The more things change, the more they remain the same. This adage seems to hold good for Pakistan.
Just when India was relaxing a little bit after the installation of a new civilian government under the stewardship of Nawaz Sharif comes news that his brother and chief minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif has gifted millions of dollars to the Jamaat-ud Dawa (JuD), the front organisation of Hafiz Saeed’s Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
How worried should India be that the terror group responsible for the 26/11 attack is being officially funded by Shahbaz Sharif?
Pakistan has taken the position that the JuD is a charitable organisation that runs educational and health institutions. This is a tenuous argument at best because the LeT’s history is littered with front organisations and aliases.
Whenever the terror group has come under pressure, it has assumed a new identity. The LeT transformed into the Jamaat-ud Dawa after it was banned the first time.
When Nawaz Sharif’s came to power, India was more than a little happy to hear him make all the right noises before being sworn in.
In an interview to the Hindustan Times, he talked of not only reining in the LeT but also promised that there would be no more Kargils or 26/11s.
Given this, the news of the donation is unsettling and an indication that India must keep its powder dry. The Pakistan high commission’s statement asserting that the allocations made by the younger Sharif were only for government-run educational institutions is being judicious with the truth.
The fact is that after 26/11, when the UN Security Council banned the JuD, the Punjab government made a big show of taking over the JuD headquarters in Muridke on the outskirts of Lahore. A government official was appointed as its caretaker but the LeT continues to have free access to the sprawling house of terror.
India-Pakistan relations have always been vulnerable to interference from terror groups as well as Pakistan’s army. That Shahbaz Sharif has previously also budgeted for the JuD’s charity work is cold comfort to New Delhi.
It now seems that India will have to wait a bit for Nawaz Sharif to make some positive moves on the 26/11 trial that has been dragging on for close to five years now.
The former PM promised to push economic ties with India and his acid test now lies in granting India Most Favoured Nation status — a move Hafiz Saeed has vehemently opposed in the past.
If Nawaz Sharif pushes it through, it will be a signal to the terrorists that he means business and could give a fillip to faltering relations between the two South Asian neighbours.