External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s address to the United Nations on Monday was candid and categorical about Pakistan belonging to a group of nations “that still speak the language of terrorism, that nurture it, peddle it, and export it.” However, many in India, including the principal opposition Congress party, are disappointed that she, or for that matter the Modi government, has not been brave enough to declare Pakistan “a terrorist state”. In fact, the Congress now demands a special session of parliament to discuss the security situation, minimise interactions with Pakistan and declare Pakistan a terrorist state.
Meanwhile, parliamentarian Rajeev Chandrashekhar has written to Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari giving notice to introduce a Bill to declare Pakistan a terrorist state. The Bill – titled Declaration of States as Sponsor of Terrorism Bill, 2016 – aims at withdrawing economic and trade relations with Pakistan, imposing economic and travel sanctions on Pakistani citizens and punishing any resident or citizen of India if he or she violates the new law on Pakistan with imprisonment for a term extending to five years in prison, or fine, or both.
What is equally notable is that fact that it is not only India where law makers want Pakistan to be declared a terrorist state. Last week in the United States (22 September), two lawmakers, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism Ted Poe and Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, moved a bill in Congress seeking designation of Pakistan as a 'state sponsor of terrorism'. Terming Pakistan as an "untrustworthy ally" that "has also aided and abetted enemies of the US for years", they want President Barack Obama to issue a report within 90 days of passage of the bill detailing whether or not Pakistan has provided support for 'international terrorism', thirty days after which “the Secretary of State must issue a follow-up report containing either a determination that Pakistan is state sponsor of terrorism or a detailed justification as to why Pakistan does not meet the legal criteria for designation."
There is even a petition on the White House website asking for Pakistan to be declared as a state sponsor of terrorism. It is gathering massive support from netizens. According to The Times of India, created with a goal of 100,000 signatures on 21 September, there have been over 82,000 signatories in less than five days. The petition states that declaring Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism is "important to the people of United States of America, India and many other countries which are continuously affected by Pakistan-sponsored terrorism."
Incidentally, this was not the first time that there are voices in the US demanding punishment to Pakistan. There have been occasions when the US lawmakers have curtailed and suspended economic and military aid to Pakistan for its duplicity on the front of fighting terrorism. In fact, in 1993, there was an equally powerful move in the US to declare Pakistan a terrorist state. Once designated a terrorist state, Pakistan or for that matter any other country, the designation triggers unilateral sanctions by the US that include “a ban on weapons exports and sales; the imposition of financial and other curbs, as well as a ban on economic assistance; and restrictions on the exports of items that can be used by the country to enhance its military capability or its ability to support terrorism.”
With the removal of Cuba from the list in April this year, North Korea in 2008, Libya in 2006 and Iraq in 1982 (that time the US was supporting Sadam Hussain), there are at present three countries designated as terrorist states under US laws : Iran, Sudan and Syria.
Coming back to Pakistan, the pertinent question is: Does Pakistan really deserve to be a terrorist state? If so, then why has it not been so designated so far?
None other than a former Pakistani ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, has written in his book, Magnificent Delusions, about how his government, through its army and intelligence agencies (ISI in particular), aids and abets the murder of civilians by terrorist organisations. Carlotta Gall , a journalist with the The New York Times and the author of The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan 2001-2014, has described in details how Pakistan facilitated the Taliban and Al-Qaeda offensives and gave shelter and protection to Osama bin Laden till his death in 2011. So much so that in 2012, a Pakistani court brought down a guilty verdict against the Pakistani doctor, Shakil Afridi, who helped the CIA locate bin Laden in May 2011 for “treason” and convicted him of 33-year prison sentence.
In fact, though a Western ally in the war on terrorism, Pakistan does more to enable the jihadis than fight them. As has been pointed out by a former US diplomat, Peter Tomsen, who served in the region, Pakistan’s spy agency, the ISI, has actively supported militant groups in Kashmir (and the rest of India and Afghanistan). Though three of those groups — Harakat ul Mujahidin, Lashkar-e Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-I Mohammad — are on the US State Department’s list of terrorist organisations, Pakistan supports them. On the Afghanistan front, the ISI assists on the Taliban, the Haqqani network, and the Hekmatyar outfit (which has just reached a compromise with the Afghan government). “It becomes plain that Pakistani spooks effectively are co-coordinating a horizontally diversified terrorist empire spanning three nations (India, Pakistan and Afghanistan)”, writes Tomsen.
