By Rajeev Sharma
Pakistan seems to be back with its old ways. Its policy of using terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy continues with regard to India. This is despite the right noises made recently by Pakistan in granting Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India in trade by this year end and invigorating bilateral trade ties in a big way. Though Pakistan seems to have dumped its “Kashmir first, trade later” policy for good, the Pakistani Generals are focused on another ‘T’ – Terror.
Terrorist and extremist groups and leaders, guilty of several terrorist attacks, hosting Osama bin Laden and his al Qaida and killing hundreds of minorities in Pakistan, are now staging a major comeback with the backing of ISI and Pakistan Army. The umbrella group called Difa-e-Pakistan Council is the latest brainchild of the Generals in Rawalpindi who want to control Islamabad, and Pakistan, without really taking up the responsibility of running the country which they have driven to poverty and isolation.
It is not a secret that likes of Hafiz Saeed and Malik Ishaq survive on the patronage of Pakistan Army and its surrogate intelligence agency, ISI. The fact that Saeed, accused of masterminding the Mumbai 2008carnage in which over 160 people of different nationalities lost their lives, is not only free but is also freely organizing and running political campaigns across Pakistan. Saeed’s home ground is not some back of the beyond place but the heart of Pakistan, Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad, where he and his minions have managed to gather enough crowd to be of some consequence in the scheme of things planned at Aabpara headquarters of ISI.
In the past three years since the Mumbai attack, in which he should have been locked up for good and tried, Saeed and his group have managed to expand and deepen their holdover Pakistan’s society. Although Saeed’s main terrorist training camp Baitul Mujahideen at Shawai Nala in Muzaffarabad, the capital city of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, was taken over by the military, he was able to quickly relocate to the nearby Dulai where the ISI got him a big plot of land and enough money to create a new training campus linked with a mountain road carved out for the specific purpose. The ISI generosity also enabled Saeed to open new training camps in the Frontier and tribal areas and strengthen his network in Punjab and Sindh. Saeed, in short, could not have survived, leave alone prospered, after the global pressure on Pakistan to clamp down on the terrorist group following the Mumbai attack if he had no support from Pakistan Army.
In any other country, Saeed would have faced the gallows by now but in Pakistan, the army has other uses for him and his group. Today, LeT and Saeed are the only loyal and reliable proxies for the army’s dubious games within and outside Pakistan. As the Afghanistan is coming to some kind of climax, the ISI’s trusted ally is only LeT. The Haqqanis and Hekmatyrs are allies of convenience and have shown a propensity to have a mind of their own when the army wanted them to do its bidding. In any case, both are Afghans and Pathans and will always be sceptical of a Punjabi Army of Pakistan. The best bet for the army therefore is to have Punjabi groups whom they can rely on in times of need. Saeed and his group, LeT, have always been loyal and are also a key link to Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi masters. Now LeT is being brought to the political scene to create confusion and leverage the outcome of the political turmoil currently raging in Pakistan which incidentally has been created by the army by floating the fake memo.
The game is simple and devious. LeT with its own network of schools, teachers, charities, relief workers, fund raisers, affiliates, associates and sympathizers, most of them in Punjab, can play a useful role for the army during the elections. Punjab holds the key to Islamabad and LeT with its wide network and support base can be anally for any political dispensation in Punjab. The LeT will be able not only to cut down on the support base of PPP but also make PMLN’s work difficult, thereby giving the Army’s proxy a chance to steer towards a potential victorious alliance.
The presence of LeJ supremo Malik Ishaq at the Council rally only strengthens the Army’s plans. LeJ has considerable influence in southern Punjab and is a Sunni force which the army can utilize for creating a `wave` for its favoured party or leader or, as Plan B, create an atmosphere of fear and uncertainly during the elections and keep the voters indoors to allow them to `engineer` a victory for their team. They have done it in the past and they are not averse to repeating what they have done quite successfully under the `watchful` eyes of the Western observers, particularly the Americans who need the army more so in the run upto the 2014 withdrawal in Afghanistan.
So with the end game in Afghanistan unraveling at a dizzying speed and the elections at home coming closer, the army has decided to resurrect its proxy groups to leverage the outcome of both the events. Whether such terrorist resurrection will undo Pakistan itself is not a factor which the army and its Generals are particularly worried about. For them, the interests of the army have always mattered more than that of the country or its people.