Pakistan's War on Scholars

Pakistan's military and intelligence agencies are waging a nasty war on U.S.-based scholars whose writings and public statements undermine cherished narratives promulgated by the army that has dominated Pakistan's governance for most of the state's existence. These agencies aim to intimidate, discredit, and silence us. Their tools are crude and include: outright threats; slanderous articles in Pakistani papers and other on-line forums; an army of trolls on twitter and other social media who hound us; and embassy officials who attend and report on our speaking events on Pakistan. But we are lucky to be in the United States: Pakistan's khaki louts disappear, kidnap and/or kill their critics within Pakistan

My own experience with Pakistan's harassment techniques began in May of 2011 when I received an email threatening me with gang-rape by an entire regiment. I had received a grant from the American Institute of Pakistan Studies to complete research for my book "Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army's Way of War" and had intended to spend the summer of 2011 in Islamabad and Lahore. As I already had a valid, multiple-entry visa they could not use visa denial as an instrument of coercion to influence my writings before my planned visit. So, they tried to intimidate me with this threat of physical harm.

My own experience with Pakistan's harassment techniques began in May of 2011 when I received an email threatening me with gang-rape by an entire regiment.

At first, I was incredulous that this email was sent by the "deep state" and I did not immediately call off my travel. Serendipitously, my flight to Dubai was cancelled. While I rebooked my travel, Pakistan's then ambassador Husain Haqqani reached out to me to tell me simply "You have to cancel your trip. The crew cuts are after you." Other embassy officials told me privately that the ISI distributed a circular about me at the Pakistan embassy. One officer asked me "You are in trouble. What did you do?" I was sickened by the situation. Officials from the embassy were, and presumably are, not allowed to meet with me.

When I confronted Brigadier Butt, the then ISI station chief at the Pakistan Embassy and Defense Attaché --it became clear that he was personally angry with me because he had seen or had heard about my book proposal from a small number of persons who had seen it. He said that he felt let down because the army had given me considerable access yet I was writing, what he called, an anti-army book. I explained to him that I was doing my job by being willing to go to Pakistan through various grants--despite the security environment--to hear their side of the story. I also told him that granting interviews to scholars is not tantamount to buying scholars

Since 2011 I have inspired several "planted" stories that have appeared in Pakistani papers and obscure blogs alike. These artless rants would be amusing if they were not dangerous. On one occasion, an article actually gave information about where I was staying in Pakistan which was a clear intent to cause me harm or signal the ability to cause me harm.

On one occasion, an article actually gave information about where I was staying in Pakistan which was a clear intent to cause me harm or signal the ability to cause me harm.

In the fall of 2014, two videos were circulated about me that had the imprimatur of the army's media-management organization, the ISPR. The videos included (not very danceable) sound tracks which were taken from ISPR-produced entertainment. Since these videos were published on Youtube, which is banned in Pakistan, the obvious audience of these productions was Pakistanis outside the United States. (Both of these videos have since been removed.).

In early February, The News, published an article that alleged that I have nefarious links with Baloch insurgents. The Baloch are an ethnic group in Pakistan which resists inclusion into the state and its reliance upon Islam as a tool to blunt Baloch ethnic aspirations. Pakistan's security forces have waged five waves of brutal military oppression, sometimes with U.S. weapons systems, which has been widely decried by international as well as Pakistani human rights organizations.

Despite these well-documented abuses--which includes disappearances, torture and murder by Pakistan's security forces--the United States has not levied Leahy Sanctions as required by U.S. law. The ISI has worked tirelessly to keep its actions in Balochistan a dark secret.

If Pakistan's armed forces and intelligence agencies are afraid of a few scholars, how can they confront Pakistan's real enemies who are the hordes of terrorists it once nurtured but who have turned their guns and suicide vests against their erstwhile patrons?

So why did Pakistan write such an article about me? I have several suspicions. First, I was included on a successful National Science Foundation grant to study the Baloch conflict. Second, as a part of this study, I have reached out to Baloch dissidents to hear their side of the story. Third, I tweet about the tragedy in the state and encourage my government to apply applicable laws and deny security assistance to those units involved in these abuses. Fourth, there will be a publication emerging from this effort. Since I cannot go to Pakistan, what was the intent of the essay? Ultimately, I believe it was coarse attempt at bullying me by targeting my employer and jeopardizing my job security and trying to cast aspersions upon my credibility within U.S. government agencies. According to the article:

It is not clear if Georgetown University was aware of Ms Fair's plan to meet the leader of Baloch dissidents. It further remains to be seen if US authorities would take notice of Ms Fair's contacts with such leaders. Her penchant for aggressive attacks on Pakistan that goes beyond inciting violence is not a secret.

