Paying the price; Excerpt from Tilak Devasher’s Pakistan, Courting the Abyss
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Paying the price; Excerpt from Tilak Devasher’s Pakistan, Courting the Abyss

An insightful book that’s rich in data looks at what ails Pakistan. This excerpt examines how state-sponsored terrorism now threatens the country

books Updated: Jan 14, 2017 08:41 IST
Hindustan Times
terrorism,Hafiz Saeed,Pakistan
Shia Muslims at a mosque after a suicide bomb attack in the town of Chalgari in Baluchistan, 170 kilometres south east of Quetta, Pakistan, on October 22, 2015. 10 people including six children were killed. (AFP PHOTO/FIDA HUSSAIN)

‘You can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them to only bite your neighbor. Eventually, those snakes are going to turn on whoever has them in the backyard.’ — Hillary Clinton

While Islamization had a certain salience in a country created on the basis of religion, the growth of jihadi terrorism and violence prevalent in Pakistan today is the result of deliberate state policy. Even before its creation, and more so afterwards, Pakistan has used jihadis of various hues as instruments of state policy without examining their long-term effects on Pakistani society. Not surprisingly, Pakistan is seen the world over as the epicentre of terrorism. Fareed Zakaria summed it up best when he wrote, ‘For a wannabe terrorist shopping for help, Pakistan is a supermarket.’

There are a confusing plethora of jihadi organizations in Pakistan with ostensible niche agendas. These can be subdivided into

(i) Sunni sectarian, notably the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) now called the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) and the Lashkar-eJhangvi (LeJ)

(ii) Kashmir-centric Deobandi groups like Jaishe-Muhammed (JeM) and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM); Ahl-e-Hadis group like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Jamaate-Islami-supported Hizbul Mujahideen (HM)

(iii) anti-Pakistan groups like the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

The LeT, of course, has an agenda beyond Kashmir and even beyond India…

While the above distinctions are useful to understand the complexity of the jihadi scenario, and the primary agendas of various groups, on the ground, these distinctions are not watertight and at times, sharing of resources and volunteers is common between them. For example, as the International Crisis Group (ICG) puts it,

But such distinctions are tenuous at best. Sharing idiosyncratic religious interpretations and seeking to propagate them through force, all these local, regional and international jihadi groups have combined resources and recruits to fight Islam’s perceived enemies within and beyond Pakistan’s borders

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), since 2003 and up to 1 July 2016, 60,772 combatants and non-combatants have been killed. The military has lost 6,516 soldiers and officers.

The figures for terrorism-linked fatalities are as follows. In 2014, the numbers of fatalities were 5,496, including 1,781 civilians, 533 security force (SF) personnel and 3,182 terrorists. In 2015, the respective figures were 3,682 fatalities, including 940 civilians, 339 SF personnel and 2,403 terrorists. The number of major incidents also declined from 402 to 322 over this period. Till 1 July 2016, 1,078 terrorism-linked fatalities had occurred in Pakistan, including 307 civilians, 146 SF personnel and 625 terrorists. During the corresponding period of 2015, Pakistan had seen 2,210 terrorism related fatalities, including 539 civilians, 170 SF personnel and 1,501 terrorists. Operation Zarb-e-Azb launched on 15 June 2014, in the tribal areas of Pakistan has been significant in bringing about this relative improvement, though doubts continue to be expressed about whom exactly it has been targeting.

Despite the decline in the number of terrorist incidents there have been several high-profile incidents in 2015 and 2016:

30 January - Sixty-two killed in a Shia mosque in Shikarpur district
13 February - Twenty-two killed in a Shia mosque in Peshawar
15 March - Seventeen killed in twin suicide-bomb attacks that targeted churches in Lahore
13 May - Forty-three Ismailis killed in Karachi
18 September - Twenty-nine, mostly servicemen, killed in an air force base near Peshawar
23 October - Twenty-four Shias killed in Jacobabad, and twenty-three, mainly Shias, killed in FATA
29 December - Twenty-six killed in Mardan


20 January - Twenty-one killed in a university in Charsadda
27 March - Sixty-five killed in Lahore
8 August - Seventy, mostly lawyers, killed in Quetta.

Continuing violence could indicate that despite Operation Zarb-e-Azb and the National Action Plan, the terrorists have been regrouping and perhaps even regenerating. Finding security targets harder to access, the strategy now is to go after soft targets.

