Pakistan’s Terror Game

Coming on the heels of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise visit to Lahore last month, the attack on Pathankot Air Force Station in Indian Punjab by Islamist militants on January 2nd is seen by many as an attempt to derail the nascent peace process between the two countries. This is a serious misunderstanding of this particular attack and such thinking obfuscates adequate appreciation of how Pakistan employs its jihadi assets to prosecute its varied strategic interests in the region. Rather than being a spontaneous response to recent developments, the attack on the Pathankot Air Base is the latest manifestation of a Pakistani national security strategy that addresses its own internal challenges while also pursuing its revisionist agenda against India.

Why Pakistan Uses Militants

This attack was not meant to spoil a peace process for the simple reason that there can be no meaningful peace process with Pakistan. Prior to the partition of the sub-continent in 1947 key Muslim political leaders argued that Muslims were a separate, but equal nation and required their own state because they could not live with dignity and security under a Hindu majority state. Leaders such as Mohammad Ali Jinnah were able to garner adequate support for the “Two Nation Theory” such that the British agreed to create two new states when they decolonized the sub-continent. Pakistan believed that it was entitled to the territory of Kashmir because it was a Muslim majority state in British India.  However, as the Indian Independence Act of 1947 makes clear Pakistan was never entitled to the territory. In fact, Kashmir and the hundreds of other so-called Princely States were allowed to choose the dominions they would like to join.

Most of the princely states made their choices prior to partition in August 1947. Three did not. One was the enormous, princely state of Hyderabad which accounted for much of southern India’s land mass, with a Muslim sovereign who governed a Hindu majority. The sovereign opted for independence and staged an increasingly sanguinary rebellion to retain his sinecure. India forcibly annexed it in a police action.  The second hold out was Junagarh with a Muslim sovereign and a Hindu majority population. He opted for Pakistan even though the territory was well within India’s borders and even though most of his subjects were Hindu. India forcibly annexed Junagarh as well.

   The third holdout was Kashmir. The Hindu sovereign, Hari Singh, presided over a Muslim majority. His territory abutted both Pakistan and India. He wanted independence and even signed a stand-still agreement with Pakistan to preclude it from invading. However, fearing that Kashmir would remain independent or join India, the nascent state of Pakistan dispatched militants to forcibly seize the state.  Singh’s own militia forces were unable to stop the advance and sought India’s help. India agreed to defend Kashmir provided that Singh accede to India. Singh signed the instrument of accession and India began air lifting troops in defense of what had become sovereign Indian territory. When this first “Indo-Pak” war  ended in 1948, Pakistan controlled about one third of Kashmir while India controlled the rest. Pakistan initiated wars again in 1965 and 1999 to secure more territory but failed to make permanent gains in both cases.

   In 1948, the United Nations Security Council passed its 47th resolution calling for a plebiscite to be held to discern the desires of the Kashmiri people. But before any plebiscite can be held, the UN outlined specific conditions that both Pakistan and India were required to fulfill. Pakistan must first evacuate all Pakistani personnel from Kashmir. Conditional upon Pakistan withdrawing its forces, India was required to withdraw the majority of its forces, retaining only a defensive contingent. Only then, upon fulfillment of both of these conditions, the resolution called for a plebiscite to be held under international auspices. Pakistan never demilitarized nonethless Pakistanis, including senior political and military leaders, continue to call for a plebiscite in accordance with the resolution while ignoring the Pakistani actions that were required to enable it.

Pakistan has sustained a low intensity conflict in Kashmir to wrest the territory from India since 1947.  Pakistan’s claims to Kashmir are predicated on ideological concerns rather than security concerns.  Without Kashmir, Pakistan is incomplete per the jalebi-like logic of the so-called Two Nation Theory.  For Pakistan to concede Kashmir and forge an enduring peace with India, Pakistan and its citizenry must evolve their interpretation of the Two Nation Theory. For generations raised on Pakistan’s intertwined narratives of Islam and nationhood, particularly those in the military, this is a price too high to pay. In fact, during a recent visit to Washington D.C., Pakistan’s army chief Raheel Sharif made it clear that “surrendering” Kashmir was something he would never be prepared to do. Since the military exercises de facto control over Pakistan’s foreign policy—not politicians and elected officials such as Prime Ministers—no peace process is currently possible. In fact, if Pakistan wanted peace it could have peace. India has no interest in Pakistani territory as India is a territorially status quo power notwithstanding some Hindu nationalists’ assertion of the bizarre geopolitical notion of an undivided India, known as “Akhand Bharat”.

