By admitting that terrorists from his country were responsible for the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif may have stated the obvious, something that the entire world knows. But, the significance of his remarks, made during an interview with a leading Pakistani publication, goes beyond the individual terror case as they reflect the growing rift between the political leadership and the military establishment.
The Mumbai terror attack is the worst kept secret in Pakistan as everybody knows that it was carried out by terror groups nurtured on their soil and the entire operation was directed by non-state actors. What Sharif has now done is to show the mirror to the Rawalpindi bosses who actually control the levers of power in the country. By stating that the military was harming the interests of the nation, the ousted PM has made a bold bid for civilian assertion.
He also spoke about how the trial of the accused involved in the attack was being deliberately delayed and how the international community was not willing to believe Pakistan’s plaint of being a victim of terror because of the Pak military’s support for terrorists who target India. It is widely believed that the Army has been using the judiciary and the clergy to weaken the hold of the civilian governments and Sharif’s ouster was part of a larger plan to undermine civilian authority. No wonder then that Sharif has been strident in his attack on the armed forces.
Despite his shortcomings as a leader, Sharif has been a strong votary of normalising relations with India and promoting bilateral trade and business. Such a conciliatory approach goes against the grain of Rawalpindi generals who have, over years, promoted terror outfits targeting India.
By disenfranchising Sharif, a three-time Prime Minister, the judiciary had struck at the very roots of the democratic system and ended up doing the military establishment’s bidding. The political turmoil over Sharif’s candid admission will further isolate Pakistan internationally over terrorism issue.
His revelation that extremist outfits are still active in Pakistan exposes the duplicity of the country. India, which has been a victim of Pak-sponsored terrorism for decades, must seize the opportunity and go for the kill. The international community must now ensure that Pakistan abandons its strategy of using terrorism as an instrument of state policy and shuts terror factories operating on its soil.
For too long, Islamabad has been following a dangerous policy of running with the hare and hunting with the hound and hoodwinking the international community on the issue of fighting terrorism. Usually, Pakistani authorities resort to some cosmetic measures in the face of mounting international pressure. Once the pressure eases, it is business as usual again.