Ultimately, this propaganda failed to produce the institutional outrage that Pakistan's deep state intended.

Another recent attempt to malign me and several of my colleagues was publishedin the Pakistan Observer in mid-February. This piece was written by a former Pakistan air force group captain and "TV Talk Show Host" named Sultan M Hali.Hali's musings are widely available on the internet and they invariably defend the ISI and the army while protesting criticisms about Pakistan's long-standing policy of using Islamist militancy under its nuclear umbrella as tools of foreign policy. He, like countless retired Pakistan service personnel, populate Pakistan's print, radio and televised media as a part of the deep state's discourse construction and message managing efforts. In fact, Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI, has a media management wing dedicated to such efforts.

In this piece, Mr. Hali maligns my fellow colleague, Irfan Nooruddin (whose name he misspells) as a "highly biased scholar of Indian origin." Professor Nooruddin's work on electoral politics in India is well-regarded and cannot be characterized as "highly biased." (It should also be noted that he does not even write on Pakistan.) For Mr. Hali and the Pakistani deep state he defends, Professor Nooruddin's ethnicity is the basis of this dubious charge: it is rank, racist xenophobia at its worst. What did Professor Nooruddin do to elicit this slander from this amanuensis of the deep state? He had the hubris to host Ambassador Husain Haqqani who discussed his newest project titled "Reimagining Pakistan" at Georgetown under the auspices of the India initiative that Professor Nooruddin heads.

Mr. Hali, who did not attend the event, was riled that the event "featured Pakistan's most loud critics [sic] n the town including Christine Fair and Hussain Haqqani." While Mr. Hali did not attend the event, Mr. Bilal Hayee did. In fact, Mr. Hayee is a frequent monitor of such events where he takes note of who attended and what was said by whom. This has a chilling impact upon freedom of speech of students and persons of Pakistani origin and he, and his colleagues at the embassy, know it.

Mr. Hali furthered that Georgetown has established an India initiative with "US $10 million of which large part is known to have come through the Indian Diaspora while part of it has been funded by US administration." To say that this is a blatant lie is an understatement: the India initiative is extremely modestly funded. Hali opined that "Contrary to the natural objective of fostering closer partnership between US and India, Georgetown," the event was really an opportunity to malign and defame Pakistan.

Mr. Hali also used this missive as an opportunity to criticize Farahnaz Ispahani who recently wrote a devastating book on the plight of Pakistan's minorities. Hali, upon trivializing the well-documented abuses that Pakistan's religious minorities routinely endure, made much of Ms. Ispahani's book discussion at a well-regarded Indian think-tank called the Observer Research Foundation (ORF). He claimed erroneously that the ORF is funded by Indian intelligence and suggested that Ms. Ispahani, and her husband Ambassador Haqqani, are paid stooges of Indian intelligence. It should be noted that ORF is supported by the Reliance group rather than the Indian government.

Pakistan's boorish campaign of slander against scholars and journalists whose work discomfits the deep state has even drawn the attention of Pakistani bloggers who have expressed concern about the ham-handed approach adopted by the military and intelligence media handlers. In 2011, even Ejaz Haider, a well-known pro-establishment journalist, questioned this role of the military and intelligence agency after the high profile killing of a journalist named Syed Saleem Shahzad. The chief suspect is Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI. In the wake of that tragedy, Haider wrote of ISA media operations:

What is this Media Management Wing of the ISI? What right does this wing have to invite journalists for 'tea' or ask anyone to file a story or file a retraction? The inquiry commission should also look into the mandate of this wing and put it out to pasture.

However, there is little chance of Pakistan doing so.

In addition to poorly-written "filed stories" festooned with calumnious fiction, Pakistan's military and intelligence agency trains a menagerie of bots and trolls who harass persons like me on Twitter and Facebook and to promote and defend the state, including its terrorist assets.

Whereas the Pakistani government incentivizes scholars to watch what they write and say about Pakistan by holding visas and official meetings hostage, I was declared "Persona Non-Grata" long ago and cannot get a visa. Without such leverage, the Pakistani deep state hopes that all of this harassment and haranguing will coerce me into silence. But the ISI should know this: I will write. I will not be silenced by their brutish antics.

