The eleventh report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team(ASSMT) was submitted to the UN Security Council on 27 May this year. The report had a few major observations. It stated, ‘the Taliban are assessed to have close connections with Al-Qaida,’ also adding, ‘Al-Qaida and the Taliban held meetings over the course of 2019 and in early 2020 to discuss cooperation related to operational planning, training and the provision by the Taliban of safe havens for Al-Qaida members inside Afghanistan.’Evidently, US pushed through its deal with the Taliban though aware of Taliban-Al Qaida links.
The report also noted the direct involvement of Pakistan in Afghanistan. It stated, ‘Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Tobia (LeT) facilitate the trafficking of terrorist fighters into Afghanistan, who act as advisers, trainers and specialists in improvised explosive devices. Both groups are responsible for carrying out targeted assassinations against Government officials and others. LeT and JeM were stated to have approximately 800 and 200 armed fighters, respectively, co-located with Taliban forces.’ It added that, ‘that the total number of Pakistani nationals fighting with terrorist groups in Afghanistan may be as high as 6,000 to 6,500.’
It also stated that Pakistan faces threat from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). This group rose post the botched operation on the Lal Masjid by Musharraf in July 2007. It has given the Pak army nightmares. It was responsible for the attack on the army school in Peshawar in Dec 2014. Its senior leader, Ehsanullah Ehsan, who admitted being behind the attack, surrendered to the Pak army in 2017. Despite court orders he was never charged for the heinous crime.
In Feb this year, he was reported to have escaped to Turkey. However, his location has been traced to Islamabad, implying that the deep state has hidden him in a safe house, akin to the protection provided to Dawood Ibrahim. This indicates that it was the Pak army which was behind the Peshawar school massacre. Which army kills children of its own army personnel, to blame others?
Pakistan has, on the other hand, sought to give a different twist and even bring in details which were neither covered in the report nor considered. The Pak foreign office, hoping to gain local sympathy stated in a press briefing, ‘India was using terrorism as a state policy to destabilise neighbouring countries, and that a recent United Nations Monitoring Report (ASSMT) had endorsed Pakistan’s stance that Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is operating from Afghanistan and with Indian support.’ This was not even vaguely commented upon in the report.
The report dealt with terrorism in Afghanistan and the presence of terrorist groups there. Adding to its fake news, the Pak foreign office commented, ‘There is no reference to ‘safe havens’ in Pakistan in the ASSMT.’ The statement added, ‘Pakistan has proposed the listing of several Indian terrorism facilitators on the UN Security Council’s terrorism list along with evidence of their involvement in terrorism.’ However, the report terms the Taliban as the ‘Quetta Shura’ implying it remains headquartered in Quetta, Pakistan.
Pakistan’s comments come as the nation faces increased internal turmoil and growing anger alongside world condemnation. Internally, with the hearing on Justice Isa, an upright judge who questioned the Pak army’s role in supporting anti-government protests in 2017, the battle between the judiciary and the army has just commenced. Isa is also slated to become the Chief Justice shortly, which would be a threat to the power of the deep state. The nation watches if the army would push through a desired verdict or will the judiciary have the gall to challenge the army’s stranglehold.
Pak is also losing support from its traditional allies. Recently, Qatar backed down from investing in Pak airports, quoting changing Pak policies. It has received no backing from Saudi Arabia and UAE on Kashmir. On the contrary, its proximity to Turkey is leading to isolation even within the Muslim community.
Economically it is coming under increased pressure. The IMF has instructed Pak to curtail all non-development expenditure including defence and salaries if it seeks the next instalment of the loan.
Having taken over all internal agencies, the Pak army is displaying failures and shortcomings in governance. It imposed the lockdown, disregarding the words of their ‘selected Prime Minister Imran Khan’, which it was forced to lift on pressure from religious leaders. The rapid spread of the Coronavirus with almost non-existent medical facilities is leading to growing anger. The failure of the army controlled National Locust Centre in managing its spread is adding to misery of farmers.
In Baluchistan, protests are on the rise on recent murders. Alongside that are growing attacks on the Pak army in the region, led by the Baluch Liberation Army. There are regular reports of casualties to Pak troops. In May alone, Pakistan lost 18 security force personnel to terrorist strikes. On the LoC, India is reacting with greater firepower targeting Pak posts and terrorist launch pads.
Last fortnight, India eliminated 10 terrorists in their launchpads and three who attempted to cross the LoC. On the contrary Pak foreign office stated, ’13 Kashmiris were extra-judicially killed in a single day speaks volumes about Indian government’s continuing crimes against humanity.’ With no response from Kashmir nor its allies, Pak was forced into silence.
Indian fire assaults have impacted the morale of Pak based terrorists in launchpads. While Imran Khan and the DG ISPR have repeatedly stated that there are no terrorists in Pakistan and deny reports on infiltration, their ISI chief visited terrorist camps in Muzaffarabad to boost their flailing confidence. The elimination of almost all top terrorist leaders in the valley in the past few months had added to their concerns. Terrorist groups are now headless, lacking cohesion, adding to problems.
Imran Khan’s tweets on possible false flag operations are a means of projecting growing fear within the Pak establishment of Indian retaliation to any terrorist strike. Post the detection of the alleged car bomb which was diffused, Imran’s cries on false flag actions have reduced, implying, it was planned by a desperate and failing Pak. Pak has been hoping that the India-China standoff along the LAC continues as it could provide them with an opportunity to push through terrorists and enhance pressure along the LoC.
Currently, despite the standoff along the LAC, pressure on Pak continues. Apart from internal issues, it is facing strong Indian retaliation, forcing it to blame India for all its internal ills. Indian global standing, growing ties with all its allies is pushing Pak into isolation. Its voice is unheard as it sinks deeper into debt.
The author is Major General (Retd)