Threats and warnings from the US of dire consequences for Pakistan have increased in the last few weeks. Pakistan has been used to “friendly fire” for many years but this time some quarters in the country fear the US could launch missile and drone strikes deep inside the country in revenge for its failure in Afghanistan.
The concern is not unfounded. The threats have never been so frequent and serious. In a recent visit to Afghanistan, US Vice President Mike Pence said, “For too long has Pakistan provided safe havens to the Taliban and many terrorist organizations, but those days are over. President Trump has put Pakistan on notice. As the president said, so I say now: Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with the US, and it has much to lose by continuing to harbour criminals and terrorists. Under President Donald Trump, the armed forces of the United States will remain engaged in Afghanistan until we eliminate the terrorist threat to our homeland, our people once and for all.”
Earlier, Pakistan ignored Donald Trump’s warning and voted for a resolution in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) against his announcement of recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Pakistan’s ambassador, Maleeha Lodhi, who spoke before the vote, took offense at the pressure campaign by the White House, including last-minute threats by Donald Trump to cut off aid to countries, which voted for the resolution. Maleeha Lodhi said Pakistan remained a steadfast supporter of Palestinians “despite the kind of threats we have received in recent days” from the United States. “All of these nations that take our money and then they vote against us at the Security Council or they vote against us, potentially, at the Assembly, they take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars and then they vote against us. Well, we’re watching those votes. Let them vote against us; we’ll save a lot. We don’t care,” Trump had warned before the vote.
In its reaction to US Vice President Mike Pence’s threats, Pakistan told the United States to realize the ground realities instead of sending out warnings and reminded that “allies do not put each other on notice”. A spokesman for the Foreign Office said,” Instead of Pakistan, on notice should be factors which are responsible for exponential increase in drug production, expansion of ungoverned spaces, industrial scale corruption, breakdown of governance and letting Daesh gain a foothold in Afghanistan.” Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General (DG) Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor said that such statements by US officials could affect the war on terrorism. “The Pakistani forces took effective action against terrorists and no one has ever done what Pakistan did against terrorism. Pakistan and the US have had cordial ties; we do not need aid from the US, but mutual trust. The Afghan war was imposed on Pakistan and there is a need for elimination of terrorist dens in Afghanistan,” he told a news channel.
Before it, the US insisted that Pakistan take a “decisive action against militant and terrorist groups operating from its soil,” as President Donald Trump unveiled a new national security strategy underlining the country’s interests and objectives worldwide. “We have made it clear to Pakistan that while we desire a continued partnership, we must see decisive action against terrorist groups operating on their territory,” Trump said, announcing the new national security strategy at the White House. “And we make massive payments every year to Pakistan; they have to help,” he emphasized.
Few months ago, leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS) identified militant groups allegedly based in Pakistan as a regional security concern and called for their patrons to be held to account. In a declaration after a summit in the Chinese city of Xiamen, the five-member bloc alleged the presence of the Taliban, ISIS, Al Qaeda and its affiliates, including Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Haqqani Network, Lashkar-i-Taiba, Jaish-i-Mohammad, Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Hizbut Tahrir, on Pakistani soil and called for action against them. The message indicated even Pakistan’s friendly countries have been influenced by malicious Indian propaganda that it is sponsoring terrorism in the world. Pakistan has failed to inform the world about Indian atrocities in Occupied Kashmir and terrorist activities on its soil. It could not effectively highlight the arrest of Kulbhushan Jhadev, an India spy, and his involvement in subversive activities on its soil.
In June this year, the United States and India urged Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of the November 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai to justice. In a declaration after the end of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US, the two countries also “committed themselves to making joint and concerted efforts to disrupt all financial and tactical support to Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Dawood Ibrahim, the Haqqanis and Al Qaeda. It also expressed “deep concern over the continued threat posed by terrorism,” and underlined the need for “continued comprehensive global efforts to combat and defeat terrorism.”
The unusual threats panicked Pakistan’s Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs members, who feared an Osama-like operation against Jamaatud Dawa leader Hafiz Saeed in Pakistan. His organization, Lashkar-e-Taiba, has already been declared a terrorist outfit by the United Nations Security Council. Hafiz Saeed has attracted the world attention after his organization took part in a recent by-election in Lahore and former President General (retd) Pervez Musharraf called him his hero in recent TV interviews.
It appears the US and India have begun contemplating the possibility of targeted operations on Pakistani soil at some point in the future. In the situation, Pakistan will have to take drastic steps to convince the world it is serious about eliminating terrorist organizations from its soil. It will have to take action against banned organizations which are working as welfare outfits to avoid international backlash and isolation.
Most important, Pakistan will have to be far more effective in highlighting Indian denial of the infrangible rights of the Kashmiris – a result of state terrorism. Also, the egregious acts of India in Balochistans and support of anti-Pakistan terrorists in Afghanistan have to be strategized to make the international community more sensitive to India’s state terrorism.