So why does Pakistan continue with its use of terrorism? It’s remarkably easy to explain. First, it’s inexpensive. Compared to Pakistan’s defense budget of some $7 billion, operating militant groups such Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is mungphalis. Second, it requires no commitment of Pakistani troops to combat. Third, it provides the cover of plausible deniability. Fourth, Pakistan never suffers any material consequences for its jihad habit because of its ever-expanding nuclear arsenal, inclusive of tactical nuclear weapons.   These weapons deter India from undertaking military action and ensure that the international community, always afraid of Pakistan failing, stays engaged politically and financially. These are weapons of coercion—or blackmail by another name.

Finally, and most importantly, Pakistan-sponsored terrorist attacks in India immediately prompt international calls for “India and Pakistan” to resolve all outstanding disputes peacefully. This may be the most important outcome yet, given the low cost of this strategy.  When the international community imposes this false equivalency over the two states, Pakistan’s version of history is vindicated.  Along similar lines, when India reaches out an olive branch to Pakistan and agrees to discuss “outstanding disputes,” India invariably plays into Pakistan’s hands by allowing Pakistan to claim that even India recognizes the legitimate nature of Pakistan’s claims. As long as Pakistan continues to garner these benefits while incurring virtually no costs, these attacks will continue.

An Attack That Was Long in the Making

Following initial reports of the attack, Pakistan’s media, notoriously under intense pressure from the military, immediately went into damage control, mocking their Indian counterparts for jumping to the conclusion that the attackers were from Pakistan. Major news outlets in Pakistan suggested that the attack was an Indian “false flag” operation, a quotidian conspiracy theory that contends that India actually attacks itself to defame Pakistan, Muslims or some other sinister domestic agenda.

Later, the United Jihad Council (UJC), a coalition of Kashmir militant groups with close ties to Pakistan’s military, claimed responsibility for the attack. This too may be an effort to foster the illusion that the attack was about the so-called “Kashmir dispute.”

Increasingly, evidence suggests that the attack was perpetrated by Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), which is not a member of the UJC. JeM is a Deobandi Islamist terrorist groups with close ties to the Deobandi Afghan Taliban, anti-Shia groups such as the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi/Sipah-e-Sahaba-e-Pakistan, and al Qaeda. If JeM conducted this attack, it would underscore a serious development in terrorism in South Asia.  

JeM was founded when Pakistan’s ISI allegedly worked with several Deobandi terrorists associated with Harkat-ul-Mujahideen to hijack Indian Airlines flight 814 in late 1999, which departed Kathmandu in Nepal for New Delhi.  The plane eventually landed in Kandahar, the base of Afghanistan’s Taliban, where terrorists agreed to free the surviving passengers upon the release of three Pakistani terrorists incarcerated in India: Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and Maulana Masood Azhar.  Indian officials delivered these terrorists to Kandahar where they were refused asylum by the Taliban and given 10 hours to leave the country. The three terrorists and the hijackers received safe-haven in Pakistan.  Omar Sheikh later became notorious for the killing of Daniel Pearl three years later in Pakistan. Azhar become famous when he announced the formation of JeM in Karachi only a few days after his departure from Kandahar.

Pakistan raised JeM with Azhar as its leader to up the ante in Kashmir and to serve as a competitor to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which the ISI also raised and deployed to Kashmir in the early 1990s to escalate violence. While LeT pioneered the “high risk mission,” JeM pioneered the use of suicide attacks in Kashmir in April 2000 in Badami Bagh.

JeM’s coherence was short-lived: The organization split in late 2001 when its leadership disagreed on whether the organization should stay loyal to the Pakistani state or begin attacking it to punish it for helping to bring down the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The Taliban shared JeM’s Deobandi ideological orientations and represented the only regime that enforced the version of sharia they all espoused. Many Deobandi militants that Pakistan’s deep state had nurtured were furious that their patrons in uniform had seemingly turned their back on the Afghan Taliban. However, despite the pressure from his confederates to defect, Masooz Azhar remained loyal to the state and reported the developments to the ISI and, as such, he remained a high value asset to the ISI. The new organization launched from the remnants of JeM under the name of Jamaat ul Furqan began a series of deadly suicide attacks and were the fundament for what would emerge as the Tehreek-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan (TTP or Pakistani Taliban).

