Pakistan Army Must Dismantle Alliance With Fundamentalist Outfits
Pakistan is yet to prove to the world that it is serious about its drive-out-terrorists move.
One of the most unintended casualties of the Pathankot attack has been that the Indian media, or large sections of it, went overboard in giving out the “news” of the “detention of Masood Azhar”, the Jaish-e-Mohammed chief who has been accused by India of masterminding the Pathankot attack.
Governmental authorities in both India and Pakistan contradicted the story. This was too natural. Masood Azhar is very close to sections of the Pakistani civil and military administration.
It was later clarified that he was only taken under “protective custody”. A day after, the Pakistani establishment openly clarified that Masood Azhar was not arrested.
But this is enough to shake the very foundation of the state of Pakistan. It conclusively establishes that Pakistan is now only a few steps away from being a territorial conglomeration of different terrorist power centres. Very little of Islamabad’s writ runs in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is supreme. Even the provincial government run by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) of Imran Khan there has tacit support from the TTP.
Nawaz Sharif’s Timely Reponse Marks Shift
Different terrorist organisations have in fact divided Sindh among themselves and have carved out their own territorial jurisdictions. In Pakistan’s Punjab, four terrorist organisations – Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-i-Sahaba – are really powerful. Of late the TTP has also penetrated deep inside the province.
Pakistan has now the onus to prove to the world that it is not a terrorist state. It has now become extremely necessary for Islamabad, after US President Barack Obama’s comments that Pakistan could become a safe haven for terrorists, and that the country would continue to face instability for decades to come.
The Pathankot incident, however, was different. When 2008 Mumbai happened, Pakistan had denied any connection with the terrorists. This time, the prompt response as well as cooperation from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif marks a qualitative change that has occurred in the equation that some of the terrorist groups enjoy with the Pakistani administration and the army.
The Pathankot Blow to Pakistan
This change is, however, half-hearted. Therefore, Pakistan is now saying that it would take action against Masood Azhar if his culpability is proved “beyond doubt”.
There is no need to wait for the completion of the probe as there is plenty of evidence against the Jaish-e-Mohammed chief and his organisation. After it was banned in 2002, Jaish-e-Mohammed split into several cells which were linked to the Al-Qaeda. Masood Azhar coordinated the activities of these splinter groups from his underground shelter and launched two successive attempts to eliminate the then president Pervez Musharraf.
Azhar was also the brain behind the building up of Islamic fundamentalist insurgency around Islamabad’s Lal Masjid.
The Pathankot terrorist strike affects Pakistan very seriously. By a single stroke, it has disrobed the extreme vulnerability of the country’s security and stability. Both India and Pakistan have exhibited prudence by only deferring the foreign secretary-level talks and rescheduling it in the “very near future”.
But saner voices in Pakistan are now questioning the policy of the state in giving long rope to some non-state actors who are creating havoc with impunity.
Surgical Changes Required in Pakistan Army
But Pakistan needs to undertake some surgical operations into its polity if it really wants to come out of the quagmire and stave off destruction. There is a limit to which it can go so far as operations in the FATA area are concerned.
Moreover, the Pashtun community lives on both sides of the Durand Line that separates Pakistan and Afghanistan. But the agreement creating the Durand Line expired long ago and if the Pashtuns living on the Pakistan side and facing military action now want to join Afghanistan, it will mean the dismemberment of Pakistan.
The Pakistan Army must immediately dismantle the unholy alliance between a section of it and the fundamentalist outfits. On the contrary quite a few army and naval officers, many of them being Shias, have been murdered after they protested against inaction on the part of their superiors against organisations like the Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
(Amitava Mukherjee is a senior journalist and commentator. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at email@example.com. This article has been published on a special arrangement with IANS.)
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