Casualties apart, the financial cost of terrorism has been enormous. In a written reply, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar informed the Senate in May 2016 that due to terrorism, the national economy sustained direct and indirect losses to the tune of Rs 5,193.95 billion (US $56.88 billion) during the last five years…

The Pakistan Army’s use of the Islamists as instruments of state policy has come to be termed the ‘mullah–military alliance’. As Haqqani notes, ‘The alliance between the mosque and the military in Pakistan was forged over time, and its character has changed with the twists and turns of Pakistani history.’ It has two key components: allowing the state to play a duplicitous game by using non-state actors to realize foreign policy objectives while maintaining deniability for themselves and selectively empowering and targeting the non-state actors who follow/do not follow respectively, the laid-down agenda of the state...

In its current form, however, the growth of the jihadi phenomenon dates back to Pakistan’s participation in the Afghan jihad that led to the maturing of the mullah–military alliance. Ahmed Rashid estimates: ‘Between 1982 and 1992, some 35,000 Muslim radicals from 43 Islamic countries in the Middle East, North and East Africa, central Asia and the Far East would pass their baptism under fire with the Afghan mujahideen.’ Lt Gen. (Retd) Hamid Gul, former chief of the ISI, boasted about how his organization had channelled Islamists from a large number of Muslim countries: ‘We are fighting a jihad and this is the first Islamic brigade in the modern era.’

Pakistan hasn’t looked back since. What pushed the jihadi culture further was that after the anti-Soviet jihad, the ISI diverted the returning jihadis from Punjab, especially from south Punjab, towards Kashmir. This allowed the jihadis to consolidate themselves, ideologically and physically, especially in the 1990s, and develop agendas of their own, not always in line with that of the military. Unlike the Afghan Taliban whose agenda was territorially limited to Afghanistan, the jihadis in Pakistan developed a much wider agenda, territorially and ideologically. In implementing this, they were able to feed off tensions in society; using their muscle power to help the business community, the land mafia and the local politicians for mutual benefit.

Once Pakistan became a nuclear-weapon state in 1998, the army under Pervez Musharraf resorted to a high-risk strategy of using non-state actors under a nuclear overhang. The assumption this time was that India would not dare to retaliate due to the fear of escalation to the nuclear level…

Hafiz Saeed, centre, chief of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, addressing a gathering in Islamabad, Pakistan on June 10, 2016. (AP/PTI)

One of the fundamental problems in Pakistan has been that every leader has promised to crack down on terrorism to end the jihadi culture when he comes to power but forgets those promises in due course. For example, Musharraf in his celebrated 12 January 2002 address outlined an action plan of targeting terrorism that included an assurance that Pakistani territory would not be used for terrorism in India... While it is true that several Pakistani groups were banned, no follow-up action was taken for prosecution; banned groups continued as before by adopting new names but with the same leadership. For example, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed (LeT) and Maulana Azhar Masood (JeM) were detained only for a few months under the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance but not under the Anti-Terrorism Act. The LeT’s name was changed to Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JD) and JeM to Khudam-ul-Islam. Both leaders and organizations were able to carry on their activities as before.

Hafiz Saeed, an international terrorist, has been openly and repeatedly calling for jihad in Kashmir. At its annual congregation in Patoki in October 2003, barely a year after Musharraf’s assertion, the LeT/JuD openly announced jihad in Kashmir. A decade later, in December 2014, Hafiz Saeed held a massive two-day rally at Lahore’s Minar-e-Pakistan that was attended by more than a lakh of participants, whose movement and logistics had been facilitated by the authorities. During his speech, Saeed reiterated his favourite topic of ‘Ghazwa-e-Hind’ or war against India. Subsequently, on Pak TV talk shows he blamed India for the Peshawar school massacre, dramatically demonstrating that nothing had changed. On 30 May 2016, JuD hosted a meeting of projihadi organizations in Islamabad under the auspices of Defence of Pakistan Council. Leaders of different outfits expressed their determination to continue their support for militants fighting in the neighboring countries. On 5 June 2016, the same conglomerate of extremist organizations came out for a public show of strength in Islamabad. Finally, a public rally was organized by Hafiz Saeed and other extremist outfits on 31 July 2016 in Rawalpindi and Islamabad, ostensibly in support of J&K. The organizers of the rally publicly collected financial donations. This shows Pakistan’s lack of commitment to fight terrorism and its duplicitous policies.

