Regional

Does Pakistan’s foreign minister mean what he is saying about Lashkar, Saeed?

Sep 29, 2017
Pakistan’s foreign minister Khawaja Asif did what appeared to be some plain talking when he told an audience at the Asia Society in New York that Hafiz Saeed and the Lashkar-e-Taiba and others of their ilk had become liabilities for his country. This was not the first time the suave banker-turned-politician has spoken of Pakistan’s need to do more to rein in jihadi groups, including those which mainly target India. Days after the Brics grouping bracketed the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed with the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, Asif had acknowledged the need to restrict the activities of these terror groups and hinted that Pakistan could no longer test its friends like China on the issue of counterterrorism. But the question that continues to linger is whether Asif’s remarks were only aimed at satisfying a world community angered by what it sees as Pakistan’s questionable and duplicitous role in countering terrorists.
 
Asif also trotted out Pakistan’s well-honed arguments that these groups had become so powerful largely because of the US patronage of the mujahideen that battled the Soviet occupation forces in neighbouring Afghanistan. These were the same forces, he said, who were the “darlings” of the US, that were “wined and dined” in the White House three decades ago. But as former envoy Husain Haqqani, an astute observer of the links between Pakistan’s military and terror groups, pointed out on Twitter, 28 years should be enough to change the country’s policies and deal with the jihadis helped by the US to take on the Soviets.
 
It is now evident that no amount of pressure from the US and Western powers, who are largely acting with an eye on Afghanistan, can make the Pakistani military establishment give up its dangerous policy of using terror groups as proxies. A change can only come from within but even that seems unlikely when the latest reports from across the border suggest that Hafiz Saeed is well on course with his plans to make his Milli Muslim League the political face of his extensive jihadi network to give a modicum of respectability, if one can call it that, to his activities. These reports also suggest the “mainstreaming” of forces such as Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawah is proceeding under plans drawn up by the all-powerful intelligence set-up. More evidence, if ever it was needed, that it will be extremely difficult for Khawaja Asif to walk the talk about reining in the jihadis.
 
Hindustan Times, September 29, 2017

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