in the first week of January. Besides, this the National Security Advisers on both the sides have been sharing intel.

Yet two events in the recent past have shaken this confidence in Pakistan’s sincerity and willingness to wage a decisive war against the fundamentalists and the elements of terror. The first took place in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, and the second at the United Nations. The failure of all authority when the protesters mourning the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri ( the body guard who had killed governor Salman Taseer), decided to march on Islamabad and attacked what came in their way and there was no one to stop them. The crowd had gathered at Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh and there was advance notice that it would march towards the capital. But no pre-emptive measures were taken and the streets were taken over by the fundamentalist protesters. This showed a weak spine on the part of the Pakistani government to take on these forces.

At the United Nations, Pakistan used its special relationship with China to frustrate India’s efforts to add Maualana Masood Azhar, the head of the militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad to the United Nations’ al Qaeda-Islamic State blacklist. The Kashmir-based group Jaish-e-Mohammad has already been blacklisted by the 15-nation Security Council, but not its leader, Maulana Masood Azhar, an Islamist hardliner and long-time foe of India. After a fatal attack on the Pathankot air base India had requested that the JeM leader be added to a UN Security Council list. It naturally beats one’s understanding that the leader of an organisation that has been black-listed as far back as 2001 for its well-known terror activities and links to al Qaeda, is not treated in the same category although he is its main leader, financier and motivator.

Obviously, Pakistan is not fully prepared to act against those who are clearly associated with acts of terror against India, and this is the second time it has banked upon its special relationship with China to achieve this goal. If Masood Azhar was blacklisted by the UN Security Council, he would face a global travel ban and asset freeze. In the past, China similarly blacked India’s effort at the United Nations to black list the 26/11 mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi. It continues to shelter those indulging in acts of terror against India.

On its part China has not given any detailed explanation for its decision to use the veto power at the United Nations Sanctions Committee but this is a sign of business as usual, in which Islamabad and Beijing have always made common cause against New Delhi. Quite naturally, this would have long term consequences in the region.

For starters, the implication is obvious that the investigation by the Pakistani JIT into the Pathankot terror attack would in all probability go the familiar way of the 26/11 trial in Pakistan that is still to find anything conclusive against the real masterminds. Already there are reports that the JIT has told the National Investigation Agency that they have no evidence against Azhar.

Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif would have to realise that the fight against the fundamentalists and the terrorists is an integrated war that has to be waged with sincerity. Being soft on Qadri protesters and protecting Maulana Azhar is no way to fight terror. Pakistan has tried this ambivalence with Osama-bin Laden and has been paying the price for it. If he is really serious and wants to turn a new leaf in both domestic and international politics, then he has to heed voices within Pakistan who have been advocating that he has to bring a “root-and-branch change in school and college curricula, and a clampdown on hate speech in mosques and TV chat shows. The financing of madressahs and so-called Islamic charities needs to be scrutinised, and the hate-filled ideology taught in most of Pakistani seminaries has to be removed.” As the first step in this direction, he has to stop protecting Maulana Masood Azhar and the likes of his tribe.

From an Indian perspective there is nothing new either in Pakistan or China’s conduct. Although one expects that the Chinese leadership in the context of its global geo-strategic and economic ambitions would start evaluating issues in a different context and not just within the framework of legacy issues between India-Pakistan and China. On his part, prime minister Modi did the right thing in trusting Pakistan, and it is up to Islamabad to build on this trust or to squander the opportunity. It is Pakistan’s choice as to whether it values building better relations with India more than protecting known perpetrators of terror. Obviously, the Pakistani rulers find it pretty difficult to adopt a rational position on issues when comes to India. So, while its military wages an operation under a National Action Plan to combat terrorism, the political establishment does not find it proper to go all out against those who use the same instrument of terror against India. Possibly, this is a genetic defect with the anti-India strains deeply embedded over there.

Before I conclude…

I wish to express my public gratitude for the overwhelming success of the “Lokmat Maharashtrian of the Year “awards held this year at Mumbai’s NCPA. By conferring the ‘Maharashtracha Manbindu’ award on Dr Rajendra Badwe, Director of Tata Cancer Hospital, the ‘Jeevangaurav’ award on noted singer Asha Bhosle, the ‘Maharashtra Youth Icon of the Year’ award, on Nita Ambani, businesswoman, educationist, philanthropist and a sports enthusiast and above all the “Lokmat Abhiman” award on Ranveer Singh, Bollywood heartthrob of ‘Bajirao Mastani” fame. We have kept up the tradition of acknowledging talent, hard work and diligence in all walks of life. It was extremely satisfying to have the young Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis grace the occasion with his presence and the superstar Aamir Khan win the hearts of the cheering audience.


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No way to fight terror


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