Astonishingly, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab, protect the Jamaat-ud-Dawa. Under Shahbaz Sharif, the Punjab provincial government took over JuD’s operations, essentially rendering its workers employees of the provincial government. According to files released from the Abbottabad compound where Osama bin Laden was hiding, there was a reference to Shahbaz Sharif, initiating negotiations for a deal with the TTP as long as the latter agreed to halt all operations in the Punjab. This not only shows the lack of seriousness on the part of the government in eliminating terrorism across the board but also its complicity.

It was left to the Punjab law minister, Rana Sanaullah, and Musharraf to confirm the role of the state. Sanaullah told BBC Urdu that legal action against proscribed organizations like Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) was not possible since ‘state itself has remained a part of this’…

Moreover, instead of ensuring that terrorist leaders get no publicity, such leaders are frequently given prime-time exposure in the electronic media. Hafiz Saeed is a frequent guest on ‘talk shows’ as is the patron-in-chief of the virulently anti-Shia outfit, the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamat (ASWJ). Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi, Saeed and the Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin have used such occasions to spew venom against India…

The ambiguity of the state was further underlined by the adviser to the prime minister on national security and foreign affairs, Sartaj Aziz, stating in an interview to BBC Urdu on 17 November 2014 that Pakistan should not target militants who do not threaten the country’s security… Sartaj Aziz also acknowledged in March 2016 that Pakistan had, in fact, been sustaining the Taliban in sanctuaries in Pakistan all these years…

The failure of every government to crack down on terrorists is simply because of their unwillingness to do so. Musharraf, like those before him and those who have succeeded him as army chiefs – Generals Kayani and Raheel Sharif – deliberately failed to neutralize the jihadi factories because of the role these organizations played in their perception of Pakistan’s national security. Hence, the measures announced and implemented have been cosmetic with an eye on the international community, to ease international pressure…


The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) that has become the most dangerous terrorist group for Pakistan is a loose network of Deobandis straddling FATA and parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) with linkages in Punjab. The primary focus of their violence is the Pakistan state and the objective is to establish their brand of sharia in Pakistan…

Apart from its strict ideology, the TTP has been able to attract followers due to poor governance and especially an expensive and corrupt judicial system. In places like Swat, the TTP has also won support for redistributing land to landless peasants. It is areas of poverty due to lack of jobs, economic stagnation and underdevelopment that have become fertile grounds to seed extremist ideology, though they are not the only areas.

The TTP belief system is fairly simple: First, the TTP movement rejects the legitimacy of the Pakistani state and the Constitution since they believe that neither is Islamic. They only recognize the sharia as the Constitution. Second, according to Joshua White, ‘they are somewhat more takfiri in their ideology than the mainstream Islamists.’ (Takfir is the practice of accusing other Muslims of apostasy.) In other words, ‘they are willing to sanction jihad against other Muslims who reject their sectarian or ideological position.’ In fact, they claim that these other groups are not truly Muslim.’

Ideology apart, one notable feature of the TTP is its linkage with criminal networks, especially transport networks engaged in smuggling, and the timber mafia. In many places, armed criminal gangs have adopted the label of the Taliban to give themselves a protective facade. According to statistics compiled by the interior ministry, the TTP runs a syndicate worth $50–120 million per month from protection racket, drugs and extortion alone. Karachi has become their financial hub with large investments in various businesses, apart from connection with organized crime.

The links between the TTP and the al-Qaeda are worrying for the Pakistan government and the international community…

Another term being increasingly used is the ‘Punjabi Taliban’…

The current Punjabi Taliban network has a number of key features. First, it lacks any organization or command structure and operates as a loose network of elements from distinct militant groups. Members from LeJ, SSP, JeM and their various splinter groups are all considered to be part of this loose network. Second, many of these militants were professionally trained in guerilla tactics and sabotage by the Pakistani state. Third, most of the groups are Sunni and Salafist in orientation. Fourth, Deobandi LeJ and JeM are Punjab-based and are components of the TTP. They have conducted a series of attacks in Punjab in the name of the TTP. A worrying question for Pakistan is whether its heartland – Punjab – is becoming the new Taliban focus.

