‘Pak intel agencies supporting plethora of jihadi groups’

NEW DELHI, Nov 20:  Pakistani intelligence agencies were covertly supporting a “plethora of Islamist militant groups” which the rise of fundamentalism had spawned in the country, Pakistani author and journalist Babar Ayaz said here.

Analysing the various changes underway in Pakistan at a debate organised here last evening by the think tank, Policy and Planning Group, Ayaz held forth on the topic ‘What’s Wrong With Pakistan’, which is also the title of a book by him recently brought out by Hay House.

Opening the discussion, Ayaz said that “the rise of fundamentalism has given birth to a plethora of Islamist militant groups covertly supported by Pakistani intelligence services”.

Pakistan, Ayaz said, has been branded “the most dangerous state of the world” and the “epicentre of terrorism”.

“Attempts to present the peaceful side of Islam are feeble because of the dominance of pro-jihad elements which are pushing the country into a civil war-like situation,” Ayaz noted.

However, another speaker from the neighbouring country and a former minister under Pervez Musharraf, Javed Jabbar, sought to draw attention to the changes in Pakistan which increasingly marked a departure from the past.

Pakistan’s military is “supportive of peace with India and learning to combat internal threats as opposed to historical external threats”, a sign of growing change in the country, Jabbar said.

“What is right with Pakistan is that people desperately want peace… Nobody hates India, there might be some madmen who do, but then there are madmen in every country” said Jabbar, who had been the Adviser on National Affairs and Information to Musharraf.

Responding to his compatriot’s observation on Pakistani intelligence services aiding terrorist groups, Jabbar said it was “all presumptions”.

“It is all presumption… The narrative is still stuck in grooves that may have been right around 15 to 20 years back, but the military is now changing. Whether that translates into visible tangible change that you are looking for is a matter to be investigated,” he said.

Noting it was wrong to “simply say that the Pakistani military supports LeT”, Jabbar averred that, “maybe there is a role of someone who was formerly in the military but I don’t see it being done in an open, explicit manner.”

Talking about the ceasefire and other violations along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, perpetrated allegedly by Pakistan Army, Jabbar said there should be “independent verification” of such incidents.

“The (Pakistan) military is changing. The transition is not easy. Also, it will take time for Indians to decide that their troop deployment does not remain Pakistan centric. Until that happens our major threat perception will continue to be India,” Jabbar said.

Referring to India and Afghanistan, Jabbar said “we want to be good friends with our neighbours”.

Referring to the buzz in India about the “character called Hafiz Saeed” Jabbar said “we are giving disproportionate importance to that character”. Saeed is alleged to be one of the brains behind the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack.

“The judicial system in Pakistan was willing to hear the evidence against Saeed, but maybe there was a conspiracy to prevent the evidence from being submitted,” he added.

He further added that, “Don’t dignify them as jihadis but let us just call them what they are — barbarians, savages, criminals or terrorists, but not jehadis”.

Swapan Dasgupta, speaking for the motion, rebutted Jabbar, saying Pakistan’s military is “blundering from correctness to correctness right from the time when they blundered in 1965 and got corrected and in 1999 when the Pakistan Prime Minister made peace with India while initiating war in Kargil.”

Dasgupta said there was much “inherently wrong with Pakistan”.

He observed that India should follow a policy of “benign neglect” and not concentrate on making its foreign policy Pakistan centric.

Speaking on the occasion, senior Congress leader Mani Shaker Aiyer said Pakistan today had a Parliament, a judiciary and a vibrant press and India has to accept the reality that the mindset in the neighbouring country has evolved. (PTI)

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