If Pakistan's armed forces and intelligence agencies are afraid of a few scholars and their facts and key boards, how can they confront Pakistan's real enemies who are the hordes of terrorists it once nurtured but who have turned their guns and suicide vests against their erstwhile patrons? With apologies to Monty Python, I will continue to write in their specific direction.

C. Christine Fair is an associate professor at Georgetown University and is the author of Fighting to End: The Pakistan Army's War of War (Oxford University Press, 2014).

Follow C. Christine Fair on Twitter:

This article was first published through Huffington Post.

Pakistan's Next Chief of Army Staff

Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, Gen Raheel Sharif, publicly announced this week that he will not seek an extension and will retire when his current term expires in November. Already wildly popular in Pakistan, Gen. Raheel’s (as he’s known) announcement is certain to cement his place in Pakistani history. Some, though, worry what the impact will be on Pakistan’s ongoing fight against terrorists. The truth is, the length of Gen. Raheel’s tenure is not a decisive factor in Pakistan’s trajectory.

With the announcement of his decision to retire on time, Gen. Raheel defies the trend established by his immediate predecessors. Gen. Kayani took not one, but two three-year extensions, eventually resulting in editorials lamenting that “the extension does not reflect well on the army as an institution” and that “a strong institution should be able to withstand the retirement of one man, however experienced.” The damage to the Pakistan Army's reputation as a result of Gen Musharraf's own extended career is even more pronounced (he currently faces charges of high treason for subverting the Constitution), and has outlasted his actual time in office by nearly a decade. By retiring in November, Gen. Raheel returns to the practice of Army chiefs prior to Gen. Musharraf, restoring some faith that Pakistan’s top military officers are public servants and not ambitious dictators-in-waiting.

There is little question Gen. Raheel has achieved historic status. Whether this is due to his own genius or the excellent media management by his PR man, Gen. Asim Bajwa, is beside the point. The fact is that he has done and said all the right things since day one, saving Pakistan from the depths of despair, if not from the continued threat of jihadi terror. The problem is...what comes next? Tera kya hoga, Pakistan?

There are reasons to worry about what happens after Gen Raheel retires; not because Pakistan lacks capable officers, but because it will be near to impossible for anyone to live up to Gen. Raheel’s mythical standard. When he was promoted to Chief of Army Staff in late 2013, Pakistan was losing over 3,000 civilians a year to terrorist attacks. Those numbers declined significantly under his leadership. Gen. Raheel also oversaw the decline of violent crime in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, as Pakistan Rangers were mobilized to enforce law and order. For many Pakistanis, Gen. Raheel is more than a military leader. He is a saviour. He embodies the hope that things not only can, but are improving, and that Pakistan is on its way out of a very dark period.

Gen. Raheel did not achieve messianic status purely organically, though. In addition to overseeing a decline in overall violence, his stature has also greatly benefitted from the sophisticated public relations operation managed by the head of the Army’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) division, three-star General Asim Bajwa. From producing slick online videos to a dominating social media campaign, to billboards and truck art, Gen. Raheel’s towering image is ubiquitous in Pakistan. And while the Army is busily churning out positive media, it is also suppressing criticism by threatening journalists and media companies, ensuring that the official narrative is the only narrative.

This heavy handed media management was largely accepted as an unfortunate necessity, even by traditionally liberal Pakistani columnists, who believed extraordinary times called for extraordinary measures. The Army needed to lift the public spirit from dangerous depths and rally the country behind its leaders so that they could deal a final death blow to the Pakistani Taliban. After three years, though, hope has begun to wear thin again.

Terrorist attacks in Pakistan have declined, but continue to occur with a disturbing frequency. killing almost 1,000 civilians last year. Violent crime in Karachi is down, but killings by law enforcement have quadrupled. The Army also spent a lot of political capital pushing for widely criticized military courts, which the Army claimed were necessary to successfully prosecute terror suspects, only to see outlawed extremist groups continue to expand their operations with near impunity. In fact, while Pakistan has surpassed This month’s deadly attack at Bacha Khan University and the mixed response to a jihadi attack on Pathankot air base in India claimed by Pakistan-based militants have many questioning whether enough has actually changed.

