Our Pak policy is a mess

India’s foreign policy czars seem to be living in a world of their own making. To be sure, it’s not something new; ever since Jawaharlal Nehru assumed office as the country’s first prime minister, foreign policy has been at sea. Seven decades later, it is little better than it was during the Nehru era. The latest instance of the government’s cluelessness is its reaction to Pakistan’s release of Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of 26/11 that left 166 people dead and many more wounded.

New Delhi’s response was routine. Official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said that Hafiz’s “release confirms once again the lack of seriousness on the part of Pakistani government in bringing to justice of heinous acts of terrorism including by individuals and entities designated by the United Nations.” But was any confirmation ever needed in the first place? Isn’t it ingenuous, if not stupid, to expect “seriousness on the part of Pakistani government in bringing to justice of heinous acts of terrorism”? Isn’t Pakistan one of the global engines of terror? So, what seriousness we can expect from our western neighbor?

Further, Kumar said, the freeing of Hafiz “appears to be an attempt by the Pakistani system to [a] mainstream proscribed terrorist.” Appears to be?

Ministry of External Affairs bosses seem to be blissfully unaware of not just attempts but the mainstreaming of terrorists and the ecosystem in which they thrive. They fail to realize that the state, the military, and the society of Pakistan have been thoroughly radicalized. Consider the recent conflagration triggered by jihadists, killing at least six protesters and injuring 200 in Islamabad on Saturday. They were protesting against a perceived dilution of the country’s blasphemy laws. Law Minister Zahid Hamid was forced to resign.

“The decision to resign was taken in a bid to steer the country out of the prevailing critical situation,” Hamid told Pakistan’s Tribune newspaper.

“Zealots have taken the law into their own hands. Mullahs can get up and ask for anyone’s resignation, so this is the death of rationality,” Zahid Hussain, a political analyst, told The Guardian of London. “This is complete surrender to hardline Islamists. It’s a sad day for Pakistan: it shows that the state is so weak, and that we can’t stand up to blackmailing.” Hussain also slammed the army for refusing to step in against the protesters despite a request from the government and for brokering deal with extremist groups.

Blasphemy laws are very harsh; anything regarded as blasphemous is punishable with death. Unfounded allegations and even rumors occasion mob violence and lynching.

In this context, it is worth recalling the assassination of Punjab governor Salman Taseer. He was opposed to blasphemy laws, something that enraged the fundamentalists. In January 2011, one of his bodyguards, Malik Mumtaz Qadri, shot him down. When Qadri was brought him to the Anti-Terrorism Court in Rawalpindi, his supporters chanted slogans in his favor and threw rose petals at him. Hundreds of lawyers expressed willingness to defend Qadri. Five hundred mullahs lauded him for murdering Taseer.

Such is the support jihadists enjoy in Pakistan. Therefore, it is not surprising that terror groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba thrive in the country. In December 2008, the UN Secretary Council declared Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the front of Lashkar-e-Taiba’s, as a terror outfit. In April 2012, the US announced a bounty of $10m on Saeed’s head.

To expect “seriousness on the part of Pakistani government” to fight terrorism is the apogee of naivete. Islamabad cannot be persuaded or coaxed to discard Saeed and other mass murderers. India ought to use force to check terror getting exported from Pakistan; and this can only be done with the active support of the US. For this we have to agree to the request made by Washington that we send our combat troops to Afghanistan to help the Americans.


Photo courtesy: Dawn