Even though JeM and its leader Masood Azhar are explicitly proscribed by the United States and the United Nations Security Council, among other entities, Pakistan persisted in its support for the organization and its leader, who freely operated in his home town of Bahawalpur in Southern Punjab. In fact, despite being technically proscribed by Pakistan, the organization actually expanded its stronghold. This was not an accident. Since at least 2011, Pakistan’s intelligence agency had been rehabilitating JeM as a part of its internal security management strategy. By 2013, one of the authors learned during fieldwork in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, that Pakistan had resolved to take the Pakistani Taliban seriously and begin launching military offensives against them in Pakistan’s tribal areas. After months of warning, Pakistan’s military formally commenced a selective campaign against those militants in the tribal areas attacking it in June 2014 under the operational name of Zarb-e-Azb.  Prior to the onset of these operations, Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies sought to persuade elements of the TTP to abandon the fight against Pakistan by either rejoining the fight in Afghanistan to help the Taliban or to rejoin the JeM to kill Indians. Those members of the TTP who could not be so rehabilitated to fight the external enemies and remained committed to fighting Pakistan were deemed enemy combatants who must be eliminated.  

Revivifying JeM was a cornerstone of Pakistan’s strategy of managing its own internal security challenges. Officials with the United Nations office tasked with monitoring these groups told one of the authors that JeM activists have long been poised for infiltration into India. Thus, the only thing surprising about this JeM attack is that it didn’t happen sooner given the imperatives of recuperating this group as a means of diverting TTP terrorists away from targeting Pakistanis towards targeting Indians. Thus denervating JeM is not only a cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy of nuclear blackmail to achieve ideological objectives in Kashmir, it is a critical part of Pakistan’s internal security strategy to rehabilitate TTP militants. The JeM is Pakistan’s own “ghar vapasi” program for bringing errant terrorists back into the fold.

Pakistan’s Regional Strategy

While most commentators on this attack focus upon the contested disposition of Kashmir this is a narrow vision of Pakistan’s continued strategy of employing Islamist terrorists under its nuclear umbrella as part of a broader national security posture that arches across the countries of South Asia, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka as well as throughout India. In fact, it remains a goal of Pakistan-backed militant groups to operate outside of Kashmir.  In the wake of the Pathankot attack, Indian intelligence has warned of the possibility that militants are planning to carry out similar attacks targeting Indian air bases in the Eastern part of the country. Attacks on targets in the Eastern part of India would less likely be carried out by infiltrators from Pakistan than Bangladesh, where Pakistan-based militants have been recruiting and organizing for years.     

Members of the Pakistani Punjab-based militant organizations such as Lashkar-e-Taiba have been arrested in Bangladesh, and Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) has had close ties with JeM, which has operated in Bangladesh for years. In the past year, two Pakistani diplomats were expelled from Bangladesh for allegedly operating as ISI liaisons with jihadi militant groups, and Pakistani militants are regularly arrested in raids on jihadi militant groups in Bangladesh. Pakistan’s militant groups such as LeT and JeM have cultivated based in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Nepal in effort to encircle India with bases from which persons can be recruited or launched for operations within India. Ultimately, Pakistan’s Islamists believe that they can coerce Bangladesh into rescinding its independence gained after a hard fought war in 1971. Hafiz Saeed posted on Twitter on the 2013 anniversary of Bangladesh’s liberation that “#WeWillNeverForget #1971 – History has not ended yet, will be rewritten,” and last March told a crowd of supporters that “the implementation of Sharia will make Pakistan a model state attracting even Bangladesh to rejoin Pakistan.”

Pakistan’s interests with regards to India are not exclusive to wresting all of Kashmir; rather, Pakistan has arrogated to itself the retardation of India’s projection of power in South Asia and beyond. As is well-known, Pakistan’s obsession with controlling events in Afghanistan by backing a Islamist militants such as the Taliban are due in considerable measure to Pakistan’s interest in denying India access to Afghanistan and stemming India’s larger ability to compete with it in Central Asia. Pakistan’s ISI continues to encourage groups such as the Jalaluddin Haqqani Network and LeT to attack to Indian assets and personnel in Afghanistan.  Pakistan-backed terrorist groups have attacked the Indian embassy in Kabul twice in 2008 and 2009 and several consulates including those in Herat and Kandahar in 2014, Jalalabad in 2013 and most recently in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif. In addition to other attacks on Indian personnel working in Afghanistan.    