Additionally, Pakistan’s next Chief of Army Staff will face serious challenges in living up to the myth the Army created around Gen. Raheel. If terrorist attacks do not continue to decline at the pace they did between 2013 and 2016 – and there’s little reason to believe they will – the next Army chief could face a crisis of confidence. This could be offset with a public relations campaign designed to rally the support of the nation and buy time, but that’s already been done. Trying to reprise the massive public relations campaign carried out for the benefit of Gen. Raheel would be a glaringly obvious attempt to manage public perception, undermining, rather than bolstering, confidence in the country’s military leadership.

This doesn’t mean that Gen. Raheel should stay on. Far from it. In fact, there is little reason to believe that even Gen. Raheel could live up to his Olympian reputation for much longer. His decision to retire on time is the right choice, though, because it’s right for Pakistan. Pakistan doesn’t need a larger-than-life saviour, it needs to retire the policies that cultivate extremism and militancy. It needs to reorient from a narrative of victimhood to one that empowers its own people to take back their culture and religion from those who hijacked them. And it needs to reimagine itself, not as a nuclear armed fortress of Islam, but as the tolerant, pluralistic democracy envisioned by its founder, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

Seth Oldmixon is president of Oldmixon Group, a Washington, D.C. public affairs firm and the founder of Liberty South Asia, a privately funded campaign dedicated to religious freedom and political pluralism in South Asia. You can follow him on Twitter @setholdmixon.

Pakistan Civilian and Military establishment together condemn Pathankot Attack

After the NSA level talks between India and Pakistan were called off earlier in 2015, India-Pakistan relations have been on a roller coaster ride. Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Mr. Nawaz Sharif, and Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, have met twice since that cancellation. They met at the sidelines of COP21 in Paris and shook hands on what was a closed and “casual” meeting. The NSAs of India and Pakistan, Mr. Ajit Doval and Gen. Naseer Janjua respectively, met in Bangkok early in December of 2015, to discuss issues of terrorism and ceasefire violations, which was followed by the surprise visit by Mr. Modi to Pakistan on Mr. Sharif’s birthday later that same month. However, the terror attack on the Pathankot Air Force Base in India “threatened to destabilize” the follow-up talks. Mr. Sharif immediately called his Indian counterpart and shared his grief and condemned the Pathankot attacks. All these developments, over the course of a month-and-a-half, are not unprecedented. However, what is new and changed is the rhetoric that the Pakistani military establishment is pursuing this time around.

Since their inception, India and Pakistan have sought to resolve issues between them. Indian and Pakistani leaders have met multiple times on sidelines of UN meetings, SAARC summits and even funerals of world leaders. Dr. Aparna Pande, Research fellow at the Hudson Institute, in an interview on CNN, mentioned that Mr. Modi’s impromptu visit was a continuation of an old policy. “Every Indian Prime Minister, for the past six decaded has sought to make peace with Pakistan their legacy,” she said. Even in 2008, the Mumbai attacks became the reason why “the progress of the Composite Dialogue was derailed.” Owing to the “oscillatory nature of the India-Pakistan relationship,” even Mr. Sharif’s statement of his phone call with Mr. Modi post the Pathankot attack read-

“The Prime Minister also stated that the Pakistani government would investigate this matter. Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif pointed out to the Indian Prime Minister that whenever a serious effort for bringing peace between the two countries was underway, terrorists try to derail the process.”

So not much seems to have changed in the layout of the talks and reconciliation process between India and Pakistan. Although, the new development is that the Pakistani military may have a vested interest in improved relations with India. It is improbable that the Pakistani military was not involved in the visit orchestrated by Mr. Modi given its power and influence in the affairs of the country. Secondly, Times of India reported that “Pakistan PM, Army & ISI chief all condemn Pathankot terror attack.” In an effort to continue the dialogue between the two countries, the military and intelligence establishment in Pakistan have taken this new measure to condemn the attacks on the Indian air base. This is a first, for Pakistan and India. Pakistan’s security establishment seems to be upholding the legitimacy of the Sharif-led civilian government by simply aligning itself with it and not acting separately. The civilian government had also condemned the 2008 Mumbai attacks but the military leaders had fluctuated between being on the defensive and offensive but never condemning the attacks. General Pasha, former ISI Chief, was disappointed that India had not shared enough evidence for Pakistan to do anything about investigating the 2008 attacks and in the same statement said “the Indians, after the attacks, were deeply offended and furious, but they are also clever. We may be crazy in Pakistan, but not completely out of our minds. We know fully well that terror is our enemy, not India." But, that trend seems to be altering, while most things have remained unchanged. This time over, the security establishment has promised “full cooperation with New Delhi in eradicating the menace of terrorism from the region.” This change to a common rhetoric from the civilian and military leaders is good news. This interesting turn to collaboration between these two institutions, could be attributed to the recent appointment of General Janjua as Pakistan’s National Security Adviser. Looking at the future, Michael Kugelman, Senior Associate at the Woodrow Wilson Center, mentioned to Ankit Panda from The Diplomat that it may be advisable for NSAs to meet again, instead of the anticipated Foreign Secretary meeting scheduled for mid-January. As a former Lt. General, Janjua might be able to better share the interests of the army as his appointment itself came with consultations between Mr. Sharif, and current Army Chief, General Raheel Sharif.

