In its recently published article, “The shifting sands of Pakistan’s support to terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir”, EFSAS comments on how sections of the Indian and Pakistani media reported last week that the Pakistani security apparatus had in June this year shut down as many as 20 terrorist camps that it had established and was running in Pakistan Administered Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). The terrorists from these camps were armed and infiltrated by the Pakistani military and the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) across the Line of Control (LoC) to unleash mayhem in Indian Administered J&K, as well as in parts of India.
Significantly, that bit of news was overtaken by the remarkably candid admission by Pakistani Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan during his visit to the US earlier this week. PM Khan divulged that between 30,000 to 40,000 terrorists who had trained and fought in Afghanistan and J&K were presently living in his country and further disclosed that there were over 40 terrorist organizations operating out of Pakistan. Khan also lent credence to the media reports that suggested the closing down of the 20 ISI-run terrorist camps in Pakistan Administered J&K. He claimed that his government was the first to start disarming terror groups.
EFSAS further deliberates on Khan’s asseverations that lead to some very significant conclusions about the Pakistani government and its policy towards terrorism. Firstly, to act against the terrorist outfits and their personnel that Khan claims his government is now doing, the government needed to be aware of the locations of the terrorist camps, “their institutes, their seminaries” and their inhabitants. After all, the Pakistani military establishment knew very well all along where the terrorist infrastructure and personnel were located simply because it was this very same establishment that in the first place had set them up at the locations where they were.
Secondly, the sheer volume of the numbers quoted by the PM of Pakistan is staggering. Even if the Pakistani establishment is given some leeway and it is assumed that a few out of the claimed 40 terrorist groups had not been propped up by it, there is little doubt that the number of terrorist groups that it did create is substantial.
Thirdly, Khan has alleged that his preceding governments in Pakistan “were not in control”. That is a very dangerous situation for a country that is producing tactical nuclear weapons almost in bulk, and is home to possibly the largest number of terrorists of any country in the world, to be in. The other side of this coin is that if the Pakistani governments were not in control, the military establishment did hold whatever little control there was. This establishment that set up the great Pakistani terror factory is widely accepted within and outside Pakistan as having propped up Imran Khan as PM. What control, then, does Khan have, or can be expected to have?
Fourthly, Khan accuses previous governments of not telling the US “exactly the truth on the ground” vis-à-vis the scale of the terrorist assets that Pakistan had created. This statement rips the credibility of Pakistan as a country into tatters. It also renders the question of how much of the truth Khan was now telling highly pertinent.
In addition, EFSAS describes the Indian government’s reaction to Khan’s revelations and how India is considering making Khan’s admission a part of its submission ahead of the next meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). India is likely to press for Pakistan’s blacklisting by pointing out to FATF that the numbers quoted by Khan were considerably higher than those formally submitted by Pakistan at the FATF. The Pakistani government has listed only 8,000 active militants in Schedule-4 of Pakistan’s ‘Anti-Terrorism Act’ that details banned organizations. Khan’s quoted figure has generated doubts about the truthfulness of the facts presented to the FATF by Pakistan and about the effectiveness of Pakistan's compliance with the FATF Action Plan drawn up for it.
In its commentary, EFSAS also explains that the closure of the terrorist camps in Pakistan Administered J&K is viewed with much scepticism. Such actions by Pakistan have been witnessed before too when the country came under severe pressure from India and the international community following the terrorist attack on India’s parliament in 2001, and after the Mumbai attacks of 2008. The establishment’s orders to the terrorist groups to exercise restraint were lifted once the Indian pressure wore off. The present move is being interpreted as a similarly temporary measure put into action to circumvent blacklisting by the FATF and to hoodwink the international community, which in recent years has been bringing much more concerted pressure to bear on Pakistan to act tangibly against terror. The stellar role being played by the FATF in objectively analyzing the terrorist threat posed by Pakistan and maintaining pressure on the country to mend its wayward ways or face strong punitive action is what has actually had the most salutary impact on Pakistan.
Having Pakistan on the back foot has boded well for residents of Indian Administered J&K. Infiltration of terrorists during the peak summer months has shown a 43% reduction, the intensity of ceasefire violations on the LoC has tapered, and civilian and military casualties from ceasefire violations have reduced. The Indian government has, thus, been presented an opportunity to make full use of this lull to push forth policies in J&K that are people-centric and help in regaining the confidence of the people.
EFSAS concludes that for J&K and its people, the earlier the hard-line “pot boiling” lobby is marginalized and sent to the barracks and the “strong voice” that recognizes the “futility of supporting militancy” wrests a controlling stake in the Pakistani military establishment, the better the prospects for a return of peace and the search for a lasting solution.