The US State Department’s spokesperson, Ms Marie Harf, was quick to celebrate what is more of a rumour or feeler at this stage. In her January 15, 2015 news briefing, Ms Harf said: “So we welcome reports that the government of Pakistan plans to outlaw the Haqqani network, I think 10 or 11 additional organisations linked to violent extremism. This is an important step toward eliminating terrorist activity in Pakistan. Obviously, the Secretary (of State, John Kerry) was just there and had a wide-ranging conversation with the Pakistanis about counterterrorism, certainly...and obviously had many conversations with Prime Minister Sharif and others.” The reports that the State Department was welcoming cite unnamed Pakistani officials and are mute on what exactly such a ban would mean in practical terms. Without actually going after the leadership and operational commanders of the Haqqani network, any ban would mean diddlysquat. Where due diligence was in order, the State Department spokesperson jumped the gun.
The present Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Raheel Sharif, certainly comes across as a sober person compared to General Pervez Musharraf and a much more proactive one than General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. However, if his recent talk at the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) London is anything to go by, General Sharif seems no less India-centric than his predecessors. That the COAS zeroed-in on Pakistan’s dispute with India over Kashmir in his talk is understandable but the way the Line of Control (LoC) has lit up since he assumed office is a matter of concern. The Kashmir-oriented jihadists like Maulana Masud Azhar and Hafiz Saeed have become increasingly vocal and visible over the last several months, which raises the question whether Pakistan intends to decommission these India-oriented jihadists anytime soon. The answer is a cautiously pessimistic no. And therein lies the rub. One can reform and regulate the madrassas all one wants but so long as there is a demand for the jihadists, they will keep churning out more.
Moreover, the Pakistani establishment’s arrangement with new Afghan President Mr Ashraf Ghani also seems geared more towards neutralising the perceived Indian influence in Afghanistan than actually finding a permanent solution to the menace of terrorism.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and he tweets @mazdaki