G Parthasarathy

Terror — a creation of Pak politicians

G PARTHASARATHY | Updated on March 13, 2018

Image and reality: Peshawar tragedy raises questions about Nawaz Sharif Reuters

Since the days of Zia-ul-Haq they have promoted Islamist outfits to keep the pot boiling in Afghanistan and India

In our public discourse on terrorism from territory under Pakistan’s control, there is a tendency to hold the military establishment solely responsible for the rise of terrorist outfits -- as though that country’s political establishment and parties have nothing to do with the radical Islamic militant groups there.

It is no secret that the Deobandi oriented Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) headed by Maulana Fazlur Rehman has backed the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen in Jammu and Kashmir and the Jaish-e-Mohammed, responsible for the hijacking of IC814 and the December 2001 attack on India’s Parliament. It was when the JUI was an ally of Benazir Bhutto in 1994 that government assistance to the Taliban, organised by her interior minister, Nasrullah Babbar, gathered momentum. The Jamaat-e-Islami, a perennial ISI favourite since the days of Gen Zia, backs the Hizbul Mujahideen in J&K.

It is in this context that we must objectively analyse the role of Nawaz Sharif in the promotion of terrorism across Pakistan’s borders with India and Afghanistan. Moreover, we must not forget that while the Sharif family may have lived in Punjab (initially in Amritsar and thereafter in Lahore and Raiwind) their roots are in Kashmir; Mian Mohammed Sharif (Nawaz’s father) hailed from Anantnag and his mother from Pulwama.

Sharif has a far more hardline position on J&K than many other politicians. He is obsessed with creating conditions to keep international attention focused on Jammu and Kashmir, even if this involves promoting terrorist violence throughout India.

Tough line

Sharif started his political career in the 1980s with huge patronage from the Islamist inclined President Zia-ul-Haq. He was elected for his first term as Prime Minister, heading a group of Islamic parties, stitched together by then army chief General Aslam Beg. His Islamist inclinations towards Afghanistan became evident when, in 1992, he became the only foreign head of government to visit Afghanistan then ruled by a motley group of radical mujahideen put together by the ISI.

More importantly, Sharif appointed the fundamentalist Lt Gen Javed Nasir, who was a member of the fundamentalist Tablighi Jamaat, then backed by his father Mian Mohammed Sharif, as head of the ISI. Nasir, backed by Sharif, using the services of Dawood Ibrahim, is believed to have masterminded the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts, in which 250 Indians perished.

Ominous for India are the links of the Sharif family with the obscurantist ‘Ahle Hadees’ fundamentalist Hafiz Mohammed Saeed who aided the ISI-backed mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1980s. In 1997, Sharif accorded formal diplomatic recognition to the Taliban led by Mullah Omar. He ordered the governor of Punjab Shahid Hamid and his information minister Mushahid Hussain to pay their respects to Hafeez Saeed.

The Khalistan connection

More significantly, Sharif moved to strengthen Pakistan’s residual ties with Khalistanis worldwide, by the appointment of Javed Nasir as the head of a so-called ‘Pakistan Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee’. Prime Minister Vajpayee’s aircraft had barely taken off on this return flight to India from Lahore, when Khalistan banners and slogans came up in gurdwaras across Pakistan to incite Sikh pilgrims. An Indian diplomat who witnessed this was beaten up.There has been no change in Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s approach on all these issues even in his third term which commenced last year. Hafiz Mohammed Saeed continues to receive patronage with funds from the Punjab provincial government headed by the Prime Minister’s brother, Shahbaz Sharif. His co-conspirators in the 2008, 26/11 terrorist attack, led by Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, live in comfort, ostensibly under detention, in the Adiala Jail.

It is no coincidence that Hafeez Saeed’s recent Lahore Jamboree coincided with the terrorist attack in Uri, which was quite evidently designed to disrupt public participation in the last three rounds of polling for the State Assembly in Jammu and Kashmir.

Major interlocutors like the US, EU, Russia and China have to be candidly told that we will not countenance continuing terrorism. One can sense some shifts in the US and EU positions with regard to Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. After some initial prevarication on the December 5 Uri terrorist attack, a senior state department official stated: “The United States remains firmly committed to working in close partnership with India to defeat terrorism in all its forms.”

US scepticism

Moreover, the US Congress is now far more sceptical about Pakistani intentions than the state department. Recent legislation providing Coalition Support Funds to Pakistan have, for the first time, tied release of such funds to action by Pakistan against the Haqqani Network, Al Qaeda and the Lashkar-e-Taiba.

India should seek clarification from President Barack Obama about American efforts to promote “reconciliation” with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Pakistani commentators are envisaging a virtual handover of several districts in Afghanistan to Taliban control. This will have serious implications for India’s security.

As Pakistan’s Kargil misadventure was drawing to an ignominious end, Sharif rushed to the White House for a bail-out. President Bill Clinton asked him to first restore “the sanctity of the Line of Control”. Sharif agreed to take steps for the “restoration of the Line of Control in accordance with the Simla Agreement”. Gen Pervez Musharraf thereafter agreed in January 2004 that “territory under Pakistan’s control” would not be used for terrorism against India. Will these promises be observed in letter and spirit?  It remains to be seen if the tragic events in Peshawar will lead to any rethinking about the dangers posed by nurturing terrorist outfits like the Taliban and the Lashkar-e-Taiba.

The writer is a former High Commissioner to Pakistan

Published on December 17, 2014

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