For India, this is completely new diplomatic territory as well, and while only time will tell how these recent development will affect the talks and relations between the two countries, this change is welcome and quite optimistic.

North Korea's Pakistan connection

North Korea's claim of enhancing its nuclear weapons program draws attention to the failure of global non proliferation regimes. The real failure however may not be in North Korea but in Pakistan. The presence of U.S. troops on the Korean peninsula and China's willingness to keep Pyongyang in check act as constraints on North Korea. The tendency of Washington to treat Pakistan with kid gloves leaves it without any sense of being contained.

On January 6, 2016, Pyongyang claimed it successfully tested a hydrogen bomb. Experts will take days to fully analyze whether or not North Korea had the technical capability to undertake a test of that magnitude but preliminary reports state that Pyongyang was lying. The AQ Khan Network run by the father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, sold sensitive technology to help North Korea build its program.

AQ Khan has never paid for what he did and no one knows for sure if we have all the information about the illicit network. No comprehensive investigation was undertaken by Pakistan or by members of the international community. Instead, then military dictator General Pervez Musharraf pardoned AQ Khan in 2004 after the latter gave "a televised confession in which he admitted selling the technology but insisted that he acted alone."

Khan was removed from his position but there was no accounting for his actions. An official Pakistani pronouncement to the effect that the problem had been addressed was deemed enough. Pakistan insisted the matter was closed and the United States accepted Pakistan's explanation because Washington needed Islamabad's help in the war in Afghanistan.

For decades, the United States has sought to control and curb the global proliferation of nuclear technology. Yet in an inexplicable development last year, some American experts and administration officials argued offering Pakistan a civil nuclear deal along the lines akin to the 2006 India-US civil nuclear deal. The delusion was this would bring Pakistan within a restraint regime and increase American knowledge about Pakistan's rapidly rising nuclear arsenal.

For the last six decades succeeding American administrations have indulged in the fallacy that more aid and materiel will provide them with greater leverage in Pakistan and that in turn will help them convince Pakistan to change its policies. As the title of former Ambassador of Pakistan to the United States Husain Haqqani's seminal book on U.S.-Pakistan relations notes the United States has lived in Magnificent Delusions for decades.

Right from independence in 1947, Pakistan's foreign and security policy has been centered on the desire for parity with its larger neighbor, India. Decades later, India is still the existential threat, instead of the radical jihadis that threaten to break up Pakistan.

Desirous of but unable to achieve conventional military parity with India, Pakistan's security establishment saw nuclear weapons as providing that parity. Pakistan's nuclear weapons program was and remains India centered. Pakistan's nuclear weapons, both for the state and the lay public, are integral to Pakistani national psyche and the needs of a security conscious state obsessed with India.

Over the years many experts, primarily American, have argued for India to accept restraints on its program and sign the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). They assert Pakistan will follow suit thus placing the burden on India to act. However, that is a misconception.

The aim of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program is not deterrence that was achieved decades ago--- it is parity with India. Hence, it is almost impossible for any Pakistani government to accept restraints on their program unless they have achieved the impossible task of parity with India in this sphere as well.

Pakistan built its nuclear weapons program during the 1970s and 1980s while receiving massive American economic and military assistance. The military regime of General Zia ul Haq promised the Reagan administration that it would not build nuclear weapons. Yet as has been demonstrated in declassified U.S. government documents, Washington often turned a blind eye because of the need for Pakistan as an ally during the anti-Soviet Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union.

After secretly building its nuclear weapons during the 1980s, in the 1990s an elaborate global proliferation network came up in Pakistan centered on the figure of Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan. This network sold "nuclear secrets to any rogue state that came calling." North Korea was one of the many countries that benefitted from this largesse. "As many as two planes a month arrived in Pakistan from Pyongyang during the late 1990s, bringing the missile technology in exchange for AQ Khan's secrets, such as how to use centrifuges to enrich enough uranium for a weapon."

