India’s sustained efforts at Pakistan’s international isolation have started to show results in Pakistan as well. Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported that the Nawaz Sharif government has directed the military to act against terrorist groups including Jaish-e-Mohammad and its affiliates. The report highlighted friction between the power centres in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. It also added fresh attempts would be made to conclude Pathankot investigation and restart Mumbai attack trials in an anti-terrorism court.
The report quotes exchanges during an all-party meeting where reportedly military and ISI officials were also present. The paper quotes top sources present at the meeting and the statements come as a huge development as the Pakistani government seems to acknowledge the presence of terrorists and terror actors near the LoC and in PoK. Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has issued a warning to the military to act against terrorists or face international isolation.
After India carried out surgical strikes in Pakistan on terror launch pads on September 29, Pakistan has faced severe flak from international community. Even after repeated denials of the attack, not one country has backed it, including its allies in the Middle East and China. The latter has, in fact, indicated that Pakistan should carry out a course correction and the US has severely came down on the Pakistani authorities for not doing enough to curb terrorism in their country and allowing cross-border terrorism into India. The country got no respite at the UN. Pakistan has remained in a state of abject denial over the presence of terrorists in PoK or near the LoC. Sharif’s reported attempts to warn the ISI also indicate a visible rift between the forces that be in capital Islamabad and Pak GHQ — Pakistani military and ISI centre in Rawalpindi.
The meeting apparently took place on Monday and according to the outcomes, ISI DG Gen Rizwan Akhtar and National Security Advisor Nasser Janjua will personally deliver a message to provincial apex committees and ISI sector commanders in every province of the country. The report says that the decisions show a high-stake new approach by the PML-N government, and comes after a verbal confrontation between Punjab (Pakistan) CM Shahbaz Sharif and Gen Akhtar.
According to the report, the message was “military-led intelligence agencies are not to interfere if law enforcement acts against militant groups that are banned or until now considered off-limits for civilian action. Gen Akhtar’s inter-provincial tour has begun with a visit to Lahore.” It also added that Nawaz Sharif told the persons present in the meeting that “fresh attempts be made to conclude the Pathankot investigation and restart the stalled Mumbai attacks-related trials in a Rawalpindi anti-terrorism court.”
The report also quoted tense exchanges between ISI officials and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif saying “Addressing Gen Akhtar, the younger Sharif complained that whenever action has been taken against certain groups by civilian authorities, the security establishment has worked behind the scenes to set the arrested free.”
For decades, Pakistani ISI and military intelligence have shielded and helped nurture terrorist groups in their country to carry out terrorism in India. With fresh reports claiming hundreds of terrorists preparing to infiltrate into India before the passes close in winters, Pakistan will need to act. Pakistan will come into extreme pressure from its allies who provide important economic and military aid to the country if it fails to act this time.
The danger of full isolation and sanctions loom large and state governments have started to show their displeasure with the ISI’s conduct in making sure that terror actors are allowed freedom to operate against India and that puts them on a lower moral and strategic position.