Pakistan’s Self Goal Once Again

All is not well in Pakistan. The country is facing the twin scourges of covid19 and a grim economic scenario. Added to it, its own stance on global terrorism, of which it was once a ‘Frontline fighter” lies in tatters.

No sooner had the US State Department in its latest report observe that Pakistan is a “safe harbour” for regional terror groups and that Islamabad has not done anything in to curn terrorism, Pakistani leadership tried to fend off the accusations, but instead created further controversy.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan called the 9/11 mastermind and al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden a “shaheed” (martyr) during a discussion in the ongoing budget session of Pakistan’s National Assembly on Thursday. Mr. Khan went on to say Islamabad faced “embarrassment” by taking part in America’s war on terror.

The Pakistan Prime Minister continued by saying that the American forces entered Pakistan and killed bin-Laden without informing Islamabad after which everyone started abusing his country. Osama bin Laden was killed by US Navy Seals in Pakistan’s Abbottabad in May 2011.

“I don’t think there’s a country which supported the war on terror and had to face embarrassment for it. Pakistan was also openly blamed for US’ failure in Afghanistan,” Mr. Imran Khan said. “For Pakistanis across the globe, it was an embarrassing moment when the Americans came and killed Osama bin Laden at Abbottabad, martyred him. The whole world started abusing us after that. Our ally came inside our country and killed someone without informing us. And, 70,000 Pakistanis died because of the US war on terror,” the Pakistan Prime Minister said.

Just a day earlier, the US State Department in a report had observed, Pakistan continues to serve as a safe haven for regionally focused terrorist groups and allows outfits including the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed to operate from its territory, the US State department said in a new report released on Wednesday. The US indictment of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s track record in fighting terrorists comes against the backdrop of Islamabad’s brazen support for terrorists killed in encounters with security forces in Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan’s foreign office counts them as “innocents”.

The assessment by the US state department, which counted Pakistan as one of the countries that provide safe harbours for terrorists, has not gone down well with Islamabad that faces a review by the anti-terror financing watchdog Financial Action Task Force in October. Islamabad was given a four-month reprieve after the FATF had to put off a scheduled review of Pakistan due to the coronavirus pandemic. Pakistan has rejected the US State Department report. But, the damage already seems to be done by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The State Department noted that Pakistan had taken modest steps to counter terror financing and restrain India-focused terror groups following the Pulwama suicide bombing in February 2019 that landed Imran Khan in a spot when the Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility for the bombing in Kashmir. But it hadn’t gone far enough.

“Thus far, however, Islamabad has yet to take decisive actions against Indian- and Afghanistan-focused militants who would undermine their operational capability,” the report said.

The report also noted that Pakistan’s pledge under its 2015 action plan to dismantle all terrorist organizations without delay and discrimination was still unfulfilled. Pakistani authorities had indicted Lashkar-e-Tayyaba founder Hafiz Saeed and 12 of his associates in December last year but had “made no effort to use domestic authorities to prosecute other terrorist leaders such as Jaish-e-Muhammad founder Masood Azhar and Sajid Mir, the mastermind of LeT’s 2008 Mumbai attacks”.

Both of them, the report said, “are widely believed to reside in Pakistan under the protection of the state, despite government denials”.

These events show that Pakistan has never been serious about fighting global terrorism and its lip service is now out in the open. Its high time Pakistan was pulled up by the international community for its nefarious activities.

Script: Kaushik Roy, AIR: News Analyst