In the minefield of India-Pakistan relations, where terrorist groups across the border seek to sabotage every step towards normalisation, sending the best political intentions careening, the wind sometimes throws up straws. A report submitted by the Pakistan National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, after its 23rd meeting on February 1, is one such straw. The group formulated a set of recommendations for improving relations with India. Two key recommendations: “Pakistan should not encourage calls for active support of armed, banned, militant groups in Kashmir” and “[a]llaying international concerns of not doing enough to tackle working for the Kashmiri Cause by monitoring and taking action against violent armed groups”.
Coming as this does at a time when the Nawaz Sharif government has said it needs more evidence from India, on its assertion that the Jaish-e-Muhammad was behind the Pathankot air force station attack, in order to take action against the group and its leader Masood Azhar, the standing committee’s recommendations seem to have originated in a parallel universe. Essentially, what the committee — it comprises mainly parliamentarians from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (N), with representation from other parliamentary parties — wants is unilateral action by Pakistan against these groups, with or without evidence from India. But can a parliamentary committee’s report cut any ice with a Pakistan security establishment that has deliberately nurtured proxy warriors over years, a policy it holds on to stubbornly and successfully despite being under pressure from the civilised world to pull the plug on it?
Still, the recommendations offer an interesting departure from the past. For one, this is perhaps the first time that a cross-party National Assembly document all but contains the admission that Pakistan is home to the curiously named “alpha elements” that are prone to committing violent acts across the border. In the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the leadership of all political parties represented in the National Assembly went into a day-long huddle, only to come out with an egregious resolution on protecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, which made India out to be an imminent aggressor and Pakistan the victim. Sadly, while it is tempting to read the recommendations as a civilian voice of dissent from PM Sharif and his party against Pakistan’s all-powerful security establishment, and see in them a wider political call for jettisoning a long-held policy, it may yet be premature to do so.