Succumbing to international pressure over demands to uproot terrorism from its soil, Nawaz Sharif government reportedly has asked military leadership to take immediate action against terrorists like Masood Azhar, Jaish-i-Mohmmad, Hafiz Saeed, Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Haqqani network or else face international isolation, an exclusive report by a Pakistani daily puts forth.
In an inside scoop of an undisclosed meeting by Pak top officials on Monday, Pak leading daily, Dawn has reported that Pakistani civilian government has accepted that it is on the verge of international isolation unless their military leadership takes action against anti-India militant organisations and its top leaders.
Pak to reopen Pathankot investigation, Mumbai attacks-related trials cases
According to the report, on the day of the All Parties’ Conference on Monday, another undisclosed meeting was held, in which at least two sets of actions have been agreed.
“First, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has directed that fresh attempts be made to conclude the Pathankot investigation and restart the stalled Mumbai attacks-related trials in a Rawalpindi antiterrorism court.
“Second, ISI DG Gen Rizwan Akhtar, accompanied by National Security Adviser Nasser Janjua, is to travel to each of the four provinces with a message for provincial apex committees and ISI sector commanders.
“The message: military-led intelligence agencies are not to interfere if law enforcement acts against militant groups that are banned or until now considered off-limits for civilian action. Gen Akhtar’s inter-provincial tour has begun with a visit to Lahore.”
Pakistan is isolated in international forum
In the report, filed after discussions with people present in the undisclosed meeting, the Pakistani daily has revealed that Pak civilian government has recognises that the country’s recent diplomatic outreach has been met with indifference in major world capitals.
According to the report, Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry gave a separate, exclusive presentation in the Prime Minister’s Office to a small group of civil and military officials on Tuesday.
“The meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Sharif and included senior cabinet and provincial officials. On the military side, ISI DG Rizwan Akhtar led the representatives.
“The presentation by the foreign secretary summarised the results of the recent diplomatic outreach by Pakistan, the crux being that Pakistan faces diplomatic isolation and that the government’s talking points have been met with indifference in major world capitals.
“On the US, Mr Chaudhry said that relations have deteriorated and will likely further deteriorate because of the American demand that action be taken against the Haqqani network. On India, Mr Chaudhry stated that the completion of the Pathankot investigation and some visible action against Jaish-i-Mohammad were the principal demands.”
China sceptical to support Pakistan on Masood Azhar
“To a hushed but surprised room, Mr Chaudhry suggested that while China has reiterated its support for Pakistan, it too has indicated a preference for a change in course by Pakistan. Specifically, while Chinese authorities have conveyed their willingness to keep putting on technical hold a UN ban on Jaish-i-Mohammad leader Masood Azhar, they have questioned the logic of doing so repeatedly,” the report said.
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Demands, acceptance and truth
In an extraordinary exchange following Pak foreign secretary’s presentation, Gen Akhtar reportedly accepted that suggestion that an immediate action was required against anti-India militants like Masood Azhar and Hafiz Saeed. However, his comments were countered with accusations that whenever civilian government takes action military works in background to undo it.
“In response to Foreign Secretary Chaudhry’s conclusions, Gen Akhtar asked what steps could be taken to prevent the drift towards isolation. Mr Chaudhry’s reply was direct and emphatic: the principal international demands are for action against Masood Azhar and the Jaish-i-Mohmmad; Hafiz Saeed and the Lashkar-e-Taiba; and the Haqqani network.
“To that, Gen Akhtar offered that the government should arrest whomever it deems necessary, though it is unclear whether he was referring to particular individuals or members of banned groups generally. At that point came the stunning and unexpectedly bold intervention by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
“Addressing Gen Akhtar, the younger Sharif complained that whenever action has been taken against certain groups by civilian authorities, the security establishment has worked behind the scenes to set the arrested free. Astounded onlookers describe a stunned room that was immediately aware of the extraordinary, unprecedented nature of the exchange.
“To defuse tensions, Prime Minister Sharif himself addressed Gen Akhtar and said that policies pursued in the past were state policies and as such they were the collective responsibility of the state and that the ISI DG was not being accused of complicity in present-day events.”
According to several government officials who spoke to Dawn, Monday’s confrontation was part of a high-stakes gamble by Prime Minister Sharif to try and forestall further diplomatic pressure on Pakistan. Government officials, however, are divided about whether Prime Minister Sharif’s gamble will pay off. According to one official, commenting on the ISI DG’s commitments, “This is what we prayed to hear all our lives. Let’s see if it happens.”
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