Other countries part of the network were Iran and Libya: the former is now seeking recognition as a nuclear weapons state while the latter agreed to give up its technology in return for removal of international sanctions and aid.

In December 2015, at a hearing of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee subcommittee on the issue of Civil Nuclear cooperation with Pakistan, Chairman of the Subcommittee Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) bluntly stated that the "A.Q. Khan Network is believed to have sold sensitive nuclear technology to the most unstable countries on the planet. It was the Khan Network that allowed North Korea to get its uranium enrichment program up and running."

Six decades of interactions with Americans have affirmed the Pakistani military's belief that cosmetic changes or words alone will suffice to convince the U.S., that Pakistan is a serious member of the international community and deserves to be treated as one.

That the fundamentals of Pakistani policy have not changed was demonstrated when in March 2015 an official from Pakistan's Strategic Plans Division, the key administrative organ within Pakistan' Nuclear Command Authority (NCA) made light of Jihadists having penetrated Pakistan's nuclear program. "We filtered out people having negative tendencies that could have affected national security," said the NCA official, as if that was sufficient to assuage international concerns.

This attempt to reassure the international community that Pakistan's nuclear weapons are in safe hands and will not fall into the hands of the Jihadis differs little from Pakistan's response to the troubling sale of nuclear weapons technology by Dr. A.Q. Khan and his criminal network.

Pakistan's reassurance about the security of its nuclear program ignores the possibility of a military officer with Islamist sympathies rising up the ranks. In that event, an Islamist would have his fingers on the nuclear trigger and could act independent of his institution, just as Dr. Khan single-handedly sold nuclear material and plans to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

There has been no introspection within Pakistan about the presence of a network that violated all international norms and there is little to no discussion globally on this issue either. Pakistan remains unwilling to change the substance of its policy on terrorism and also continues to build its nuclear arsenal even as it succeeds in reassuring the international community that it is ready for a drastic transformation.

Washington could, as before, simply ignore these warning signs and move on with business as usual. Or the next time Pakistan's army chief comes to town instead of being feted he could be asked tough questions on Pakistan's proliferation record.

If global non-proliferation is to be pursued seriously there has to be a way to make nations pay for bad behavior including on world proliferation. Until that is done threats like North Korea's will continue to surface.

This was first posted through Huffington Post.

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.

India and Pakistan Talk, Yet Again!

When Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi and his counterpart from Pakistan, Mr. Nawaz Sharif met on the sidelines of the SCO Summit in Russia in July 2015, one of the agendas they agreed upon was that the NSAs of their respective countries would meet in New Delhi “to discuss all issues connected to terrorism.” While the NSAs were all set to meet, India did not see eye-to-eye with Pakistan’s precondition to meet Hurriyat leaders while in New Delhi. After a lot of back and forth, and unwelcome additions to the talks, to discuss the “K-word” (referring to Kashmir) and about LoC violations, they were cancelled or how Ms. Sushma Swaraj put it, “Toh baat-chit nahin hogi”. The possibility of a re-start of dialogue between the two nuclear powers seemed bleak at best.

However, when the two leaders met again, this time on the sidelines of COP21, it seemed like a step in a positive direction. It was within a week after their handshake at COP21 that the NSAs from India and Pakistan met in Bangkok for a four-hour meeting on December 6th. It was held away from the scrutiny of the media in both countries. The purpose, agenda and the very existence of the meeting was revealed only after the meeting had concluded. This is unusual for the two countries as Pakistan has repeatedly insisted on including the dispute over Kashmir as a precondition for any dialogue with India. Dr. Aparna Pande, Research fellow at the Hudson Institute, mapped out a threefold trend in India-Pakistan dialogues. It begins with Pakistan iterating the importance of Kashmir, followed by Pakistan’s request for assistance by the United States on the issue, concluding with the United States asking the two countries to work it out. The NSA meetings earlier this year were cancelled following a similar trend. Given this round of the beginning of talks, Jammu and Kashmir is being discussed in terms of terrorism, according to the Joint statement issued after the meeting was held. In addition, ceasefire violations will also be discussed to establish “tranquility along the LoC.” This is the first step of the established trend. The “constructive engagement” moving forward might be the breaking of this trend. It may even take a more fluid path in order to achieve some realistic goals rather than India or Pakistan being stubborn about the agendas of their respective policies towards each other. The United States has welcomed the talks with optimism. While the BJP contends that the talks were in accordance to the Ufa Joint Statement as well as the Simla Agreement, Congress party has a bone to pick with the location of the meeting. Congress Spokesperson, Mr. Abhishek Singhvi, while welcoming the prospect of talking with Pakistan, demanded that the policy towards Pakistan be clearly “coherent, consistent and known.” Mr. Manish Tiwari, a Congress leader, criticized the NDA government calling the NSA talks on the soil of a third country a “grand betrayal.” This is what he had to say-