The army formally launched an operation against the TTP in North Waziristan on 15 June 2014 and gave it the name Zarb-eAzb (the name of the sword that the Prophet used in the battles of Badr and Uhud; literally sharp and cutting strike)…

Over two years later, the moot question is how effective the operation has been. The army, of course, has been claiming that the operation was a huge success and has periodically been touting statistics of the number of terrorists killed and areas that have been cleared. For example, the ISPR claimed that since the launch of Operation Zarb-e-Azb in June 2014, more than 21,000 suspects had been arrested in nearly 14,000 intelligence-based operations and 200 killed while resisting arrests. However, there has been no independent verification of the army’s claims. Such figures do beg the question: if despite the scale of such arrests, terrorist attacks are continuing, clearly the number of terrorists must be massive or multiplying at a fast rate…

The government formulated a twenty-point National Action Plan (NAP) in December 2014, against the backdrop of the Peshawar school attack, to crack down on terrorism. Both Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif stated categorically that no distinction would be made between good and bad terrorists...

More than two years later, it is clear that the leadership, both civilian and military, lack the political will to fully implement the NAP. The army has no intention to act against anti-India groups like the LeT/JuD and Jaish-e-Mohammad and anti-Afghan groups like the Haqqani network and the Afghan Taliban. The freedom enjoyed by terrorists like Masood Azhar, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and Hafiz Saeed proves this… terrorism holistically remains a distant goal.


26/11 - Firing at CST railway station, Mumbai (PTI)

The LeT/JuD has emerged as the most important terrorist group in Pakistan with international dimensions. What gave it additional notoriety was the Mumbai attack in November 2008. Several facets distinguish the LeT from other terrorist groups.

First, unlike other Pak terrorist groups, the LeT has not yet staged attacks in Pakistan or targeted the interests of the Pakistan Army/ISI. Massive support given by the ISI in its formative stage is partly responsible for such loyalty. Second, the LeT is predominantly a Punjabi terrorist group that has natural ethnic affinity to the predominantly Punjabi army. Third, the LeT/ JuD had condemned in January 2010 the killing of Muslims by suicide bombing as un-Islamic and said that such attacks ‘played into the hands of the US, Israel and India’ and argued that focus should be on jihad in Kashmir and Afghanistan – against nonMuslims. Fourth, it has also condemned sectarian violence in Pakistan.

Fifth, the LeT also plays a crucial role domestically. Lieven, for example, notes that due to its charitable work and fight against India, the LeT has managed to establish itself in Punjab. This is significant because its Ahl-e-Hadith theology is foreign to most Punjabis.’ Christine Fair argues that the LeT’s domestic role is hinged on its opposition to other terrorist groups attacking the state. As a result, Pakistan would not abandon the LeT even if it were not required in the Indo-Pak context. She sees Pakistan’s reliance upon LeT deepening as the internal security problems of the state worsen.

For these reasons, the Pakistan Army is unlikely to take action against the LeT just as the latter is unlikely to turn against the Pakistani state. One of the fears that haunts the Pakistan Army is that targeting the LeT could push it into collaborating with the TTP. Equally, there is the fear that dealing with the LeT militarily, as with other Punjabi terrorist groups, could test the loyalty of the predominantly Punjabi army. This is all the more so now that part of the recruiting ground of the army and the jihadis is the same – south Punjab.

Though a Punjab-based group, the LeT has been spreading its tentacles to other parts of the country too. It has set up camps and established its footprint in areas like Tharparkar in Sindh, which has seen a surge in infant deaths due to malnutrition over the past two years. The LeT also has an agenda that goes beyond Kashmir. Bruce Riedel summed this up well: ‘LeT’s ideology as laid out by Saeed goes far beyond recovering the Muslim parts of Kashmir for Pakistan. He seeks the creation of a Muslim caliphate over the entire subcontinent. The vision of Saeed and his fellow leaders of LeT requires the literal destruction of India as a state. Saeed announced this goal in a speech in 1999 after the short Kargil war with India, saying, ‘… today I announce the break-up of India, Inshallah [God willing]. We will not rest until the whole of India is dissolved into Pakistan.’

