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A curious case of comparison of counter-terrorism strategies pursued in Pakistan and Bangladesh
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At the recently concluded 34th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva early this month, the Pakistani establishment sought to raise a hue and cry over India’s alleged human rights violations in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, claiming that the situation in the state is not India’s ‘internal affair’. The tone and tenor of the Pakistani argumentation was that when it comes to Pakistan’s own record on the human rights front, everything is ‘hunky dory’. And since it was the ‘K-word’, Pakistani media lapped it up saying how Pakistan had cornered India at an important international forum.
Well, the truth of the matter is that at the same event Pakistan’s lies were nailed by a blogger and a human rights activist Ahmad Waqass Goraya. Speaking at a side-event titled “Closing the Net: Attacks on Asian Human Rights Defenders”, Goraya, who had been abducted from Lahore in January this year, said he was brutally tortured before his release after almost a month in captivity. Not mincing words, the blogger complained that while the elements linked to the Islamic radicals advocating violence against minorities and thinkers, continue to go scot free. On the other hand, those who speak out against such kind of violence have been repeatedly targeted by the law enforcement agencies and the Islamic extremists.  
In Pakistan, since the beginning of this year, five bloggers and human rights activists including Goraya, had ‘gone missing’ (meaning abducted) by the suspected Islamic radicals from Islamabad and Lahore. The bloggers since then have been released. Reports were evident enough that the bloggers were subjected to torture and made to sign undertakings that they will not seek a legal course to file cases against the abductors. But what takes the cake, is the complete complicity of the Pakistani ‘deep’ state in this episode that there has been no serious official investigation of these abductions, leave alone even registering a case against these abductions. Many civil society activists in Pakistan, in fact, alleged a foul play by the country’s powerful security agencies in these abductions.
The state’s inability to act upon these disappearances is complicated by a vicious online campaign against these bloggers and activists. Multiple pages on Facebook and Twitter sprung up to accuse these activists as ‘foreign agents’ and accusing them of committing a blasphemy, an offence punishable under law by death sentence in Pakistan. And this is despite Pakistan passing a stringent cyber law last year to deal with those who incite criminal activity in cyber space.

         Pakistan’s reaction to the disappearances of the bloggers is in stark contrast to that in Bangladesh. After facing severe domestic and international criticism over the gruesome killing of several secular and atheist bloggers over the past two years and the July 2016 terror attack at a restaurant in the elite neighbourhood of Dhaka, the Bangladesh government swung into action to quickly penetrate the Islamic radicals’ network, identify the group and its top leadership responsible for those heinous acts. Subsequently, Dhaka banned Ansar al-Islam, an alleged offshoot of the Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), accused of carrying out a series of attacks on secular bloggers for writing posts they deemed critical of Islam. Ansar al-Islam was the seventh such group to be banned by the Bangladeshi authorities since 2005. This step followed the extensive crackdown on the network of the Jamaat-e-Islami, which has been accused of perpetrating war crimes in collaboration with the Pak Army during Bangladesh’s Liberation War of 1971.

         It has been a tough choice for the government. But the fact is that in the face of the shrill onslaught from the Islamic radicals in the country, who could potentially collaborate with the opposition to derail the government, the government chose to go ahead and crackdown on their network. Whatever the political exigencies of these actions, it is appreciable that Bangladesh has persisted in its approach of getting rid of the Islamist extremists. Observers watching the counter-terrorism strategy pursued so far in Bangladesh would also appreciate that the strategy remains consistent, apolitical and has indeed long-term implications.  
Meanwhile, Pakistan, instead of looking at its own sad state of affairs, chooses to comment on the excesses of its neighbours who are trying their best to contain the scourge of terrorism and Islamic radicalism, nurtured by the extremist and radical elements based in Pakistan. In the case of Bangladesh’s crackdown on Jamaat-e-Islami, it was the National Assembly of Pakistan which in last September unanimously passed a resolution condemning the execution of the Jamaat’s top leaders, alleging violation of the a tripartite agreement signed between Pakistan, Bangladesh and India.

         It appears that Islamabad is, as usual, living in denial - criticising the legitimate counter terrorism crackdown of its neighbours as ‘human rights violations’, describing the terrorist groups operating on its soil as ‘non-state actors’ or ‘rogue elements’, and terming those who criticise its powerful security agencies as ‘foreign agents’. When the Prime Minister of the country describes a slain militant of a terrorist organisation as ‘martyr’, it could easily be understood that it obviously wants encash political mileages from the situation. 
But the fact remains that all of these have spawned out of Pak establishment’s fallacious approach to deal with its neighbours and using proxies to commit acts of terror and violence in its neighbourhood. At the risk of repetition it needs to be reiterated that all these groups and elements exist and persist in their violent activities because they continue to be aided and abetted by the Pakistan’s intelligence agency, ISI. So even if Pakistan attempts to convince the world of its credentials, by launching a farcical crackdown as it did in the case of the leader of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed’s ‘house detention’, the extremist forces are gaining strength in the country which will ultimately be at the cost of the power, authority and legitimacy of the Pakistani state.
Daniel Hunter