Pakistan is certainly on the war path, and not just on the Line of Control, where incidents of firing have escalated causing civilian deaths and forest fires even as security forces noted a rise in infiltration. The Imran Khan government has resorted to making sweeping allegations against India, presenting dossiers to officials at the United Nations on alleged Indian assistance to terrorists and accusations of sabotaging the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. At one level, the charges are laughable. At another, it’s worth admitting that Pakistan is adept at spreading its allegations, particularly in the US. Ignoring this, as we usually do, may not be good enough. Mud sticks.
The brief to the envoys of the five permanent representatives to the UN Security Council, on alleged India-sponsored terrorism, occurred days after presenting dossiers directly to the UN Secretary General. Earlier, Pakistan was tom-tomming the compilation of yet another dossier covering ‘Indian action’ at three levels. First, it alleged that New Delhi supported and executed terror attacks in Pakistan and used its banks to finance terrorists. Second, it failed to punish perpetrators of terrorist attacks against minorities in India. Third, and most interesting of all, India was becoming a centre of terrorist activity. That’s quite a bagful of mischief.
There are other mischievous allegations, including one that India has set up a dedicated cell to counter the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), allotting PKR 80 billion (about Rs 37 billion) for the purpose. Cash-strapped intelligence agencies would have a fit. Other charges include making trouble in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.
Pakistan’s allegations are hardly new, with Islamabad declaring for decades that India used dozens of embassies and consulates in Afghanistan for spawning terrorism against Pakistan. Former US ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson pointed out that India had four consulates, not 24; but that sober fact was lost in the noise. Under Prime Minister Imran Khan, this noise has gone up considerably, particularly after the appointment of his special adviser Moeed Yusuf, who, in an interview with an Indian channel, famously declared that he was ready with never-before-seen ‘evidence’ against India.
It is this ‘evidence’ that is now being shared. A briefing by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and DG ISPR Maj. Gen. BabarIftikhar made several allegations, peppered with ostensible ‘details’ to make the whole seem credible. One of these was that India has united several terrorist groups under the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan – whose spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan was allowed to ‘escape’ from army custody. It alleged that the act was masterminded by one “Colonel Rajesh” from the Indian embassy (there is a Brigadier and a Group Captain but no Colonel at the embassy), another Major Fermin Das (also untraceable), and a selection of RAW officials — all apparently working from consulates on Pakistan’s border (none, as US officials note). There’s more — camps in Dehradun for support to Altaf Hussain, the founder of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader, who last year requested PM Modi for some money to take Pakistan to the International Court of Justice; and a lot more in the same vein.
But as always, Islamabad is over-stretching itself. Both Moeed and the officials briefing the media accused India of the tragic attack in 2014 on an army school in Peshawar, where 132 children were killed; this after Pakistani authorities hanged the perpetrators (in 2015 and 2017). Killing women and children is not something India’s intelligence agency does, simply because no one would ever authorise it in a rather leaky democracy. But then Pakistan can’t be expected to understand that. Islamabad, however, would do well to recall a series of attacks against schools in Afghanistan that began the same year. Such crimes perpetrated by the Taliban in Pakistan are hardly likely to have been forgotten.
Twisting financial probity
In its reported dossier, Pakistan has cited the ongoing investigations by the Financial Crime Enforcement Network of the US Treasury Department to make its case that India is financing terrorism and is guilty of money laundering. Neither is true. The worldwide investigation has flagged thousands of transactions, including those of some 3,000 British companies and suspicious transactions from a Russian Oligarch that ended up with the ruling Conservative Party.
In India’s case, some 44 banks have been ‘red flagged’, including State Bank of India (SBI). None of these involve any evidence of wrongdoing, but are a directive for investigation. In other instances, individuals identified are already under probe, or under arrest. The whole thing is an exercise in financial probity, with hundreds of journalists also involved. Ironically, one such investigation includes a Pakistani financier who moved $14-15 billion annually for customers such as Dawood Ibrahim, the al-Qaeda, Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba among others.
Old and new charges
Then there are Islamabad’s now familiar charges that India has not acted against the accused in the 2007 Samjhauta Express bombings case. That is not entirely true. The case, which dragged on for 12 years, ending in acquittal of all accused, is certainly a shameful indictment of the judicial and investigation prowess in India. But unlike Pakistan, the accused did not disappear, like Sajid Mir and others did in the Mumbai attacks case, but were arrested, with due trial process.
Finally, a new — and most interesting — charge is the allegation that “India is emerging as a hotbed of UN designated terrorist organizations and posing a great risk to the region”. In this, Pakistan cites the presence in India of the Islamic State and the AQIS (al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent) as evidence. This is sheer cheek, given that Asim Umar, the AQIS leader, is sheltered in Pakistan and even married there.
The recent busting of a module also showed strong connections to Rawalpindi. Then there is the Islamic State that has certainly made some limited inroad into parts of India. But as all agree, this is minimal given India’s large Muslim population, and even in Kashmir, where established jihadi groups wont give the IS or AQIS much leg-room.
But Pakistan’s flagging this needs to be dealt with through positive action. First, police forces need to be a little more circumspect about tagging ‘Islamic State’ onto every troublemaker. And second, Prime Minister Modi’s message of “reaching out” to Muslims needs to be implemented by his party leaders.
Meanwhile, it’s time to go on the offensive, using not mysterious allusions to sabotage and hidden camps, but simply showing up Pakistan for what it is – a highly unstable terrorist-ridden state, with a very uneasy head at the top.
The author is former director, National Security Council Secretariat. Views are personal.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.