The US State Department had declared Pakistan a safe haven for terrorists five years ago, a historical study of its annual authoritative Country Report on Terrorism says. The annual report for 2012 that came out in 2013 for the first time used the term “safe haven” for Pakistan for letting terrorist groups thrive and operate from its soil.
The 2013 Country Report on Terrorism (for terror activities in the year 2012) used the line “a number of these attacks were planned and launched from these groups’ safe haven in Pakistan.” ‘These groups’ hear mean “the Afghan Taliban, HQN (the Haqqani Network) and other AQ-affiliated groups” which continued to wreak havoc in Afghanistan.
From next year onwards, i.e., 2014 Country Report on Terrorism (for terror activities in the year 2013), the US chose to generalize about Afghanistan centric terror emanating from Pakistan by removing ‘these groups’ and adding ‘and other insurgent and terrorist groups’. It meant the US found many more terror outfits operating from Pakistan to perpetrate terror against US and Afghan forces in Afghanistan and it was not just limited to the terror triad of Afghan Taliban, HQN and the AQ-affiliated groups.
So, first few lines of the second paragraph of Chapter 2 of the Country Report on Terrorism (on South and Central Asia) every year would be, “Afghanistan, in particular, continued to experience aggressive and coordinated attacks by the Afghan Taliban, including the affiliated Haqqani Network (HQN) and other insurgent and terrorist groups. A number of these attacks were planned and launched from safe havens in Pakistan.”
We can see the focus of the report about describing Pakistan a safe haven for terrorists all these years have been basically about Afghanistan. But the latest report goes a step ahead in adding the much required dimension to it, i.e., recognizing Pakistan’s complicity in sponsoring terror in India.
India has long been complaining to the US on its double standards on terror emanating from Pakistan rightly arguing that it cannot differentiate between a good terrorist from a bad terrorist. All the US censure, all tough words to Pakistan have been about cracking down on the terror outfits that have shifted their base to Pakistan but continue to target Afghanistan, the US forces and interests there and the Afghanistan’s government.
The civil war, in fact, never ended in Afghanistan. The warring factions were previously centralized within Afghanistan with Taliban being the last ruling faction. Now Pakistan has become the main base for Taliban and other such groups who want to overthrow the process of democratic transition in Afghanistan. And from Pakistan, they continue to run amok in Afghanistan. How serious is situation can be gauged from the fact that even Afghanistan’s most secure area, Kabul’s diplomatic enclave that also house the seat of its government, is not safe from terror strikes. It has seen multiple attacks.
For Pak based groups perpetrating terror in India, the US brief had not gone beyond the routine lines like ‘Pakistan should expedite the Mumbai or Pathankot terror probes’. The US continued with billions of dollars in aid even if it knows that Pakistan is harbouring terrorists who are India’s most wanted. What made it a theatre of absurd was the fact that even if many of these terrorists like Hafiz Saeed were carrying a heft US bounty on their heads, they were free to roam in Pakistan, like respectable citizens.
That, seems, is changing now. First, the US pressure left Pakistan with no other option but to house arrest Hafiz Saeed in January this year. Though symbolic, it suggested that the US had started putting pressure on Pakistan. It also told us that the US was coming out of its “good and bad terrorists” mindset. In June, Pakistan had to ban the new front of Hafiz Saeed’s terror outfit, Tehreek-e-Azadi-Jammu & Kashmir (TAJK).
Then in June only, the US declared Syed Salahuddin, the terror lord of Pak based umbrella groups for perpetrating terror in Jammu and Kashmir, a global terrorist. And now in July, the world’s only superpower has termed Pakistan a safe haven for India centric terror groups.
The Country Report on Terrorism 2017 (for the year 2016) says, “The Pakistan government supported political reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban, but failed to take significant action to constrain the ability of the Afghan Taliban and HQN to operate from Pakistan-based safe havens and threaten U.S. and Afghan forces in Afghanistan.”
And then goes on to do the course-correction that was long overdue by writing specifically against the major India centric terror groups like LeT and JeM and holding Pakistan accountable for not doing enough, “The government did not take any significant action against LeT or JeM, other than implementing an ongoing ban against media coverage of their activities. LeT and JeM continued to hold rallies, raise money, recruit, and train in Pakistan.”