Pakistan’s Strategy Post Pulwama

Post the Pulwama attacks under international pressure Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan directed the concerned organizations to ante up action against the extremist outfits in the country. As a result, the religious seminaries related to JeM were taken under government control. At this mere eyes wash, India launched a scathing pre-emptive air attack and targeted the JeM terror camps in Balakot, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Amid escalation between the two nations, the reaction of Pakistan needs to be accounted for.

Pakistan went on an offensive and claimed downing of Indian air force MIG 21 aircraft hovering in its airspace and the possession of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman captured from the crash side in PoK. Amid all the chaos, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced his release as a ‘peace gesture’ in the Pakistan National Assembly.

The joint session of the PNA had started with celebration of the supposedly “befitting reply” to India by the Pakistani Air Force for violating Pakistani airspace. The Pakistan House ‘unanimously’ declared unity against any aggression against Pakistan, especially by India. It has to be noted that the strike by the Pakistani Air force (PAF) was celebrated all through the country as an apt reply to Indian aggression and belligerence. The joint parliamentary session seemed to echo the same sentiment.

The Pak Leader of Opposition Shahbaz Sharif of PML (N) underlined the PAF’S action boosted the morale of the nation; it was a remarkable action, which establishes the capability of the Pakistani armed forces. India should act sensibly and avoid further escalation, or else there will unrest in the region,” Shahbaz said. Criticizing the absence of the top leadership in the important meeting, Hina Rabbani Khar of the PPP argued that it is the responsibility of the ruling party leaders and responsible officials to sit in parliament and lead the joint session, especially in a war like situation.

Imran Khan had in an earlier televised address to nation underlined that post Pulwama Pakistan was ready to cooperate in the investigation had India provided it with “actionable evidence”. He underlined that it is not in the interest of Pakistan that its soil is used for terror activities. He warned India that it cannot show aggression and enter Pakistani air space at its own will. He blamed India for the escalation and said that India has turned into its own Judge and Jury and executed the operation in Pakistan. Islamabad will defend its sovereignty all cost” he added. Asking India if the two nations can afford a miscalculation at this point he again offered to talk to India, including on terrorism.Pakistan has declared high alert and has shifted villagers from the LoC to safer places fearing more air strike from the Indian side. There have been reports in the Pakistani media suggesting naval incursion in the Karachi base by India. In view of this, Pakistan has supposedly put all the naval units on the defensive to tackle any surprise attack from the Indian side.

All said, Pakistan cannot deny the presence of terrorist outfits on its soil. The international community has always pressed Pakistan to dismantle the terrorist safe havens, especially the ones targeting India.

The US, UK and France have already moved to declare JeM leader Masood Azhar as a terrorist in the United Nations list. It has been said that although the Pakistan government has overtaken the seminaries of JeM in Bahawalpur, Punjab it might be a temporary arrangement. Masood Azhar has been given shelter by the Pak army as he is an important asset for waging the proxy war in Kashmir. Pakistan is already on the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) grey list and post the Pulwama attack it fully qualifies to graduate to the blacklist, if it keeps supporting terror outfits.

Even Pakistan’s close allies Saudi Arabia and China behind the scenes have nudged Pakistan to take creditable action on terrorism. In fact, the Saudi Crown Prince had to take a detour to Riyadh before arriving in New Delhi keeping Indian sentiments in mind.

Script: Dr. Zainab Akhter, Analyst On Pakistan