Raheel Sharif calls the shots in Pakistan, not Nawaz: Then why this charade of a Pathankot 'probe'?

What more proof of Pakistan’s doublespeak on terrorism does India need than Islamabad's collusion with Beijing to block a proposed ban on Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar at the UN?

On the day Pakistan was working in cahoots with China to block the blacklisting of Azhar, the Pakistan Joint Intelligence Team (JIT) — uponing return to Islamabad — was gloating that India had ‘failed’ to provide evidence of the involvement of terrorists in the Pathankot attack. On the other hand, the NIA claims that India had provided all the evidence required. It included call records, names and addresses of suspects — including those of Masood Azhar and his brother Abdul Rauf — and ballistic and forensic reports.

The JIT team's plea, as quoted by the Pakistan media, is specious to the say the least.

Nobody is surprised by the Pakistani team’s excuses.

File image of Nawaz Sharif and Raheel Sharif. AFP

File image of Nawaz Sharif and Raheel Sharif. AFP

Nobody should be.

The reason for Pakistan’s chicanery is simple and straightforward. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is not in charge of Pakistan’s foreign and security affairs. The other Sharif is — Pakistan’s chief of army staff Raheel Sharif has wrested control of foreign affairs and defence from the prime minister.

It’s no secret in Islamabad. The division of labour between two Sharifs was effected at the end of 2014. Raheel had rescued the beleaguered prime minister from the joint agitation launched by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Tahirul Qadri’s Pakistani Awami Tehreek (PAT) calling for Nawaz's dismissal. The army chief mediated between the government and the protesters to end the crisis and extracted his pound of flesh.

The army’s condition for mediation was that Raheel would be de facto in-charge of Pakistan’s foreign policy — including all security and defence policy including nuclear policy. Raheel also directly deals with the ongoing Afghan peace process. In October 2015, after Nawaz's meeting with the President Barack Obama in Washington, Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper said in an editorial, “Worryingly, for the civilian dispensation and the democratic project, (Sharif) has appeared an increasingly peripheral figure in shaping key national security and foreign policy issues.”

Raheel has raised his profile as, perhaps, no other army chief, during the reign of an elected dispensation in Pakistan. The main reason for his rising profile is the relative success the army has achieved against terrorists during its Zarb-e-Azb campaign in North Waziristan and its success in restoring some semblance of order to Karachi. The chief of army staff is believed to have said at a meeting of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) — a London-based think tank — that Pakistan’s lack of governance required him to play the role of a “soldier statesman”.

The army chief accompanies Sharif on all his foreign visits. He travelled to Saudi Arabia and Iran with Sharif. It’s important to recall that he, and not Nawaz, offered to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Iran amid escalating disputes. He makes it a point to follow up the prime minister’s visits with his own trips to foreign nations. That’s because he is in charge of Pakistan’s foreign affairs; Nawaz is just a mask. He also followed up Nawaz's meeting with Obama with his own trip.

The US State department and the Pentagon are reported to have held discussions with the army chief bypassing Nawaz. And it was much the same with China.

It may also be recalled that Raheel had conveyed his unhappiness to Nawaz after the latter hosted Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his Lahore home on 25 December last year without taking the army chief into confidence. The result was the Pathankot airbase attack on 2 January.

That’s why the Pathankot probe by the JIT Pakistan team is a charade. Who is Pakistan probing? Its own Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)?

The Pathankot attack wouldn’t have taken place without ISI and Pakistan’s military knowledge and complicity. Under these circumstances, one wonders whether the Modi government has taken a conscious decision to deal with the Pakistani army as an interlocutor and stakeholder. Or is Nawaz taking the Modi government for a ride? The Government of India should tell the Indian people the truth regarding whether it has indeed has chosen to make the Pakistani army the chief interlocutor in discussions about issues relating to cross-border terrorism and the involvement of Pakistan-based terror outfits in India.

By letting the JIT team visit India to collect evidence of the JeM’s involvement in the Pathankot attack, Modi can let his gamble play out. Let the NIA team pay a return visit to Pakistan. But rest assured, all this cat-and-mouse play will lead to nothing. The Modi government has a lot to answer for in light of the criticism that by allowing the JIT — with an ISI officer as its member — into India, the government has erred in making a distinction between the Pakistani state and non-state actors.

The government has fallen into the Pakistani army’s trap.

Pakistan’s ISI and the army are responsible for cross-border terrorism. Why this charade of collecting evidence?

Updated Date: Apr 04, 2016 11:22 AM

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