“If you look at the track record of this government over the past 18 months, their Pakistan policy has been an extravaganza, a somersault, flip-flops and 180-degree U-turns and this [the Bangkok meeting] is absolutely the crowning glory.”

Although these criticisms continue to be played out on national media platforms, the talks between India and Pakistan have officially begun. India and Pakistan continue to undertake this long-sought after process. This could very well fall into the specter of the same trend that has been observed over and over again. Or this shift, to talks that are private, untouched by the media or by external pressures, and off-the-soil of both nations to avoid domestic influences, could become the new template of how India and Pakistan interact to discuss and possibly resolve issues.

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.

General Sharif returns to Washington!

Pakistan’s Army Chief, General Raheel Sharif, arrived in Washington DC, for a five-day visit to the United States. This is his second trip as Army Chief, the last one being in November of 2014. Michael Kugelman, Senior associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Center, at the wrap of Mr. Raheel’s visit last year started his piece in the The Diplomat with this quip:

“Quick: Identify the civilian democracy that sends its army chief — not its president or prime minister — to the United States for a full week of high-level meetings with civilian and military officials. The answer is Pakistan”

It seems that on the eve of Gen. Raheel’s second visit, the same question can be asked once again given that Mr. Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister of Pakistan, visited the US only a few weeks ago in October. While Pakistan has been a democracy  since 2008 and the civilian government of Pakistan is engaged with the United States Government, apparent from the Joint Statement by Mr. Obama and Mr. Nawaz Sharif, Gen. Raheel Sharif’s visit is contentious in terms of the ongoing power dynamic between the military and government in Pakistan and why the United States needs to engage with both those agencies separately. Kugelman, in his latest piece in anticipation of Gen. Raheel Sharif’s second visit, attempts to explain this very complicated relationship between the United States, and the strong military establishment and the elected civilian government in Pakistan. The core of his analysis is that the relationship between the United States and Pakistan has remained quite unchanged because of two reasons, fear and naivete. He quotes  Ambassador Husain Haqqani’s (Director South & Central Asia at Hudson Institute and former Ambassador of Pakistan to the US (2008-2011)) book “Magnificent Delusions” to reiterate that leaders in Washington have been satisfied and naive when providing aid to Pakistan in order to gain some leverage over Pakistan. This has continued in light of Pakistan’s continued policy to distinguish between good terrorists and bad terrorists. The ‘fear’ aspect in Washington has convinced it to be on the “good side of a volatile nuclear-armed nation than on its bad side.


While naivete and fear continue to feature in United States policy towards Pakistan, Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment has continued to protect terrorist organizations like the Haqqani Network and Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT). Mr. Nawaz Sharif, for the first time, during his visit in October promised to take necessary action against LeT that Ambassador Husain Haqqani notes has traditionally been under the “protection” of the ISI (Pakistani Intelligence Services). Washington has rightly appreciated the clamping down of some terrorist organizations in areas like North Waziristan by the Pakistani military through Operation Zarb-e-Azb. And yet it is actively engaging, through Mr. Raheel Sharif, with “Pakistan’s security establishment (that) continues to nurture ties with militant groups that endanger U.S. interests and lives.” Mr. Raheel Sharif is to meet with US military and civilian leaders to discuss matters of Pakistan’s relationship with the United States, bringing the Taliban back to the negotiating table, the military’s role in progressing counterterrorism efforts and other security issues, topics very similar to what Mr. Nawaz Sharif discussed with Mr. Obama. Does the democratically elected Prime Minister’s earlier visit matter at all in light of this five-day, high profile visit by the especially popular, Gen. Raheel Sharif? “From a democratic perspective,” a Dawn editorial called this visit “discouraging,” as it starts to question the legitimacy and consolidation of power by the democratically elected civilian government.