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Sun. March 03, 2024
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Pakistan’s Suicidal Power Game
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K.N. Pandita

Strangely, Pakistani terrorist attack on the Pathankot air base is getting internationalized, not at the asking of India. Pakistan’s mortification is unprecedented.

Instead of hurling volleys of accusations, New Delhi silently but carefully gathered together crucial evidence, which implicates Jaish-e- Muhammad for hatching the conspiracy under close guidance of ISI.

The evidence which India has presented to Nawaz Sharif, and also to Washington, is irrefutable. In his telephonic conversation with Modi, Nawaz Sharif assured him that his government would take prompt and decisive action against the terrorists.

Earlier, the spokesman of Pakistan foreign office condemned terrorist attack on the Pathankot air base. The Pakistan Foreign Ministry also issued an unusual statement late in the evening that it would “follow up” on the leads provided to it regarding Pathankot attackers.

This reflects a conspicuous change in Pakistan’s traditional reaction to allegations New Delhi has been bringing to her doorsteps--- I mean, the tradition of deniability.

Hours after Nawaz Sharif’s assurance that action would be taken, the US State Department spokesman John Kirby came out with an unusually strong statement saying, “The US expects Pakistan will take actions against the perpetrators of the terror attack on IAF base in Pathankot. The government of Pakistan has spoken very powerfully to this and it’s certainly our expectation that they’ll treat this exactly the way they’ve said they would.” The US is convinced of the Pakistan factor.

Describing terrorism as a “shared challenge” in South Asia, the US also asked all countries in the region to work together to disrupt and dismantle terrorist networks and bring justice to the perpetrators of the Pathankot terrorist attack. “We urge all the countries in the region to work together to disrupt and dismantle terrorist networks and to bring justice to the perpetrators of this particular attack. We have been clear with the highest levels of the government of Pakistan that it must continue to target all militant groups,” Kirby said. The government of Pakistan has said publicly and privately that it’s not going to discriminate among terrorist groups as part of its counter-terrorism operation, he said.

This is a statement pregnant with more meaning than what meets the eye. It asks for Pakistan’s reiteration of commitment made in meeting terrorist challenge as she herself is its victim.

The statement categorically holds Pakistani terrorists responsible for master=minding the attack, and hence demands action against the “perpetrators of terror attack.”

The US is clear about who the “perpetrators” of terror are and where they draw strength from. The question is this: Has Nawaz Sharif the strength to bring the perpetrators to book when he knows that they are the creation of ISI and the army?  Should we take US’ prompting of Nawaz Sharif to take action to mean that the US would lend outright support to any action he takes?

If yes, it will bode ill for the Pakistan army. The army will be left with two options. Either it must submit to the democratically elected government’s policy or it must repeat Musharraf’s prescription of 1999.

The US has amplified its stand by describing terrorism as a “shared challenge” in South Asia, and has asked all countries in the region to work together to “disrupt and dismantle terrorist networks and bring justice to the perpetrators of the Pathankot terrorist attack. “

The point is that the US recognizes that Pakistan is committed to work with other countries to meet the challenge of terrorism and disrupt and dismantle terrorist networks. The inference is that now is the time for Pakistan to dismantle the terrorist structure in that country. India would certainly lend assistance in that venture.

The structure obliquely referred to is of jihadi organizations, LeT, JM, TTP and many others, most of whom receive outright patronage from Pakistan army and ISI. Therefore, prompting in no ambiguous words is that Islamabad takes on these outfits and uproots them lock, stock and barrel.

Feeling the growing pressure from the US, the ISI played its traditional card. The United Jihad Council headed by a terrorist of Kashmir origin came out with a statement accepting responsibility for the attack. This, in the eyes of ISI, is to deflect the pressure on the aforementioned jihadi organizations already banned and to divert the attention to Kashmir so-called freedom fighters’ organization.

It will be noted that this confession by the UJC came only after the last terrorist holed up in a double storey building in the air base at Pathankot was gunned down. That is four days after the attack was launched. Why did the UJC wait for four days? The reason is simple. It had the strong apprehension that Indian security forces were delaying the combing up operation with the specific purpose of capturing at least one or two terrorists alive. If that had happened, UJC would not have owned responsibility. It was thinking that it would succeed in throwing dust into the eyes of the world.

That notwithstanding, so convincing and irrefutable evidence has been provided to the US that the albatross is around the neck of Pakistan. Kirby mentioned more than once that Pakistan had clarified that it did not discriminate between good and bad terrorists. That is an indirect way of saying that those claiming to be the “freedom fighters” (as in Kashmir) cannot be discriminated from terrorists because the UJC has owned responsibility for the Pathankot terrorist attack. It is now for the separatist leadership in Kashmir to relocate themselves politically.

Two more contextual points need to be taken into consideration. One is an article published in the Daily Beast by Bruce Riedel, who worked in the National Security Council of the White House and was among the few present at the Bill Clinton-Nawaz Sharif meeting in 1999 during Kargil war. Without mincing words, he writes, “The attack is designed to prevent any detente between India and Pakistan after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise Christmas Day visit to Pakistan.” He goes on to say that the attacks in Pathankot and on the Indian Consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan was the handiwork of Pakistani terror group Jaish-e-Muhammad, which the ISI created 15 years ago.

Riedel, a former CIA officer, goes on to state that the ISI is under the generals’ command and is composed of army officers, so spies are controlled by the Pakistani army, which justifies its large budget and nuclear weapons program by citing the Indian menace.

“Any diminution in tensions with India might risk the army’s lock on its control of Pakistan’s national security policy. The army continues to distinguish between ‘good’ terrorists like JEM and LET and ‘bad’ terrorists like the Pakistani Taliban, despite decades of lectures from American leaders,” he said, adding that Pakistani army has long distrusted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who has advocated a detente with India since the 1990s.

In the final analysis, circumstances are shaping rapidly in Pakistan in which the elected government is coming into direct confrontation with the GHQ. Islamabad seems to be trying to assert the uni-polarity of power in Pakistan, an option which GHQ will never allow. On what strength, as it thrown a challenge to the army, we cannot say. The two capitals agreeing not to allow the Pathankot attack to disrupt the impending foreign secretary meeting is a slap on the face of Pakistan army. The inference is simple. If Nawaz has the green signal from Washington, the army has to eat the humble pie; if not then he is riding a tiger.


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