Pakistan continues to turn a blind eye to evidence confirming ISI and its army’s involvement in terror attacks on India.
The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, has quite correctly made it clear that he will visit Pakistan only if there are prospects of tangible results emerging from the visit. His announcement followed Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary, Mr Jalil Abbas Jilani’s visit to India to carry forward the much-touted “Composite Dialogue Process”.
The very fact that we are carrying on with this “process” is a concession to Pakistan. We agreed to it in 2004, only consequent on a categorical assurance from the then President, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, that he would not allow “territory under Pakistan’s control,” to be used for terrorism against India — an assurance that was buried by the 26/11 terrorist attack on Mumbai.
Despite evidence available from the trial of Mr David Headley and Mr Tahawur Rana in Chicago and from the testimony of Mr Ajmal Kasab, confirming the role of ISI officials in the attack, Pakistan has remained in a denial mode about the involvement of either the LeT chief, Mr Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, or the ISI in the meticulously planned and executed attack.
This posture of injured innocence has been maintained even after Saudi Arabia decided to deport Mr Syed Zabiuddin Ansari aka Abu Jindal to India, despite Pakistani pleas of his being a citizen, who had visited Saudi Arabia with a Pakistani passport . Mr Ansari is singing like a canary, corroborating what others have said about the involvement of ISI officials in the Mumbai carnage, both from a “control room” near the Malir Cantonment in Karachi and in earlier training and planning exercises for the attack. Mr Jilani turned belligerent when questioned about the statement of the Home Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, alluding to new information about ISI’s involvement.
How realistic is it to expect any change in Pakistan’s policies sponsorsing terrorism? It is now known that after crossing the Durand Line in 2001, Osama bin Laden lived in Peshawar, and then moved to Haripur near Islamabad, before moving to his mansion, at the heart of the Abbotabad cantonment.
Two of Osama’s three wives accompanied him to Abbotabad. His first wife, Ms Khairiah, joined him last year. Osama fathered four children from his fourth and favourite wife, Ms Amal, while in Pakistan, two of whom were born in government hospitals. He lived with three of his wives and his eight children and five grandchildren in Abbotabad.
Yet, the Pakistan army still claims that it had no idea of Osama’s stay in the country! The 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts, in which 250 were killed and 700 others injured, were planned and executed by the ISI, using the city’s mafia don, Mr Dawood Ibrahim, as the executor. Mr Ibrahim lives luxuriously in the elite Defence Housing Society of Karachi, despite his being sought by the US Drug Enforcement Agency and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation for financing international terrorism through drug money. Pakistan blandly denies it knows anything about his whereabouts!
Pakistan’s elected Government is in no position to compel its powerful military to change course on backing terrorism in India and Afghanistan. Its Parliament elected the Punjab politician, Mr Raja Pervez Ashraf, as the country’s 25th Prime Minister on June 22. However, the President, Mr Asif Ali Zardari’s first choice of Prime Minister was another Minister, Mr Makhdoom Shahabuddin.
Interestingly, a court served an arrest warrant on charges of corruption against Mr Shahabuddin, virtually within 24 hours of his preparing to file his nomination. Judicial activism in Pakistan can be selective politically, with the Chief Justice himself mired in controversy over the financial indiscretions of his son. Moreover, the Prime Minister-elect, Mr Pervez Ashraf, himself faces charges of corruption.
It appears inevitable that the Supreme Court will stir up action on corruption charges against the newly elected Prime Minister and also attempt to compel him to obtain details of President Zardari’s Swiss bank accounts, which Mr Ashraf will inevitably decline to act on.
It appears that by the end of this year, Pakistan will be headed for elections. Elections early next year, are, however, likely to produce a split verdict, despite the army’s support for Imran Khan.
Adding to this uncertainty is the prevailing opposition to the “deal” with the Americans on reopening NATO supply routes; even as drone attacks across the Durand Line continue. The Army is under pressure on two fronts. First, it cannot just reconcile the contradictions between hunting with the American hound and running with the Taliban hare. Secondly, having bought the Jihadi groups under the umbrella of the Difah e Pakistan Council led by the likes of Mr Saeed, it cannot entirely do a U-turn on its support to Jihadi groups’ activities in India and Afghanistan. The clear enunciation of the Indian policy on Siachen by the Defence Minister, Mr A. K. Anthony, requiring agreement with Pakistan on “determination, delineation and demarcation” of existing ground positions, before we can even consider discussions of a troop pullback, has convinced the Pakistani military that India will not agree to anything which encourages them to undertake another Kargil-style misadventure in future.
It remains to be seen if Pakistan’s elected Government will be permitted by the military to move ahead on issues such as promoting two-way trade and economic relations. India, therefore, needs to move ahead in improving its internal security, so that we do not repeat the mistakes of 2008, when we had prior indications of a sea-borne terrorist attack on Mumbai.