For a long time the West, especially the US, saw the LeT as predominantly an India-specific threat while their focus was on the al-Qaeda. But when LeT-trained terrorists started getting implicated in terrorist plots in Europe and North America, the West began to understand the true nature of LeT …

Author Tilak Devasher

LeT’s efforts to access nuclear weapons should also be noted. In his book, Call for Transnational Jihad, Arif Jamal reveals that since his days as a teacher in the University of Engineering and Technology (UET), Hafiz Saeed and co-founder of the JuD Zafar Iqbal had been encouraging their students to join the country’s nuclear science and technology institutions like Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) and Khan Research Labs (KRL) after graduating from UET. Jamal believes that dozens of JuD members from UET and other universities have joined Pakistan’s nuclear and technology institutions. It is this penetration of state institutions, including nuclear ones, that seems to have convinced the JuD that it is likely to acquire access to nuclear technology. This may come sooner than imagined given the JuD’s ability to realize its plans systematically and cool-headedly, he warns.

In this context it is worth noting that Dr A.Q. Khan was reported to have attended the rallies of Hafiz Saeed together with other nuclear scientists like Sultan Bashiruddin Mehmood, former director of PAEC and Abdul Majid. The latter’s charity Umma Tameer-e-Nau (UTN) was found to be in correspondence with the LeT and papers on construction and maintenance of nuclear weapons were found on their premises. These two scientists had separately met Osama bin Laden. Speaking at a Kashmir Solidarity Day rally in Lahore on 6 February 2004, Hafiz Saeed said: ‘He [A.Q. Khan] shared the technology for the supremacy of Islam and he acted on Allah’s command.’

Before concluding, it is worth looking at the reports about the presence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), or just the Islamic State, in Pakistan. These reports initially centred on the presence of some Pakistanis (Abdul Rahman al Amjad al Pakistani) in Iraq, expression of support to the ISIS by some splinter TTP groups; ISIS logo and name appearing in some graffiti, posters and pamphlets across Pakistan, etc. More importantly, the Balochistan government in a ‘secret’ memo reported to the federal government in Islamabad on 30 October 2014 that ‘ISIS has created a 10-man “strategic planning wing” with a master plan on how to wage war against the Pakistani military’. The report also mentioned the group’s links with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and other associated sectarian groups, and claimed that it was actively and successfully recruiting in FATA.

In October 2014, a number of senior commanders defected from the TTP and pledged their allegiance to the ISIS and al-Baghdadi... A previously unknown outlet calling itself Khurasan Media released a professionally made video in January 2015, in which Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, an ISIS spokesperson, endorsed the formation of his organization’s chapter in Pakistan and Afghanistan and declared Hafiz Saeed Khan as its supreme leader.

However, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, the government appeared to have an ostrich-like attitude regarding the ISIS. For example, the army chief, Gen. Raheel Sharif, while addressing the Royal United Services Institute (London, 9 October 2015) asserted that Pakistan would not allow ‘even a shadow’ of Islamic State (IS) in its territory. The interior minister has on several occasions stated that the ISIS had, ‘no organized presence in Pakistan’ and that ‘terrorist organizations are using Da’ish as a façade to mount attacks in the country’. The Foreign Office spokesman, echoing the army chief, reiterated on 1 January 2016 that the Islamic State had no footprint in Pakistan. ‘We will not tolerate even the shadow of the Islamic State in Pakistan. We have alerted our security agencies to the threat posed by the Islamic State. They will take appropriate action, if required,’ he said.

Several instances, however, reveal that the government’s assessment about the presence of the ISIS in Pakistan has been wrong. The ground in Pakistan is undoubtedly fertile for the ISIS to take root not merely because of the jihadi ambience but because of the large pool of virulent anti-Shia sentiment in Pakistan that finds common ground with the ideology of the ISIS. Not surprisingly, it was the gruesome killing of forty-five Ismailis in Karachi in May 2015 by which the ISIS first announced its presence in Pakistan, though clumsy attempts were made to pin this act on an alleged Indian spy.

Another disturbing factor is that reports from eastern Afghanistan indicate that bulk of the terrorists affiliated with the ISIS were actually Pakistanis. Most of them in Achin, Nazian and Kot districts of Nangrahar province hail from Orakzai, Khyber and Bajour Agencies. They were part of the TTP and had fled after the Pakistan Army launched its military operation. There has been an active supply line to these fighters in Afghanistan from Tirah Valley in Khyber Agency which is geographically adjacent to these Afghan districts. Lashkar-e-Islami (LI) led by Mangal Bagh from the Khyber Agency has been the main supplier...

