Sergio Restelli

Pakistan’s lost opportunities to curb terror

Lt. Gen Faiz Hamid, Director General of the Pakistani Inter services Intelligence (ISI) at the Kabul Serena. Screenshot from Original video tweeted by @lindseyhilsum from Kabul live.
Lt. Gen Faiz Hamid, Director General of the Pakistani Inter services Intelligence (ISI) at the Kabul Serena. Screenshot from Original video tweeted by @lindseyhilsum from Kabul live.

The elected government in Pakistan had a golden opportunity to root out all terror hubs after the 2008 Mumbai attack. There was intense pressure from the international community as the 26/11 attack was the most horrific since the 9/11 tragedy. However, the civil government missed the opportunity and failed to take strong action against the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militants who had planned and executed the assault on Mumbai. The inaction however had serious implications for the country as it had not only strengthened the radical forces but encouraged more such terror groups to form. US Congressional Research Service (CRS) has found 15 major militant groups in Pakistan, which are responsible for terror activities across the globe. With the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan, these groups are going to be more powerful, leading to a resurgence of regional terrorism and militancy, said the CRS. This means aggravation of terror activities in Pakistan, which prove detrimental to its stability.

Al Qaeda, Islamic State-Khorasan Province, the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Harakat-ul Jihad Islami, Harakat ul-Mujahidin, Hizbul Mujahideen, Tehriki-Taliban Pakistan are among the 15 terror outfits listed out by the CRS. The growing strength and influence of these terror outfits can be perceived now. They have become too powerful, and the Pakistan state has appeared helpless in front of them now. Imran Khan-led Islamabad government has expressed its inability to take action against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the terror outfit that gunned down 147 people including 132 children in Peshawar’s Army Public School in 2014. It told Pakistan’s Supreme Court that the government was holding talks with the TLP. Furious Supreme Court slammed Khan for failing to bring the guilty of Peshwar attack. “If the government was going to sign on a document of defeat with those who killed these children…Are we going to surrender once again?” Justice Qazi Mohammad Amin Ahmed asked Khan. Earlier, Khan had while talking to a news channel had expressed how vulnerable the civil government had become, saying “We might not reach some sort of conclusion or settlement in the end but we are talking.

The US and global community have reiterated time and again that Pakistan has been letting terror outfits proliferate on its soil since the 1980s for proxy wars in the Indian subcontinent, specifically, to target India and Afghanistan. In the process, Pakistan saw a surge in radicalization across the county, which started attacking the federal government for being liberal, secular, and for maintaining ties with the western countries, especially the US. The siege of Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in 2007 was a reflection of a confrontation between the religious fundamentalists and the government. Maulana Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid had warned the government of suicide blasts and grenade attacks. He was caught and released later. Pakistan missed another opportunity. It did not take measures to suppress radicalization. Rather it continued to support such elements for strategic gains in South Asia. Now, after 14 years, Abdul Aziz is back. He hoisted the Taliban flag on the Lal Masjid and brandished an automatic rifle at police personnel, who had gone to take down the flag.

A year ago, Tehreek-iLabaik Pakistan (TLP) laid partial siege to Pakistan’s national capital demanding the expulsion of the French Ambassador over the publication of Prophet Muhammed’s cartoon in a French daily. Islamabad had come to standstill, and the Imran Khan government was helpless as several radical groups and hardliner political parties supported the TLP. Khan finally gave in to the demands of TLP. Khan also released 350 fundamentalists associated with the TLP. Madiha Afzal, a Brookings Institution fellow, said “The Pakistani state has, over decades, actively fostered the ideology that led to the TLP and that leads many in the population to sympathize with the TLP.

Several international reports suggest nexus between the radical, terror groups and Pakistan’s powerful army and its spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The shoddy probes and filing of weak charge sheets have often led to the non-conviction of many dreaded terrorists. And the trial of the Mumbai attack in Pakistan is a classic case to support the claim. Despite the submission of strong evidence from India and the US, the perpetrators –Hafiz Saeed and Zaki-urRehman Lakhvi of the LeT–have not been punished yet for being responsible for the killing of over 180 people from different countries.

About the Author
Sergio Restelli is an Italian political advisor, author and geopolitical expert. He served in the Craxi government in the 1990's as the special assistant to the deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice Martelli and worked closely with anti-mafia magistrates Falcone and Borsellino. Over the past decades he has been involved in peace building and diplomacy efforts in the Middle East and North Africa. He has written for Geopolitica and several Italian online and print media. In 2020 his first fiction "Napoli sta bene" was published.
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