Is the state setting itself up for another international embarrassment?

InterpolLast week, government suffered another embarrassment when Interpol refused its request to issue a red warrant against MQM founder Altaf Hussain saying it does not involve itself in politics. By giving this explanation, the global law enforcement agency has essentially said that the charges against Altaf Hussain are purely political and are not backed by actual evidences. However, government officials appear to have learned nothing from this as they have already approached Interpol for another red warrant, this time against Baloch nationalist leader Brahumdagh Bugti and his aide Sher Mohammad Bugti, who have been granted asylum in Switzerland due to life threats.

Brahamdagh BugtiThe question must be asked why officials are so determined to get their hands on these political leaders who they have already driven out of the country rather than trying to find a political solution to political problems? As Interpol has confirmed, these are cases of politics, not law enforcement and national security. It should be noted that the global police agency has been willing to issue red warrants against actual militants like Maulana Masood Azhar when there is adequate evidence presented.

Maulana Masood Azhar Red WarrantOne cannot help but think of another case when state officials tried to convince international agencies to accept their narrative, only to fall flat on the global stage: The infamous ‘dossiers‘ on Indian involvement in terrorism. Instead of trying to convince the rest of the world to accept our national security narrative, state officials should be working to find political solutions to political disagreements, and save law enforcement resources for cracking down on actual militants.

 

Masood Azhar’s ‘Protective’ Custody

Masood Azhar in custodyQuestions were raised about the status of Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar after he was picked up by security forces following Pathankot attack at the beginning of the year. Official reports claimed that authorities were cracking down on the militant group without favour as per its international obligations. However this was quickly cast into doubt when Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah clarified that Azhar was not arrested but being held in ‘protective custody’, a term usually used when the state is protecting someone who faces threats.

Questions about the authenticity of the state’s efforts against ‘good’ militants have returned following reports that Pakistan has refused a request by Indian authorities to join their Pakistani counterparts in questioning the militant leader.

India wanted to send investigators to interrogate Masood Azhar and his brother but Pakistan “politely refused” it, a senior official said.

Pakistan assured India that Islamabad was seriously investigating the case and will not hesitate to act if anyone was found guilty, the official said.

“India wants us to hand over Masood Azhar and Hafiz Saeed and as we have declined a number of times, they want us to at least give access to the investigators to interrogate them. We have told them it was not possible,” he added.

The refusal to allow Indian investigators to question Masood Azhar confirms for many the belief that his custody is more ‘protective’ that officials are admitting. This belief is also supported by the decision of the Pakistani official to mention Hafiz Saeed who is not even under investigation for Pathankot attack.

India has not asked for Masood Azhar to be handed over. Only they asked for their investigators to join Pakistani investigators in questioning the suspected mastermind. Pakistan’s refusal to cooperate with this request raises questions about whether the state is honestly interested in finding proof against certain elements, or whether they are actually interested in ‘protecting’ them.

Pakistan’s ‘Untouchables’

Pakistan's untouchables

Anti-Terrorism Court in Quetta has acquitted Gen Musharraf in Akbar Bugti murder case. The outcome is not a surprise. Convicting any military officer, even those of lesser rank than General is nearly impossible. To convict a former Chief of Army Staff? Unthinkable. The fix was in since long, too, as police and other officials conveniently ‘lost’ most of the evidence.

With this acquittal, Gen Musharraf joins a long list of Pakistan’s “untouchables” – individuals who no court can convict and no amount of evidences can satisfactorily condemn. Others include Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, Amir Jamaat-ud-Dawa Hafiz Saeed, Jaish-e-Muhammad chief Masood Azhar, and former head of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Malik Ishaq.

This inability to convict certain people has been a disaster. Diplomatically, it has cast doubt among foreign nations about whether we are honest in our efforts to fight terrorism, feeding those who accuse the state of playing double games and using militancy as a strategic asset. At home, it has deteriorated law and order by causing doubt about the willingness or the ability of security agencies to go after certain groups. This only encourages others to commit the same acts.

In the case of Akbar Bugti murder, it is a doubly dangerous outcome because it sends the message to Baloch that the estimated 21,000 missing and 6,000 killed and mutilated are worth less than one General. Anger erupted in Balochistan after Bugti was killed. Do we expect our Baloch brothers to celebrate when his killer walks scot free?

Jihadis Outflanking Government

Jihadis welcome Taliban in Kashmir

All eyes may be focused on peace talks with TTP, but Pakistan is a land of many moving parts, and just because attention is being paid to movement in one area does not mean that other parts have stopped moving. I have noted on this blog recently that despite the Prime Minister’s movements towards a sane foreign policy, there is also an undercurrent of movement by jihadi groups that is less openly discussed. Most of this jihadi movement has been centered on Kashmir, but a new report suggests that it may be wider and interconnected.

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