The Democracy Forum and The Henry Jackson Society hosted a seminar at University of London’s Senate House on September 15 which asked the question “Is Pakistan a Victim or Perpetrator of Terrorism”? The event was widely attended by academics, researchers, politicians and policy makers. Dr William Crawley of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies chaired the debate.
An audience of more than one hundred people heard addresses on the subject by a distinguished panel of five speakers: Dr Christine Fair of Georgetown University, Washington; Dr Aqil Shah of Oklahoma University; Irfan Hussain, Pakistani writer and journalist; Bob Blackman, Conservative MP for Harrow East and Kyle Orton, Research Fellow at The Henry Jackson Society. Included in the audience were observers from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Diplomats from Pakistan, Nepal, Russia, the Kyrgyz Republic, Ukraine and India.
Dr Fair’s presentation through Skype was titled ‘Pakistan: perpetrator of Islamic terrorism, victim of Islamic insurgency’. She analyzed the problem using data for incidents of terrorism in Pakistan over last 20 years and various surveys and case studies. She reiterated that there is ample proof that Pakistani security agencies are supporting religious extremist outfits. She analyzed the spatial distribution and support for such terrorism and showed that the greatest support base for terrorists is in Punjab, from where the Pakistan Army also draws the maximum recruits. Based on the quantitative evidence, Fair concluded that Pakistan is a perpetrator of terrorism. Dr Fair summed up that Pakistan’s reliance on terrorism as a foreign policy instrument has backfired and they are now fighting those terrorist groups that they can no longer control. Whenever there appears to be a possible reconciliation with India by Pakistan’s democratically elected government, the Punjabi-dominated military undermined it by mounting terrorist attacks on India. The recent Pathankot attack was an example of one such act of sabotage and the earlier Kargil attack was another.
Irfan Hussain’s talk was titled ’Pakistan both victim and source of terrorism’. He said that Pakistan started using terrorism as a strategic tool from its inception. It started with sending non-combatant tribal people in 1948 that captured a part of Kashmir that resulted in its current division, then using proxies such as Jamaat-e-Islami to undertake killing of Bengalis in 1971 and the ongoing cross-border export of terrorism. He said that as Delhi and Kabul are coming closer for long term strategic relations, Pakistan is using nuclear threat as a terror method. He concluded that Pakistan is now being plagued by its own monster as the Pakistani military never expected jihadists to turn against their former sponsors.
Bob Blackman’s talk was titled ‘Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in Kashmir and dangers of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) for the Indian subcontinent’. He said that evidence clearly demonstrates that Pakistan is a perpetrator of terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir, which is an integral part of India. He said that Pakistan supported proxies undertook a genocide of Hindus in the Valley. Pakistani sponsored militants are determined to ethnically cleanse Kashmir of all non-Muslims and frequent terrorist attacks in India can be traced back to Pakistan. He demanded that Pakistan’s illegal occupation of parts of Kashmir should be ended. He said that the CPEC was designed by China in conjunction with Pakistan to encircle India its attempts to control the regions sea and air routes. He said there cannot be peace in the region until Pakistan stops terrorism. He also called for democracies like India, UK, USA, Australia and Israel to come together and have more cooperation.
Dr Aqil Shah said that the Pakistan Army is not fighting terrorism. It is simply fighting a few terrorist groups. He said the military rulers are ‘externalizing’ its problems, claiming its enemies are using Pakistan’s intrinsic instability to implode the country because it is a Muslim nuclear power. He said the Pakistani military does distinguish between ‘good’, ‘bad’ and ‘ugly’ terrorists. ‘Good’ groups, such as the Haqqani Network and Lashkar-e-Toiba, are free to roam the country collecting funds. Other groups classified as ‘bad’ can still be brought under control and used by the state. ‘Ugly’ groups, such as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, are irreconcilable and are being fought by the military. There is no attempt to acknowledge the ‘blow-back’ against Pakistan from this policy or the operational links, manpower and ideology shared by these groups.
Kyle Orton agreed that the terrorism now afflicting Pakistan was of its own making. The use of terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy to put pressure on India in Kashmir has back-fired and now the state has been forced into an internal war. The policies of legitimizing terrorist groups, especially during General Zia’s tenure in the 1980s, opened the way for militant groups to acquire independence of the military and its ISI intelligence service.
There was a lively question and answer session following each speaker’s address. Issues concerning the oppression of Baloch nationalism with examples of extra-judicial murders, unjustifiable incarcerations and the ‘disappearances’ of nationalist supporters were made from the floor. Kashmiri leaders from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) mentioned that the National Action Plan was being used to suppress Kashmiris in Gilgit Baltistan and PoK and cited the 40 year sentence awarded to Baba Jan and arrest of three cadres of JKNAP.
The overwhelming sentiment of the seminar was that Pakistan continues to be a perpetrator of terrorism. The seminar also established that Pakistan was suffering terrorism mainly due to its policy of using terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy, which it refuses to abandon. It is pertinent in this context the recent report published by the South Asia Development forum, Brussels which has highlighted how time and again the Pakistan Army has made use of cross-border terrorism to derail the India-Pakistan relationship.
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