Islamabad must walk the talk on terrorism
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan’s admission about some 40,000 trained and battle-hardened militants, including those who have fought in Kashmir, being based on Pakistani soil is noteworthy for one reason alone. This is the first time in recent years that a top Pakistani leader has acknowledged the magnitude of the problem of terrorism emanating from that country. On all other counts, it was nothing new. After all, similar admissions have been made in the past by the likes of former president Pervez Musharraf and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Mr Khan also contended during an interaction at a Washington-based think tank that his government and the military were on the same page on the issue of disarming all militant groups and taking over their seminaries and other facilities.
However, the detractors of Mr Khan and the Pakistan army believe they have begun acting against the terrorist groups based on Pakistani soil only because of the pressure exerted on Islamabad by Washington, which suspended all security aid over the issue of terrorism, and bodies such as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). With Pakistan’s close ally China assuming the presidency of FATF, and the US increasingly turning to Pakistan for help in pushing forward the troubled peace process in Afghanistan, there are growing fears now that this pressure could ease. In such a situation, Pakistan is most likely to go back to its old policy of turning a blind eye to the activities of the terrorist groups, especially those focused on India, such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). Already, there are worrying reports that LeT has been sending more of its fighters to Afghanistan, where they have been tasked to target Indian interests.
If Mr Khan really wants to convince the world that Pakistan has turned the corner on the issue of terrorism, he should push harder to root out the extensive infrastructure built up by groups such as LeT and its front organisations. He must also ensure the prosecution of terrorist leaders such as LeT founder Hafiz Saeed, an issue that he pointedly refused to address during the interaction in Washington.