War on terror : Sharif too weak to take on radical Islamists

I wonder if anyone in New Delhi today is really thinking that Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif can be India’s partner in the war on terror in the near future . Would it not be  a naivety to assume so ?

Knowledgeable sources say Sharif’s social and political  foundations are too weak to take on  any radical militant Islamist outfit . His leaning towards radical Islamist elements in the country has been well known . Sharif's  father was closely associated with Pakistan’s Tablighi Jamaat, known the world over as ‘an indirect line to terrorism.’  His party has had an electoral understanding with the ‘extremist group’  Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat.  Sharif was sympathetic to the dreaded terrorist Osama bin Laden for some time at least .  He can ill-afford  taking action against Pakistan‘s terror outfit Jaish-e Muhmmad,  the alleged  mastermind behind the fidyeen attacks on the Pathankot airbase  Pathankot early this month . 

In the recent past Takfiri Deobandi Taliban terrorists have conducted bomb attacks on security forces and polio workers . They perpetrated the Army Public School massacre(December 2014) and have now taken responsibility for the massacre at Charsadda this month. But the Sharif government is yet to arrest the outfit ‘s cleric Abdul Aziz. In its operations  the Sharif government continues to ignore the urban Deobandi and Taliban-affiliated groups like ASWJ-LeJ as well as Jaish Mohammad. PML-N Law Minister Rana Sanaullah seems to support  such affiliates .

Besides, ultimate authority in Pakistan in strategic matters is the Pakistan Army, not any civilian authority . Given the bitter experience Prime Minister Sharif had at the hands of his then Army Chief Pervez Musharraf in the past ,he is highly unlikely to undermine the authority of his  military command . 

The Pakistan Army has kept intact its operational priorities--- annexing  Kashmir through covert action,  acquiring a strategic depth in Afghanistan,  and advancing its nuclear and missile armament programme. In pursuance of such priorities certain elements in the Pakistan Army have been using al Qaeda and Taliban to carry out attacks on Indian missions in Afghanistan. This 'army- within- army' seems to be so powerful that the Pakistan Army  has already declared it would take no action against terror groups active in India’s Jammu and Kashmir such as  LeT, Hizb ul Mujahideen and Jaish-e Muhammad .The Pakistan Army today is being tough only to few jihadists , not to their ideology. And in the process, the  banned sectarian groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and AhleSunnatWalJamaat are still thriving in the country .

The sources warn the JeM is not a soft target that can be reined in . This  terror outfit has a strong clout in the Pakistani society and establishment .  Its chief is the notorious Masood Azhar , for whom an  Indian plane had been in Kathmandu in 1989.  To end the crisis India’s then Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh had to  get Azhar released from a jail in Jammu and then escort him all the way to Kandhar .

Masood founded  the JeM  out of Harkat ul Mujahideen  in 2000 to ‘liberate’ Kashmir from India.  Pakistan’s three religious school chiefs-- Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai of the Majlis-e-Tawan-e-Islami (MT), Maulana Mufti Rashid Ahmed of the Dar-ul Ifta-e-wal-Irshad and Maulana Sher Ali of the Sheikh-ul-Hadith Dar-ul Haqqania-- endorsed this outfit.  JeM  has been linked with groups like the Lashkar e-Jhangvi and al Qaeda . Most of the hideouts of the JeM are in Pak-occupied Kashmir and in places near Lahore and Rawalpindi . The  JeM , in coalescence with Lashkar-e Toiba, allegedly organized  terror strikes on Indian Parliament in 2001. In 2002 it killed American journalist Daniel Pearl. In 2009 it made an abortive bid to blow up a synagogue in New York and missile strike American military planes. It aligned with al Qaeda to kill American troops in Somalia.

The sources say even the all- powerful Pakistan Army can do little against JeM  . After then Pakistani dictator and Army Chief Musharraf signed up for the US  war on terror in 2001, he banned it.  He also had Masood imprisoned . But the Lahore High Court ordered his release within a year . The military dictator had a tough time afterwards . JeM carried out two suicide attacks on him in 2003 and 2004. Then Rawalpindi Corps commander Ashfaq Pervez Kayani found some Pak military soldiers inside shared information with JeM for these attacks.