Following a well-worn track of symbolic action, the Pakistani government has frozen the bank accounts of Masood Azhar, the titular head of the terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), and over a 1,000 other terror suspects. The most likely motivation for this was the blunt warning by the US that it would not hesitate to take unilateral action against terrorist targets if Pakistan did not. This has followed a number of congressional hearings and US reports about the Taliban and other Islamicist militants attacking US troops in Afghanistan from safe havens across the border.
It would be delusional to think that the Pakistani military, which helped create the JeM, has had a change of heart. Rawalpindi has had a long history of putting Azhar and other terrorist leaders under “protective custody” or seizing their assets when the US has wagged a finger. For a few months such attacks cease and the instant Washington’s attention is diverted elsewhere, even these minor actions are rescinded. At no point are Azhar and his ilk ever put on trial or punished. Worse, the camps and other infrastructure of such groups are rarely shut down.
With a new US president due in office in less than three months, Pakistan’s actions are even more shallow and meaningless than normal. The true test remains, as India has repeatedly argued, in the dismantling of the physical, financial and ideological underpinnings of these terrorist groups.
Pakistan, which believes it has another source of geopolitical blank cheques in China and is even being wooed by Russia, has no reason to believe it needs to change its ways. With Kashmir once more simmering and New Delhi giving up on its photo-op diplomacy with Islamabad, the incentives for Pakistan to change its rogue ways are seemingly minimal.
The most obvious reason why the generals should reconsider their support of jihadis is the damage this policy is doing to the fabric of their own society. The militant rampage at a police academy in Quetta late on Monday should be a reminder to Rawalpindi that the State-sponsorship of terror is a double-edged sword.
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the group blamed for the attack, is not unlike Jaish in having its origins in support of elements of the Pakistani system. The then motivation was to curb Shia revivalism after the Iranian revolution. But the group has since spun out of control and has become a free agent, spreading mayhem within Pakistan and has defied all attempts by the government and the military to wipe it out.
This should be a lesson for Pakistan as to the ultimate danger of its use of terrorists to further State policy. Sadly, there is no evidence that this lesson has even been considered.