Pakistan’s larger goal of preventing India’s rise requires analysts to stop viewing these groups beyond the buzz word of Kashmir and endeavor to understand the larger context in which they function as a force multiplier in Pakistan’s broader national security strategy. Allowing jihadi militant groups groups to operate semi-autonomously and nominally dedicated to jihad in Kashmir provides the Pakistani state plausible deniability, and masks the militants’ full role in the region.

An Action Plan

In an ideal world, India and the United States-among other interested parties—would be able to cooperate to contain the various threats that Pakistan poses through uses of military, economic, diplomatic and political tools of national power.  However, India lacks the offensive capabilities to decisively defeat Pakistan in a short war and has been reticent to invest in the requisite military modernization and personnel policies required to decisively defeat Pakistan.  The United States for its part seems unable to find any other policy approach to Pakistan that does not involve handsome emoluments in hopes of securing even marginal cooperation with Pakistan.  The sad truth is that both countries are blackmailed by Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and are loathe to move away from status quo policies.

This does not mean that there is nothing that can be done.  One of the simplest things that the United States and its international partners can do is change the way it talks about Pakistan and its terrorist clients attacking India. Americans and Indians who advocate engaging Pakistan at all costs, need to understand that what Pakistan craves is attention to its joint causes of Kashmir and standing up to a hegemonic India. When the international community predictably calls for both sides to settle their outstanding disputes peacefully, they unwittingly reward Pakistan while punishing India by imposing a false equivalency across the two.  If the international community instead called for Pakistan to accept the status quo – a reality even Pakistan’s former Army Chief Gen. Musharraf had come to accept, and stop using terrorism and nuclear coercion as tools of foreign policy, Pakistan would be deprived of the benefits its seeks even if it does not incur costs for its behavior. Until the time comes when the international community is prepared to punish Pakistan for transgressing international norms, refusing to reward it is a good place to start.

C. Christine Fair is an associate professor at Georgetown’s Security Studies Program in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. She is the author of  Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War(Oxford University Press 2014). Her twitter handle is @cchristinefair.

Seth Oldmixon is a DC-based political communications consultant who served in rural Bangladesh as a Peace Corp Volunteer. He is the founder of Liberty South Asia, an independent, privately funded campaign dedicated to supporting religious freedom and political pluralism in South Asia. His twitter handle is @setholdmixon.

Pakistan: Change but No Change

On January 2, 2016, terrorists attacked an Indian Air Force at Pathankot, in the northern Indian state of Punjab resulting in the deaths of seven soldiers and six terrorists. The next day terrorists attacked the Indian consulate in Mazar e Sharif, in northern Afghanistan. The Pathankot and Mazar e Sharif attacks demonstrate that the worldview of the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment has not changed with respect to India as the existential threat and jihad as the lever of foreign policy.

From New Delhi's perspective every step forward in India-Pakistan relations results, within a short period of time, with a stab in the back that harms relations between the two countries.

In February 1999 Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee undertook his famous bus yatra, where he along with his top officials, crossed the border into Pakistan and signed the Lahore declaration with his counterpart Nawaz Sharif. Within a few months the Kargil conflict occurred when the Pakistani army and affiliated jihadis intruded on the Indian side of the Line of Control near Kargil in Jammu and Kashmir and the Indian military launched a campaign to repel this intrusion.

In July 2001 Prime Minister Vajpayee invited then Pakistani military dictator and President Pervez Musharraf to India to re-start the peace process between the two countries at the Agra Summit. In October 2001 there was an attack by jihadis on the Jammu and Kashmir assembly which resulted in 29 deaths and in December 2001 a terror attack on the Indian Parliament in which 12 people were killed and 22 injured

In September 2008 soon after taking over as Pakistan's civilian President, Asif Ali Zardari, in an interview to an Indian journalist stated that in his view, India was not the biggest threat to Pakistan. On November 26, 2008 Mumbai, India's financial capital, was struck with a series of terror attacks that resulted in 164 deaths and 308 injured.

