Pakistan Must Look Within Instead of Mounting Tensions With India
Pakistan has once again been surprised by an alleged unilateral action carried out by Indian forces on its soil. India claims that it hit out at militant camps belonging to Jaish-e-Mohammad operating inside Pakistani territory, while Pakistani political and military leadership claims India dropped “payload” in an empty plot as the planes tried to escape Pakistani airspace after the Pakistani Air Force jets scrambled in pursuit of them.
This comes after at least 40 Indian soldiers were killed by a suicide bomber belonging to Jaish-e-Mohammad in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama sector.
What is The Complete Truth of the Air Strike?
In this time of information warfare from both sides, it is difficult to know what is the complete truth regarding the air strikes in Pakistani territory. Both sides have their claims but the ground reports suggest a third point of view. Local eyewitnesses who have come forward mostly on social media and were interviewed by international news organizations in the area have confirmed multiple houses being damaged and people being injured. Some have also pointed to targeting of a seminary allegedly operated by Jaish-e-Mohammad in the area.
The truth lies somewhere in between. It is now beyond any doubt that Indian air forces entered Pakistani airspace. It is without any doubt that a bomb was dropped. But it is being contended by both sides whether there was a target or not.
Pakistan a Safe Haven For Terrorists
However, one thing is for certain and even Pakistan knows that – Pakistan does have terror safe havens, and not just of Kashmir-focused groups like Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba, but also Afghan-focused militants like the Haqqani network, and Iranian-focused Sunni militant groups, that Tehran recently accused Pakistan of, after an attack on its soil that killed more than two dozens of Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
Recently, when Pakistan took action against a seminary in Bahawalpur by taking control of it, it referred to it as Jaish-e-Mohammad's headquarters in its official communication. Similarly, it re-banned Jamat-ud-Dawa and Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation, issuing a government notification in this regard. Both these groups are known to be fronts for Lashkar-e-Taiba that carried out the Mumbai attacks, which killed more than 150 people and was planned, organized and launched from Pakistani soil.
But as a recent investigative report in a Pakistani paper pointed out: The ban on such groups was once again superficial and the group was continuing to operate freely. One of the organizers of such a terror-linked group explained in very simple terms how they will evade any actual crackdown: “We will just change our names, once again,” the man told the journalist investigating the story.
Why is Pakistan Reluctant to Take Concrete Action Against Terror Groups?
Why are Pakistani authorities reluctant to take concrete action against such groups?
It benefits financially, by taking away a lion's share of Pakistani government spending. It benefits politically by staying dominant at home and in the region. And finally, the military benefits strategically by not being asked tough questions as it has to deal with enemies at its borders.
Until these groups fulfill such criteria for the military, it has no incentive to act against them, but Pakistan should know that the war economy it pushes for in the region has in the past caused havoc on Pakistani soil too, as we saw a sustained terror campaign by the Pakistani Taliban from 2007, until very recently that killed thousands of innocent Pakistanis, including its security personnel and made Pakistan one of the most dangerous countries in the world.
If Pakistan Wants Peace, It Should Stop Terror Groups From Fostering on its Soil
If Pakistani policy makers truly want peace in the country and the region, it should stop allowing Pakistani soil to be used by terror groups.
But instead of looking at the root of the problem which is at home and linked to Pakistan's security policy at home and in the region, the Pakistani military spokesperson in a press conference said India should expect a response and even hinted discussing the nuclear option – by saying that the National Command Authority meeting has been called. This is quite irresponsible.
Instead of further escalating this, Pakistan must take a step back and put their own house in order, once and for all, and take decisive action against militant groups so that the country's sovereignty is not repeatedly challenged – not just by regional or international players, but also by terrorists who also violate the country's writ from within.
(Taha Siddiqui is an award-winning Pakistani journalist, living in self-imposed exile in Paris, France. He is the founder of safenewsrooms.org – a digital media platform documenting media censorship in Asia. He tweets @TahaSSiddiqui. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)