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Will Nawaz Sharif listen to his own Supreme Court?
  • Nawaz Sharif
    Nawaz Sharif
The Supreme Court of Pakistan recently handed out a resounding indictment to the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on its role in protecting the terrorist groups which have been attacking Pakistan in the recent years. A court-appointed judicial commission, set up to probe the August 2016 attack in Quetta which killed over 74 people, accused the Sharif government of ``cavorting with`` banned terrorist groups. The panel said the government, instead of protecting the life and property of its citizens, was seen as extending patronage to the terrorist groups.
This has been one of the severest criticisms and public airing of, from a constitutional authority in Pakistan, how the state has been patronising terrorist groups for various motives and purposes. This indictment, by default, sets to rest speculations that only the military was patronising the terrorist groups and not the elected governments in Pakistan. The apex court panel’s findings clearly show how elected governments, both at the provincial level as well as the federal level, have been not only lax in containing terrorist groups but have been protecting and sustaining them for years now.
Although the three-judge panel’s findings relate principally to three terrorist groups, AhleSunnatWalJamaat (ASWJ) and Jamat-ulAhrar (JuA) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al –Almi (LJA), it clearly exposes the civilian government’s duplicity in dealing with terrorist groups in general. The panel found that despite claiming to be shocked by terrorist attacks and promising to take action, the civil government has not only been avoiding taking any action against such groups but also been seen to patronise terrorist leaders.
This has been the consistent stand of the international community. Pakistan must act against all terrorist groups, no matter whom they target. But both the military and civilian establishment have been avoiding any such move against terrorist groups under one pretext or the other. For days, the Sharif government refused to accept that the attacks were carried out by Pakistani groups. Instead, the government publicity machinery spent more time and resources in spreading the canard that it was an Indian conspiracy.
Not so surprisingly, it is what Hafiz Saeed said. He merely echoed what Nawaz Sharif and his ministers boasted. It is a matter of record that the Sharif brothers have been patronising many of these terrorist and extremist groups, both while in office and outside, for decades now. In fact, Saeed was granted several million rupees from the state exchequer of Punjab government a few months after the Mumbai attack, purportedly for expanding the terrorist group’s educational network.
The Sharif government also spun a story, after the Uri attack, that it was the Pakistan Army which was behind the patronage of terrorist groups and not allowing the federal and provincial governments to go after them. A news story was also leaked about how the ISI officials were put on the mat by the civilian government on this issue. The apex court panel’s findings lend an altogether different colour to this story and the circumstances under which it was leaked to the media.
The basic premise of the whole exercise was to put the blame on the military for the terrorist attacks in India and for patronising terrorist groups. There is no doubt about the role and patronage of Pakistan Army in sustaining and protecting terrorist groups and facilitating their attacks, sometimes actively, against India. But that is only one side of the story. The role and patronage of the civilian governments is also not above board but going by the supreme court report it becomes clear how they too are part of the Deep State and not separate.
This is one of the significant take away from the panel report. The military is not alone in promoting and protecting terrorist groups but also the civilian establishment.
Significantly, the report dispels another myth that the civilian establishment avoids taking action against terrorist groups under pressure from the military. The pressure from the military cannot be denied but what cannot be accepted, as the panel report pointed out, is how the civilian government of Nawaz Sharif failed to follow the law to proscribe terrorist groups. The fact that Jamat-udDawa continues to be on the ``watch list`` and not proscribed is a telling reflection of the collective failure of the civilian establishment.
Now what is to seen is how Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is going to respond to the court’s findings. If he fails to measure up to the challenge posed by the Supreme Court and sets his house in order, he will be seen as a pusillanimous leader by all, his supporters, terrorist groups, the army and the international community in general. If he does take up the challenge, there is a possibility that he might emerge as a strong leader of his country. The ball, as they say, is now in his court.
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