On December 25, 2015, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi undertook a gamble by a surprise visit to Lahore to meet his counterpart Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and restart the peace process. On January 2, 2016, jihadis attacked an Indian Air Force base in Pathankot, Punjab. The United Jihad Council, an umbrella group of jihadi organizations located in Pakistan, has claimed responsibility. However, most analysts agree that the group behind the attack is Jaish e Mohammad, founded by Maulana Masood Azhar, one of the three jihadis freed by India after the 1999 Kandahar airplane hijacking when an Indian Airlines flight from Kathmandu to Delhi was hijacked to Kandahar by jihadis demanding the release of their associates.

Pakistan's founding generation believed that India and Indian leaders had not accepted the creation of Pakistan and would always try to undo Partition. India was thus seen as the existential threat to Pakistan and as Ambassador Husain Haqqani notes in his seminal work Pakistan Between Mosque and Military a national security state was created around this belief.

For the last six decades, Pakistan's foreign and security policy has been centered on seeking parity with India. Conventional military parity has been impossible with India, a much larger and economically more powerful neighbor. So, jihad has been used as a lever of foreign and security policy with the aim being to create enough internal domestic problems so that India's focus is internal. Pakistan's support of Jihadis in Afghanistan and India is tied to its belief that these proxies will further Pakistan's foreign and security policy of securing parity with India and preventing Indian influence over Afghanistan.

For decades, as the only American ally in South Asia, Pakistan was able to convince Washington to look the other way when it came to jihad and terrorism in the region. From the 1990s onwards when ties between New Delhi and Washington became closer American administrations started to apply pressure on Pakistan.

Pakistan's military-intelligence establishment then changed its tactics and as demonstrated in two excellent books on US-Pakistan relations --- one by Ambassadors Teresita and Howard Schaffer How Pakistan negotiates with the US and other by Ambassador Husain Haqqani Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States and an Epic History of Misunderstanding --- what we see is a series of Pakistani army chiefs from Musharraf to Raheel Sharif who are able to convince Washington of their desire to change Pakistan's policies.

Right from the 1950s, Washington has often been seduced into believing that if a leader speaks English, dresses in a suit (civilian or military) and former American Ambassador to India Chester Bowles wrote in his diary "knows the difference between an olive or an onion in a martini" they are the right person to deal with. Pakistan's army chiefs have fallen in this category starting with General Muhammad Ayub Khan right down to General Raheel Sharif.

The reality however, is that Pakistan is unwilling to change its policy on the use of jihadi groups and their ideology even as it tries to reassure the international community that it is ready for a drastic transformation. All it seeks to do is to speak the right words and use the right body language and implement enough cosmetic changes that will convince the U.S. that Pakistan is serious about giving up its decades old sponsorship of terrorism.

After 9/11, then military dictator General Musharraf was able to convince Washington that he was going to eliminate all terrorist groups but all he did was take action against some foreign militants while allowing those he referred to as freedom fighters - those fighting in Afghanistan and Kashmir - to maintain their safe havens. Musharraf admitted recently that his government continued to support Afghan Taliban even after ostensibly abandoning them at Washington's behest, to 'counter India's influence' in Afghanistan. In a recent interview Musharraf asserted that the jihadis fighting in Kashmir were freedom fighters and not terrorists.

In the last year the Pakistani military has taken action against some jihadi groups but only those that attack the Pakistani state, which means some elements of the Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan. No action has been taken against groups like the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network and the India focused groups like Lashkar e Taiba ( and

Jaish e Mohammad ( that attack Pakistan's neighbors, Afghanistan and India.

Jaish e Muhammad is one of the two main jihadi groups focused on India that are favored by the Pakistani military, the other being Lashkar e Taiba, that was responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks. For now, however, it looks like Lashkar has been asked to lay low primarily because of sustained international pressure on Pakistan to act against Lashkar e Taiba, especially from the United States. This may be the reason why Jaish, which has been inactive for a number of years, now, has been suddenly reactivated in the last few months.

In November 2014, Pakistan's National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz asked "Why should Pakistan target those who do not pose any threat to its security. Some of them are a threat to Pakistan, while others pose no threat to Pakistan's security. Why should we antagonize them all?"

In November 2015, General Raheel Sharif was feted on his second trip to the United States and his words that Pakistan was no longer differentiating between jihadi groups were taken at face value. This time again Washington could either fall for Pakistan's narrative, as it has often done in the past, or accept the reality that Pakistan became its ally only to advance its rivalry with India.

