To Deal With Terrorism, Pakistan Mantra: Talk, Talk, No Action

Five months after announcing a paradigm shift in its security policy, and three months after clamping a ban on 10 terror outfits, Pakistan appears to be doing no more than the Good Taliban – Bad Taliban jig with all its energies focused on Pakistan Taliban alone and the likes of Haqqani Network, Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Lashkar-e-Toiba getting no more than kid gloves treatment.

For one, the progenitor of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) turned Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), Hafiz Saeed, still enjoys freedom of speech and movement inside Pakistan; there is no indication that he or his hatchet man, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, will be handed over to either India or the US to undergo trial for the massacre in Mumbai of not just Indians but also citizens of the US, Israel and Britain as well.

Saeed, who has a US bounty of $10 million on him, often addresses public rallies in which he routinely makes inflammatory statements against India, and the US. This is not the first ban on the JuD though. Pakistan banned the outfit in 2002 but a court lifted the ban later saying there is insufficient evidence on the group’s involvement in militancy. Besides the US, the EU, India and Russia have branded JuD as a terror organization.

Interestingly, the latest decree came almost a month after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif outlined a 20-point National Action Plan (NAP) to systematically eradicate violent extremists and their ideology through a “combination of concerted military campaigns along with sweeping, punitive legislation.” He also assured the world that there would be “no distinction” between good and bad Taliban. The Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif has been repeatedly asserting since then that terrorists would be flushed out from wherever they are hiding.

But a reality check shows that the crackdown on terror groups has become a single point agenda to the disappointment of Washington and Kabul. The spurt in sectarian attacks in recent days, which have left more than one hundred dead, also shows that there is only talk and no action in checkmating terrorists who are increasingly targeting the minorities, particularly Christians and Shia Muslims.

pakistani taliban kill schoolkids
Protest after Pakistani Taliban kill school children

While announcing the ban on Jan 22, Pakistan’s government asserted that it was taking this step not under US pressure. The decision was to honour a six-year-old UN resolution. Well, Islamabad may have a point but the decision came a day after the US declared the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, TTP, chief Mullah Fazlullah as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” following Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Pakistan.

Apart from JuD, other outfits that came under the ban are Haqqani network, also known as the Good Taliban and Afghan Taliban, Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami, Harkat-ul-Mujahidin, Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation, Ummah Tameer-i-Nau, Haji Khairullah Hajji Sattar Money Exchange, Rahat Limited, Roshan Money Exchange, Al Akhtar Trust, Al Rashid Trust.

The UN designated the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) as a terrorist outfit after the Mumbai attacks. It also listed as many as 27 aliases that the LeT uses; these include Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and the Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation. The UN list also refers to the JuD as “a front organization of the LeT.”

Pakistan’s establishment deliberately ignored the UN call all this while so as not to annoy what have come to be described as Pakistan’s “strategic assets.” As The Long War Journal points out, in the past also, Pakistan has not taken “immediate action” against terrorist groups and entities listed by the Security Council. “If so, the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and Jamaat-ud-Dawa would have been banned in Pakistan years ago. In fact, the Pakistani government and military and intelligence establishments have ignored many of the terrorist designations,” says Bill Roggio, noted American commentator on military affairs.

For instance, the Security Council listed the Afghan Taliban as a terrorist organization for the first time in 1999 under Resolution 1267. It has since renewed the ban several times, the latest being under Resolution 1988. Scores of Taliban leaders, commanders and operatives find their place on the UN sanctions list; so do Afghan Taliban groups identified as Haqqani Network and Rahat Ltd, Haji Khairullah Haji Sattar Money Exchange and the Roshan Money Exchange.

There is nothing on record in the public domain to state that Pakistan has acted against any of these four groups. Again to quote Bill Roggio, “Pakistan remains a sanctuary for the Afghan Taliban, including the Haqqani Network” and the Pakistani officials only keep making “unsubstantiated” claims that the Haqqani Network’s “infrastructure [was] totally destroyed” during military operations in North Waziristan. What is more members of the Haqqani Network, its founder Jalaluddin and his son Sirajuddin operate openly and enjoy “the support of Pakistan’s military and the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate to this day.”

The present ban included freezing of the financial and non-moveable assets of these organizations. But the ban came with ample advance notice. The time lag between the date on which the US spokesperson hinted that Pakistan had agreed to ban organizations on the US hit-list (especially the Haqqani outfit which has struck American and Indian diplomatic outposts in Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan) and the actual announcement of the ban was sufficient for rear guard action to divert their holdings.

