Pakistan finally ended up owning the acts of terrorism committed in India from its soil when, on February 22, it went public through Sartaj Aziz that at least one call made by the terrorists was traced to the Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) HQ, the covert-warrior outfit in south Punjab. There was widespread relief that Islamabad had finally decided to stamp out terrorism in the province. Is there hope in it for an Indo-Pak détente?
Pervez Musharraf said on a Dunya TV discussion on January 31 that the 1999 Sharif-Vajpayee meeting in Lahore had failed to mention Kashmir. Those watching the talkshow could have drawn the inference that one reason Nawaz Sharif was deposed that year was the fatal “omission” of Kashmir. That same day, on the same channel, PM Nawaz Sharif tackled the “Kashmir” shibboleth with a statement that could be Pakistan’s new approach to peace talks. He said what he couldn’t in 1999 and during the military rule: “The Kashmir issue can be resolved only when Pakistan is stable and prosperous. The world will listen to us if we are internally strong. China couldn’t have received back Hong Kong if it was not stable and prosperous.”
But Musharraf got more hits on social media when he said Pakistan was amiss in not announcing to the world it was India, in cahoots with Kabul, that was doing terrorism in Pakistan, killing schoolchildren and university graduates. He recalled that as president he had once insulted current Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at a meeting in Ankara.
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In office, Musharraf had refused to accept the Afghan Taliban leadership was being “kept” in Quetta while the Americans tried to pacify a country they were desperate to leave. Kabul ran with the line from their secret service that Mullah Umar was conducting the savage terrorism from inside Pakistan. Musharraf dramatically rebutted the charge and said the Taliban phone numbers in Quetta provided by Kabul were bogus. Last year, as news of Mullah Umar’s secret death surfaced, most Taliban-watchers thought the enigmatic one-eyed leader could have been living all the while in Quetta or Karachi. Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, who leads the Afghan Taliban today, is still reportedly based in Quetta.
Most “military analysts” counter India’s charge of state-supported terrorism from Pakistan by saying India does the same in Pakistan via Afghanistan. They refer to “other unfriendly states” walking in lockstep with India to destabilise Pakistan. Nobody misses the swipe at the US still doling out funds to Islamabad for fighting its war on terror.
There is in evidence an unspoken theory of “balanced” bilateral state-operated terrorism. Why is India complaining about Mumbai, New Delhi, Pathankot, etc, when it’s doing the same all over Pakistan, from Karachi to Peshawar? Nobody outside Pakistan is willing to accept Pakistan’s binary of “we both do it to each other”.
There are not-so-subtle differences. They are so unsubtle, one wonders why Pakistan wants to make it a two-way street. India alleged trained intruders from Pakistan crossed the border and caused havoc in Pathankot. Pakistan alleged India funded and trained terrorists from Afghanistan, who attacked the Bacha Khan University. Most discussants in Pakistan devoted to the binary ignored the disturbing fact that a leader from Indian Kashmir, known to be living in Islamabad, owned the Pathankot attack. The government arrested the JeM’s Maulana Masood Azhar to break from its practice of going into denial.
Is Pakistan finally coming out of its trance because the non-state actors it banked on have turned against it? Is it ready to break the fake binary of bilateral terror? Many opinion-makers now write bluntly about the pantomime enacted by halfwit police IGs blaming al-Qaeda-related terrorism in Karachi on India. When India complains, it’s against Pakistani terrorists like Masood Azhar and Ajmal Kasab it arrests on its own soil. When Pakistan refers to the December 2014 Army Public School massacre, it accuses its own national, Mullah Fazlullah, “as funded by India”. Then Pakistan looks outside and finds nobody believes it.
There’s reason to assume PM Nawaz Sharif overtly and army chief Raheel Sharif, less overtly, are now determined to talk to India without the revisionist posture on Kashmir — allowing it to be a part of the long-term Indo-Pak agenda, and pulling out of the globally unacceptable binary deception of “India doing terrorism in Pakistan”. Despite Islamabad’s early knee-jerk dictum that the Pathankot dossier is “flawed”, messages to India from the US and France were quite clearly not ready to bite. Nor was anyone in Pakistan inwardly convinced.