Terror labels worry Pakistan little

April 20, 2018 By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd)
By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd)
Former Director General of Information Systems, Indian Army


The recently released UNSC consolidated list of individual terrorist and terrorist entities names 139 from Pakistan including prominent names like Dawood Ibrahim and LeT chief Hafiz Saeed. The list includes all individuals who have either lived in Pakistan, operated from there or have been associated with organizations that used Pakistani territory to carry out terrorist operations. Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed has been listed as a personnel wanted by the Interpol for involvement in terror activities. In early April, the US State and Treasury Department’s coordinated action to include Milli Muslim League (MML) and Tehreek-e-Azad-e-Kashmir (TAJK)-both Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) political fronts in the designated list of terrorists. MML is the political platform on which Hafiz Saeed intends to fight upcoming general elections in Pakistan, was added to the designations as Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT). During the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack in 2008, six Americans were among 166 people killed. It may be recalled that during a US Senate Foreign Relations Committee in September 2016, Pakistan was almost labeled a terror-assisting state.

Republican senator Bob Corker, who had convened the hearing, openly expressed frustration over Pakistan’s support for terrorist groups. He was particularly incensed that after expending $33 billion in US tax-payer dollars, lot of it spend for infrastructure development in FATA, Washington was finding that Pakistan had spirited out terrorists from the region and was giving them safe havens in urban areas, keeping them out of reach of US drones by hiding them in civilian areas. Describing the Haqqani network, which Pakistan shelters, as the number one attempted killers of US soldiers in Afghanistan, Corker said it’s been of "tremendous concern to our (military) leadership there (in Afghanistan)" that Washington has a policy where "in effect we are working with Pakistan" and yet Pakistan's "extreme duplicity" sees it harboring terrorists, and through their own proxies destabilizing Afghanistan. On April 1, Lt Gen Dhahi Khalfan, head of general security of Dubai, wrote, "The Pakistanis pose a serious threat to the Gulf communities for the drugs they bring with them to our countries." General John W Nicholson, Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan and Resolute Support Mission since March 2016 says of the 98 US-designated terror groups, 20 are in Af-Pak region. Reports of both the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and America’s Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) talk of Pakistan-based terrorists attacking Afghanistan.

The US has placed curbs on financial assistance to Pakistan, linking it with Pakistan’s counter-terrorism effort, but that has been the case past several years. Yes, Pakistan’s economy is in poor state and it is begging more loans from China; falling deeper into China’s debt trap but that has not deterred Pakistan from exporting terror. Sovereignty and morality are alien words for the Pakistani military when it comes to retaining power over Pakistan, continuing to enjoy attenuated riches. Just one example is the evidence of participation of SSG in the Taliban attack on Army School Peshawar killing 140 - bulk children of army personnel; as admitted on video by Muddasar Iqbal of Pakistan’s SSG. What can be more heinous a crime against their own uniformed brethren? Pakistan was placed on the ‘watch list; by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in June 2013, yet it became more brazen in exporting terror across its boundaries in India and Afghanistan. However, during the plenary session of the FATF in February 2018, Pakistan was served notice that there will be a global crackdown on its financial network on account of its support to terror outfits. Pakistan is expected to be put back in the grey list in June. This does mean more financial strain on Pakistan but then it has the example of North Korea which despite being a pariah state for decades under severe financial sanctions has survived with aplomb, courtesy China. Pakistan is most favoured strategic darling of China, also nuclear talon of the dragon, and it has already demonstrated it has no compunctions in becoming a virtual province of communist China. Despite the abhorrence to terrorism of the present Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Arabia-Pakistan links remain strong with Pakistani army providing regulars for tasks within Saudi Arabia and for ground action in Yemen in covert mode. Saudi Arabia has been funding some eight infantry divisions of Pakistan and that is unlikely to cease. The Saudi Crown Prince also disclosed recently that the spread of Wahabism was spearheaded by Saudi Arabia on behest of the West.

Pakistan was a more than a willing partner in this project. So, Pakistan can hardly be expected to sink financially by China and Saudi Arabia. Then you also have Raheel Sharif, former Pakistani army chief based in Saudi Arabia, heading the Islamic Military Alliance. But in curbing Pakistani terror, the crux lies with the US, which apparently is content with the current state of affairs, President Donald Trump’s outbursts directed at Pakistan notwithstanding. Apparently, a constituency in Capital Hill will not permit any action against Pakistan beyond occasional Predator attacks, even as the CIA would have precise locations of the terrorist bases inside Pakistan from where the terror attacks are being mounted in Afghanistan. The Pakistani Air Chief was recently awarded America’s Legion of Merit (highest military award given to any foreign military official) even as Afghanistan is accusing Pakistan for launching air attacks inside Afghanistan. More recently, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, General Mark A Milley, Chief of Staff of US Army, told lawmakers during the Congressional hearing, "It's very, very difficult to eliminate any insurgency if that insurgency has safe haven in another country. But right now, the Taliban, the Haqqanis and other organizations do, in fact, enjoy some safe haven in the border regions on the Pakistani side of the border. Pakistan has got to be part of the solution." But hasn’t that been the status for the last decade and a half plus? To expect any change by the Pakistani military would be naïve, given that more and more of Pakistan is being subsumed by China. Besides, it is no secret that the US is more worried about Pakistan exporting terror to Afghanistan than to India. Indian policy makers should expect China-backed Pakistan getting more brazen and little US response beyond some financial curbs.