Pakistan refuses knee-jerk reaction on US terror list
* Islamabad to pilot its own war on terror, says Faisal
By Rana Qaisar
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Monday refrained from commenting on the US decision to put 11 terrorist groups, including three organisations fighting in the Indian-held Kashmir, on its watch list of terrorist outfits, though Washington named Hizbul Mujahideen and Al-Badar Mujahideen groups for the first time in this regard.
Foreign Office Spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan was prudent while commenting on the development. “I don’t know about this development and we can only comment after we get the list of banned organisations or groups,” said he.
However, Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat, in an interview with Reuters, said: “It is not a question of endorsing what the United States has done. We will look at our own circumstances. The foremost thing is to have credible proof. If that is there, then certainly we will take action as we have done.”
The US released the list of 11 groups at a time when Pakistan and India are inching towards the initiation of a dialogue in order to resolve all outstanding disputes bedevilling relations between the two countries.
Experts on foreign policy and Kashmir issue have described US decision to put these groups on its watch list as US effort to appease the Indians. They believe that banning these groups would not dilute the on-going struggle in Kashmir, which they describe as “an indigenous movement”.
“Our position is that the Kashmir struggle is home-grown and all these groups consist of the Kashmiris,” former foreign minister Sartaj Aziz said. Mr Aziz observed that this development would not impact the peace initiative taken by Pakistan and India and would not even stop the Kashmiris from fighting for self-determination.
Professor Khalid Mahmud, an expert on Kashmir issue at the Institute of Regional Studies (IRS), observed that the US decision was close to the Indian position. “If India is agreeing to hold talks with Pakistan on the insistence of the United States, one can see this development as a concession to New Delhi.”
Professor Mahmud said it had been India’s long-standing demand to declare these groups as terrorist organisations. “But this may have an impact on Pak-US relations as this decision supports India’s point of view.” However, he said the US decision would not have any negative affect on the Kashmir movement which, he said, was indigenous in nature.
Chairperson of the Institute of Strategic Studies Dr Shireen Mazari said the US decision was part of its policy to serve its own interests. “The US had banned the MEK [Mujahedeen-e-Khalq] in Iraq but now it has struck a deal with this organisation.”
Dr Mazarri termed the US decision as “one-sided”, adding that no fundamentalist Indian group had been banned. “When there are efforts to ease tension between Pakistan and India, the external powers should have an even-handed approach.”
She said the development would not stop the Kashmiris from struggling for freedom. “They have been struggling for the last 14 years in the presence of 700,000 Indian troops in Kashmir. So the ban on these groups will not affect the movement.”
All the experts agreed, however, that the US decision would generate anger among the Kashmiris as their freedom movement was supported from both sides of the Line of Control (LoC). They also believed it was important to access the development in global context.