Pakistan's military sees India as the main threat, as always, while seeking American arms on the pretext of fighting communism or terrorism. There has been no change in the narrative of the Pakistani security apparatus. What has grown in the last few years is the size of the security establishment's propaganda machinery. Today the largest wing of Pakistan's intelligence services, the Inter Services Intelligence Division or ISI, is its media wing called ISPR or Inter Services Public Relations. A colonel led at one time ISPR, today it is headed by a Lieutenant General.

Pakistan's military intelligence establishment believes it can still play the games of yesteryears and be a critical player in its region and beyond. And it has built a massive propaganda machine that helps it sustain that belief within Pakistan and use Pakistani media as the echo chamber to propagate the message internationally.

There has been no introspection over the Pakistani national narrative that allows the country to violate all international norms as long as Pakistan can be seen by the world as India's equal. Instead of accepting fresh promises from people who have repeatedly broken each one of the earlier ones, maybe the United States needs to understand that Pakistan's security establishment will continue to use terrorism as long as it believes Washington will keep buying its promises of change.

This was first posted through Huffington Post.

Pakistan's Insistence on Denial

Pakistan has denied any wrong doing and committing any war crimes during the civil war of 1971 that resulted in the creation of Bangladesh from erstwhile East Pakistan. This doubling down on denial of an almost universally acknowledged fact came amidst a war of words between Islamabad and Dhaka that began with Pakistan's Foreign Office expressing "deep concern" and anguish" over the "unfortunate executions" of two Bangladeshi politicians accused of torture, rape and genocide during the civil war of 1971. Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid of the Jamaat e Islami and Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury of the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) had been convicted by War Crimes Courts set up by the Bangladesh government.

The legitimacy of the process that resulted in conviction and execution of Pakistani collaborators has been subject of some dispute and controversy but the fact of Pakistani forces terrorizing Bengali civilians is almost undisputed. Pakistan insists on denying war crimes against the people of Bangladesh and has reacted adversely and openly to executions in Bangladesh tied to the 1971 genocide.

In December 2013 when Bangladesh executed Abdul Qader Molla, a man accused of targeting Bangladeshi intellectuals on the eve of Pakistan's surrender to Indian and Bangladeshi forces, Pakistan's foreign office issued a condemnatory statement. Pakistan's National Assembly and the provincial assembly of the largest province, Punjab, both adopted resolutions condemning Molla's execution. This was followed by protests in Sindh organized by Pakistan's Jamaat e Islami and Jamaat ud Dawa (designated a terrorist groups internationally).

This time, too, the Jamaat e Islami has held protest rallies in Lahore against the Bangladeshi decision.

The 1971 civil war resulted not only in the loss of Pakistan's eastern wing, it was also a blow to the country's prestige. Bangladesh was from 1947 to 1971 the more populous but impoverished half of Pakistan. Islamabad has never honestly or seriously examined why the majority of its population chose to secede from the country with the help of India, which is often described by Pakistan's leaders as their country's arch-enemy.

Most independent analysts agree that around 1.5-2 million people were killed during the civil war and Pakistani-sponsored genocide of 1971. While Pakistan formally recognized Bangladesh in 1974 it never issued an official apology for its actions during the war. The 1972 Hamoodur Rehman commission report, constituted by the Pakistani government, accused the Pakistan army of senseless and wanton arson, killings and rape but the report was buried and found light of day decades later, only after being leaked to an Indian newspaper.

The closest any Pakistan leader came to issuing an apology to Bangladesh was former Pakistani military ruler General Pervez Musharraf. On an official visit to Dhaka in July 2002 Musharraf visited a war memorial at Savar, near the capital, Dhaka, and wrote in the visitors' book: "Your brothers and sisters in Pakistan share the pain of the events in 1971. The excesses committed during the unfortunate period are regretted. Let us bury the past in the spirit of magnanimity. Let not the light of the future be dimmed."

The recent statement by Pakistan's foreign office, however, demonstrates that instead of an acknowledgement of what happened in 1971 there is still an insistence upon refusal to accept historic facts. Pakistan's military, dominated by ethnic Punjabis, supports a national narrative based on denial and false pride. In that narrative Pakistan is always a victim of conspiracies of anti-Islamic forces, never the perpetrator of any wrongdoing. But without acknowledging the blunders of the past, it is difficult that Pakistan will ever be able to move forward.