In any case, the funds will continue to flow through the hawala route which has been left unplugged and cash transactions which Saudi Arabia has been providing. With the death of King Saud it is to be seen how his successor will deal with the Wahabbi proselytisation. That the Saudi royal family itself has been a victim of undetected terrorism through mysterious death of at least three Princes may dictate the course to be adopted by Riyadh.

There is no gain saying that for Pakistan, the ‘bad’ Taliban is a real worry, and the concern dates back to the time military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf had tried to buy peace in the picturesque Swat valley. Mullah Fazllualh’s elevation from the head of small-time outfit in Swat to the head of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has been seen as a challenge. In fact, former Pakistan Army Chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, and current incumbent, General Raheel Sharif, have spoken about the internal danger posed by TTP. Both consider it as a freelance terrorist organization.

For its part, the TTP has made the Pakistan army its target for conniving with the Americans to slay its charismatic leader Baitullah Mehsud using a missile fired by an American Predator drone aircraft. The Peshawar massacre of schoolchildren last December, which had spurred Pakistan into action, was its way of taking revenge.

Coincidentally, Afghanistan has arrested five persons who are said to have collaborated with the TTP in facilitating and executing the dastardly act. This is an exemplary show of good neighbourliness by the Ghani government but it is as yet a moot point whether Pakistan will learn any lesson from it.

Many of the factions accused of terrorism are in the payroll and protection of the army GHQ. So much so, the ban notwithstanding, it is unlikely that except for TTP in North Waziristan, any of the other banned organizations will be touched by the ongoing military operations.

Pakistan has hitherto refused to take action against terror masterminds like Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Hafiz Saeed by hiding behind the judiciary which has found no evidence against the duo. The present Pakistan judicial system is a product of Provisional Constitution Order (PCO) promulgated by military dictator General Pervez Musharraf after his coup to overthrow the second Sharif government in the 1990s. Under the PCO, the judges were asked to swear new oaths of allegiance to the military dictatorship and uphold the breach of the Constitution.

This particular facet of Musharraf era has not been undone as yet. So much so, the PCO judges are unlikely to do anything that the military establishment does not want notwithstanding their commitment to independence of the judiciary. Anyhow from the turn of events in the Lakhvi case, it is clear that the evidence provided by India will not be taken to its logical conclusion.

If Washington is to play an equitable role in the region wracked by Pakistan-spawned and US sponsored Islamic jihadi terrorism it must facilitate the transfer of the terror masterminds either to India where the crime occurred or to the US itself, since its citizens were both victims and perpetrators (David Coleman Headley), to stand trial. The option of a trial in the International Criminal Court at The Hague is also worth pursuing.

By and large, the National Action Plan (NAP) has remained what a noted Pakistani journalist Zeeshan Salahuddin terms in his World Policy Journal’s blog as “a cocktail of tangible steps, status quo rhetoric, confusing and partial policy, and inexplicable silence.” For instance, there is no progress in regulating the Madrasas, which are seen as a source of Islamist extremism, and hate speech; outfits like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which enjoyed state patronage in the past, face no trouble these days to go around under the cover of relief organizations. It is time, therefore, for friends of Pakistan – both all weather and fair weather friends, to nudge Islamabad to give up its time tested penchant for “talk, talk and take some interest in ‘action'” for tackling terrorism in all its manifestations.


1. “Pakistan announces a national plan to fight terrorism, says terrorists’ days are numbered”: by Anup Kaphle in The Washington Post, Dec 24, 2014

2. “National Action Plan: Pakistan in fresh push to choke terror funding” by Zaheed Gishkori in The Express Tribune, Jan 10, 2015.

3. BBC report, Dec 16, 2014: Pakistan Taliban: Peshawar school attack leaves 141 dead

4. Pakistan Bans Several Taliban And Al Qaeda-Linked Militant Groups, Freezes Bank Account: by Avaneesh Pandey in The International Business Times, January 22, 2015

5. Pakistan finally bans 10 terror groups, report in The Asian Age, Jan 22. 2015

6. National Action Plan: Over Rs 10 billion in foreign terror and AML funds frozen: By Zahid Gishkori in The Express Tribune, March 25, 2015

7. Pakistan falsely claims it takes ‘immediate action’ against terror groups listed by the UN: By Bill Roggio, in The Long War Journal, Jan 22, 2015

8. Pakistan’s Slow Crackdown on Terror: by Zeeshan Salahuddin, World Policy Journal blog, March 6, 2015