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Jaish in the spotlight

Updated March 18, 2019

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In the aftermath of the Pulwama episode, Kashmir-centric militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad has been making headlines internationally, as the suicide bomber involved in the attack claimed to be a member of the outfit.

This has led India to call for action against the group, particularly against its head Masood Azhar. While India has been thirsting for revenge in the post-Pulwama period, its efforts to blacklist the Jaish and its chief are not altogether altruistic. Delhi has made an all-out effort to prevent the Kashmir issue from being internationalised, and is presenting itself as a victim of ‘terrorism’ to take the focus of the international community away from its brutal tactics in the held region. Indeed, all of Pakistan’s attempts at talks or acting on CBMs have been held back by the Modi regime’s single-point agenda — to portray Pakistan as a hub of jihadi activity.

However, away from the Indian stance, there is still a case to be made for Pakistan’s clamping down further on the Jaish and others of its ilk — for its own security.

The dangers of the path adopted by the Jaish are clear. Masood Azhar’s aim was to blur the distinction between pro-Kashmir jihadi groups and those subscribing to sectarian militancy within Pakistan.

When Gen Musharraf proscribed the Jaish, he was targeted by the group, barely escaping two attempts on his life.

The attempt to rein in the Jaish’s activities caused a large section of the group to join hands with the TTP to attack the state and religious minorities.

Attempts to deradicalise militants also did not work, and it became clear that the danger of reprisals notwithstanding, stern action was necessary against all militants — whether they were allegedly using Pakistani soil to plan attacks outside the country, or killing and maiming thousands within the country. Indeed, Pakistan should have learnt a lesson from the Americans who encouraged jihadi elements in Afghanistan, only to be confronted by a monster of their own creation in later years.

Given this backdrop, many observers have emphasised the need to crack down hard on all such groups in Pakistan. Most have been banned but much more is required to ensure that they are eliminated and never come back to life.

If the world wants to blacklist Masood Azhar, there should be no hesitation on Pakistan’s part. Neither should China use ‘technical reasons’ to block such a move.

There are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ militants groups; all have either caused or are capable of wreaking havoc in the country. That outlook is hopefully a thing of the past now, as the prime minister has promised that no groups will be allowed to use Pakistani territory for militant activities. He must make good on that pledge. This is the only way Pakistan will regain the respect of the international community, and counter India’s constant campaign to isolate it.

Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2019