An inability to reconcile errors and genocide of the past is a sure recipe to making similar blunders in the future. Right now the picture inside Pakistan is not pretty. Every province is facing insurgency or conflict of one kind or another. For Pakistan's Punjabi-led military, putting down ethnic rights movements takes priority over fighting Islamist terrorists it has nurtured for regional influence.

In Pakistan's financial capital and largest city, Karachi, the military is targeting the secular political party MQM (Muttahida Qaumi Mahaz), whom it accuses of engaging in criminal activities. The pursuit of the MQM detracts the army from locating elements of the Taliban, both Afghan and Pakistani, who seek a safe haven in that city. The core attitude of Pakistan's military, it seems, has changed little since Punjabi soldier went on rampage against Bengalis after the latter voted in 1970 for a political party whose worldview was unacceptable to West Pakistan's ruling elite.

Punjab, now Pakistan's most populous province with 53 percent of the country's population, provides 72 percent of Pakistan's army. It also is the home to the majority of foot soldiers for Jihadi groups wreaking havoc on Pakistan and its neighbors. That includes sectarian terrorists, Afghan Taliban and anti-India militants including groups like the one that was responsible for the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

The Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan and its allied jihadi groups have ensured that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the FATA region (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) are not secure or stable from Pakistan's perspective. Pakistan also faces an insurgency in Balochistan since the 1970s that has worsened in recent years with the 'kill and dump' policy adopted by Pakistan's military-intelligence establishment.

Not only is Pakistan being torn apart by these insurgencies, but its citizens are participating in insurgencies in other parts of the world. Pakistanis have been members of Al Qaeda and prominent leaders of that movement Khalid Shaikh Mohammad and Ramzi Yusuf considered Pakistan their home. That Osama bin Laden was found in a Pakistani garrisons city speaks volumes of the influence of global terrorists in that country.

These days, Pakistanis have been killed fighting on both sides of the war in Syria. Pakistani Sunnis have volunteered to fight for both the Al Qaeda affiliate Al Nusra Front as well as the ISIS in Syria while Pakistani Shias seem to be fighting as part of the Pakistani Shi'a militia Zainabiyoun Brigade.

Under such circumstances, Pakistan should be focusing on its internal challenges. Instead it is increasingly adopting a hyper nationalist stance against India and now Bangladesh. Afghanistan has been unhappy for years with Pakistan's support for the Taliban. Pakistan is becoming increasingly isolated in South Asia because it is insisting on denying facts that its neighbors know to be reality.

According to scholar and former Pakistani Ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, the roots of this lie in Pakistan's desire for parity with India. Pakistani leaders are obsessed with matching, or surpassing, India's stature, prestige and military capability. But Pakistan's denial of harsh realities and insistence on its 'we do no wrong' rhetoric has worsened its ties not only with India but its other neighbors as well.

Pakistan's ties with Afghanistan have deteriorated over Pakistan's security establishment insistence on following its age-old policy of supporting jihadi groups in Afghanistan. Kabul insists that Islamabad-Rawalpindi is responsible for the lack of stability and security within Afghanistan whereas Pakistan continues to deny that it is involved. As a result Pakistan's economy and its people are suffering because unless Pakistan allows transit to India, Kabul is refusing to allow Islamabad trade with Central Asia.

Even Iran, which was historically close to Pakistan, has turned hostile. Every few months, there are incidents reported of firing by Iranian border guards to "target terrorists" trying to enter Iran from Pakistan. Iran asserts- but Pakistan denies - that Pakistan is allowing Balochistan to be used as safe havens by Sunni jihadi groups like Jundullah that operate inside Iran.

The policy of encouraging Pakistani citizens to join jihadi militias after being trained by the army dates back to the 1971 civil war. The 'war criminals' currently on trial in Bangladesh were religious fanatics trained to augment Pakistan's military capability against its disaffected Bengali population. Now, Jihadis are expected to help the Pakistan army maintain control on Karachi and Balochistan while helping Pakistan extend its influence in Afghanistan and the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The insistence on denying that Pakistan committed atrocities during the Bangladesh war of 1971 reflects the refusal of the Pakistani elite to accept the folly of using jihad as an element of state policy. Denials notwithstanding, Pakistan's army attempted genocide in Bangladesh and still failed to hold on to its eastern wing. Instead of benefitting Pakistan, its current Jihadi policy will only radicalize its society further and increase stress along its various faultlines.

First published through Huffington post, to read click here.