In the face of mounting evidence, the government’s point of view seems to be gradually changing. Thus, almost immediately after the Foreign Office statement mentioned above, the Punjab law minister stated that over 100 people from Punjab, including JuD workers and women from Al-Huda madrasa and thousands from other provinces had left to fight for ISIS. The director general of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), Aftab Sultan, informed the Senate Standing Committee on Interior on 10 February 2016 that the ISIS was emerging as a threat because several militant groups had soft corner for it. He named Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan as examples. He disclosed that the IB had busted a big IS network after several members reached Punjab following Karachi’s Safoora Goth carnage in May 2015. In March, the Karachi police admitted that they had killed Kamran Aslam, alias Kamran Gujjar, the operational commander Terrorism 201 of the ISIS in Pakistan. In April 2016, the counter-terrorism department of the Karachi police announced in a press conference that more than two dozen Islamic State–inspired militants were found operating and planning some major terror attacks in the metropolis. Previously, they belonged to the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and al-Qaeda but now had jumped on the IS bandwagon.

However, it is unlikely that the ISIS has an identifiable physical organizational structure and leadership in Pakistan. Neither is it necessary for the ISIS to physically shift to Pakistan. Yet, when scores of men and even a few women have gone to fight in Syria and when reports indicate that members of the banned Lashkar-eJhangvi and Jamaat-ud-Dawa have joined the group in significant numbers can its ‘presence’ be denied? All that it needs are local sympathizers and supporters who are recruited for missions… A looming danger is when these indoctrinated people return to continue the jihad in Pakistan.

…Whether or not the ISIS finds a physical and organized home in Pakistan would depend a great deal on the army and the ISI. In case the ISI finds the ISIS a useful tool or label to achieve tactical results, like keeping the attention of the US focused in the area, the ISIS could find a berth in Pakistan. But this would mean either breaking with the Afghan Taliban or developing a modus vivendi between the ISIS and the Taliban. Till then, the ISIS presence could grow as an idea appealing to a section of the population.


To conclude, Pakistan’s security crisis is rooted in its own skewed foreign and internal policies – which have traditionally and selectively distinguished between good non-state actors such as Afghan Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the Haqqani network and the bad ones like the LeJ, TTP, etc. The continuous support to these jihadi groups since the time of Zia-ul-Haq… has ensured that the moderate civil society in Pakistan is faced with shrinking space and is much too weak to take on the jihadi challenge. Decades of military rule has also stunted the growth of political parties and of democracy itself, making political leaders toe the army’s line in security matters. And so long as the army looks at security, internal and external, through the prism of India, there is little likelihood of any change in its policy of treating jihadis as anything but ‘strategic assets’.

For long, the army’s presumption has been that the jihadi groups and especially the Kashmir-centric groups do not hurt Pakistan… as the example of the TTP shows, jihadi groups have turned against their master. The worst example of this was the brutal massacre of 135 schoolchildren in the Army Public School in Peshawar. Second, jihadi groups in Pakistan can be hijacked for international terrorism – for example, become affiliated with or show loyalty to groups like the AQIS (al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent) and ISIS, or develop agendas of their own. Third and most critical, jihadi terrorism may lead to a potential nuclear conflict with India in case of another 2008 Mumbai-type attack. For the army, keeping the Indo-Pak normalization process derailed through the use of jihadis may be par for the course but it can pose serious dangers to Pakistan’s well-being.

Read more: The Pakistani epicentre of terror

Encouragingly, there is growing realization in Pakistan about the impact that the policy of breeding jihadis has had on Pakistan. …

The moot point is whether the Pakistani leadership, especially the military, will rethink its strategy of using non-state actors and distinguishing between good and bad jihadis…

However, stopping the use of such elements as instruments of state policy will only be the start. It will have to be followed up by dismantling the infrastructure of jihad – the madrasa network, the training camps – and provision of jobs, after a period of re-educating the madrasa graduates and changing the mindset in government schools… Given that for decades the Pakistan has viewed jihadis as an instrument of state policy against India, it will be extremely difficult to change that policy in the immediate future, or even medium term. With terrorism continuing to fester internally, Pakistan’s slide on the slippery road towards the abyss will hasten in the years to come.

First Published: Jan 13, 2017 21:42 IST