Incidentally, the LeT and its leader Hafiz Saeed are proscribed by the United Nations under UNSC Resolution 1267 that requires member-states to impose asset freezes, travel bans and arms embargos. But for Pakistani ISI, Saeed is its most treasured asset against India. So is Jaish-e-Mohammad leader Masood Azhar, the mastermind behind the recent Uri-attack. Similarly, Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani network, moves freely around Pakistan and regularly visits the Pakistani intelligence headquarters of the Afghan campaign in Rawalpindi. Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, the new leader of the Taliban, guides his military campaign from his base in near the Pakistani town of Quetta. And, Al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, enjoys sanctuary in Pakistan in the southwestern corner of Baluchistan.
In his book Deadly Connections: States That Sponsor Terrorism, Daniel Byman points out how Pakistan's funding, arming, training and diplomatic support of varied terrorist groups active in Kashmir have emboldened the terrorists all over the world. So close is the tie between the Pakistani state and these outfits that its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) "selects targets, including civilian ones and knows about major attacks in advance", writes Byman. And what is worse, it is the Pakistani Army that is “Islamicising” Jaish-e-Mohammad, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba. “Pakistan also inserted foreign fighters from the Taliban and Al-Qaeda to boost the sagging fortunes of these movements from time to time”, Byman adds.
In fact, Pakistani territory is now being used to nurture global terror, particularly in Europe and the United States. All major terror incidents have invariably some Pakistani link or the other. The bombings that injured 29 people in New York early this month was done by one Ahmad Khan Rahami, a 28-year-old naturalised US citizen born in Afghanistan, who was trained in Pakistan in 2014. Similarly, the aborted bomb attempt at New York’s Times Square in May 2010 was by Faisal Shahzad, a 30-year-old Pakistani-American, who had close links with the Jaish-e Muhammad (JeM) and LeT.
Pakistan has produced the CIA shooter Mir Aimal Kasi; the 1993 World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef (born in Kuwait to Pakistani parents); 11 September attacks (9/11) mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed; Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl's kidnapper, Omar Saeed Sheikh; and three of the four men behind the July 2005 train and bus bombings in London. And as the Wall Street Journal columnist Sadanand Dhume points out, “the list of jihadists not from Pakistan themselves — but whose passage to jihadism passes through that country — is even longer. Among them are Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mohamed Atta, shoe bomber Richard Reid, and John Walker Lindh, the so-called American Taliban. Over the past decade, Pakistani fingerprints have shown up on terrorist plots in, among other places, Germany, Denmark, Spain and the Netherlands.”
As I have invariably argued, since its establishment as a separate country based on religious ideology in 1947, Pakistan has attempted to use religious extremism and terrorism as tools, in addition to its military forces, to ensure its continued existence. Pakistan has established more madrassas than schools with the objective to empower, train and recruit people for the jihad in various parts of the world. A recent study says that it has more than 150,000 religious schools (madrassas), most of whom are training recruits in extremism and violence under the name of Islam.
Despite all these clinching evidences, if Pakistan has not been declared a terrorist state by the countries that matter in the world, it is essentially because of geopolitical imperatives. Pakistan is exploiting its geographic location of connectivity to West Asia, Central Asia and South Asia to the fullest. The US has been dependent on Pakistan for logistical support in its Afghan war. Secondly, Pakistan is successfully blackmailing the rest of the world for more indulgence, lest it will be active in nuclear and missile proliferations. Thirdly, it enjoys the support of China, which behaves now as the ultimate super power of the world. No sanctions against Pakistan will work as long as it, like North Korea, enjoys the Chinese military and economic support. On the other hand, with sanctions, one will lose whatever leverage one has with Pakistan and thus will be entirely at the mercy of China (as is the case now with North Korea) to control the Pakistani misdemeanors, a highly dangerous proposition.