Imran Khan says he won’t allow any militant group to operate from Pakistan

Imran Khan dispatched a special message to ISI-backed rally led by two militant organizations.

Related post: Imran Khan’s PTI joins banned terrorist groups in pro-army rally in Lahore

Last month (Nov 2011), I was so hopeful after reading Imran Khan’s clear and bold stance against militant groups basd in Pakistan:

Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan has said his party will ensure that no militant groups operate from Pakistani soil if it comes to power, but stopped short of committing himself to action against the Jamaatud Dawa, and its leader Hafiz Saeed due to the threat posed to politicians by extremists. According to a PTI (Press Trust of India) report, the head of the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf party said it should be the country’s state policy to ensure that “there are no militant groups operating from within Pakistan”.

“As a policy, if the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf government comes to power, we will insist on there being no militant groups operating within Pakistan because the world has changed. The groups that were created during the Afghan Jihad, and this is now an outdated concept of having them as assets,” Mr Khan said in an interview with Karan Thapar for CNN-IBN’s “Devil’s Advocate” programme.

Mr Khan said the time had come “to not only remove all militant groups (and) disarm them” but also to work for the “de-weaponisation in Pakistan because it is causing massive problems within the country”.

Imran says he won’t allow any militant group to operate from Pakistan, Dawn, 14 Nov 2011

However, my hopes were soon dashed when I came to know that in the ISI-sponsored Defence of Pakistan rally (Lahore, 18 Dec 2011) led by a number of militant organizations including Lashkar-e-Taiba’s Hafiz Saeed and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s Ahmed Ludhianvi, Imran Khan’s PTI participated and a special message by Imran Khan was read to the conference participants.

The Defence of Pakistan Council (DPC) is an anti-US and anti-India campaign run by Messrs General Hamidf Gul, Hafiz Saeed (LeT-JuD), Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi (LeJ-SSP) and Samiul Haq (JUI-Taliban), among others. Its Lahore rally was a pro-army establishment show or religio-political and militant organisations which provided an opportunity for several political light-weights to curry favour with the radical `40-party` front put up by the DPC. Sheikh Rashid was there, eager to enlist as a true Dawa follower. Ijazul Haq (General Ziaul Haq’s son) was in attendance as was Jamaat Islami`s Liaqat Baloch.

Most significantly, Imran Khan dispatched a close associate of his to read out a message on his behalf. This was not the first time PTI had been spotted at such a meeting. In the circumstances, the message took on stronger meaning.

Cyril Almeida writes:

It was an extraordinary spectacle in Minto Park at the foot of the Minar-i-Pakistan on Sunday: jihadists, sectarian warriors, orthodox mullahs, Islamic revivalists, all banding together under the banner of the Difaa-i-Pakistan Council (Pakistan Defence Council) and vowing to ‘defend’ Pakistan against external aggression.

Headlined by Hafiz Saeed, leader of the Jamaatud Dawa (JuD), widely perceived as a front for the banned Lashkar-i-Taiba (LeT), Sunday’s event was a massive show of right-wing strength and has come in the wake of a heightened public profile by the JuD in recent months.

Was the PDC rally, then, meant to signify the entry of Hafiz Saeed into national politics, though perhaps not of the electoral variety?

More broadly, does the PDC event suggest that the security establishment is once again lashing together reactionary and millenarian forces in pursuit of narrow institutional interests without heed to the dangers to state and society of such a move?

The Difaa-i-Pakistan (PDC), an umbrella group of 44 right-wing entities and personalities, has been reactivated in the wake of the Mohmand killings, suggesting an external agenda.

But critics also see a thinly veiled domestic political agenda behind the creation of the PDC, an attempt to create a right-wing grouping from which an MMA-style or perhaps even an IJI-style political front will emerge ahead of the next general election.

“We’re seeing a replay of 10 years ago. After 9/11, we saw the creation of the Pak-Afghan Defence Council. From there, the politicians in the group created the MMA while the hardcore jihadis went their own way,” said Nusrat Javeed, a veteran journalist.

Beyond the immediate purpose of cultivating the PDC as a buffer against American demands, analysts believe the right-wing alliance has a deeper political purpose.

“Like you have many windows open on the computer, the establishment has many windows open too,” Arif Nizami said. “So they have Imran Khan to collect all the establishment political types and now you have the PDC to gather together all the ultra-right types.”

“The ISI has unleashed its jihadis,” said Amir Mir, an expert on Islamic militancy in the region, adding, “Before Sunday’s rally, there had already been five rallies in November alone on the Mall (Lahore).”

The link between the PDC and the security establishment, according to Mir and other analysts, was as clear as anything can be in the otherwise murky nexus between the establishment and jihadi groups.

“Samiul Haq (of JUI-S), Hafiz Saeed, Ijazul Haq, Sheikh Rashid, all these people come from the agency circles,” Mir argued. “And look at their views on foreign policy, they’re nothing more than mouthpieces of the intelligence establishment.”

“See who is involved (in the PDC) and look at their past: they’ve never gone against the ISI and some of them are quite frank about it,” Suhail Waraich said. “Their platform is anti-US, anti-India, anti-present government, who does that suit?”

“The revival of the military-mullah alliance could be to squeeze the space for Zardari and the PPP, the N-League and the other nationalist parties in the provinces,” said Imtiaz Alam.

Imran Khan’s tacit-association with the ISI and his apparent association with right-wing groups, including militant groups, indicates that he, too, is a pragmatic, Machiavellian politician. For example, his message to foreign (Indian or Western audience) is usually different from his political message to his domestic audience. Further, despite his tall claims of being a Tsunami, he is an ordinary mortal being and is extremely fearful of militant creatures, such as Ajmal Kasab and Mumtaz Qadri.

For example:

When Thapar asked him about militant groups and whether Khan would denounce them, he answered broadly in the affirmative. But Thapar is not the usually naïve and unabashedly sick-of-democracy Pakistani television anchor. He proceeded to ask Khan whether Hafiz Saeed and Jamaat-ud-Daawa would be specifically mentioned. That was uncomfortable, for specifics are not conducive to Khan and his populism. Out came the reply which speaks volumes about the man and his philosophy. To paraphrase it Khan’s reply referred to Salmaan Taseer’s death about how the killer of a governor ‘becomes a hero’. Khan went on to say that Pakistan is the most polarised country in the world and that there is no point in being a hero in this country.

Waqqas Mir, Pakistan Today, 18 Dec 2011

However, when he was specifically asked if he would check the activities of Hafiz Saeed, blamed for masterminding the 2008 Mumbai attacks, and his group JuD and its front organisations like the Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation, he did not commit himself to acting against these elements due to perceived fears posed by extremists.

“Look, I’m living in Pakistan. Pakistan at the moment is the most polarised country in the world. A governor gets shot, his assassin becomes a hero. There’s no point in becoming a hero right now in this country where there’s no rule of law,” he said, referring to the assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer.

“Life is very cheap here, so just let me make a policy statement. Don’t just go into details. As a policy statement, it should answer your question. No militant groups operating from within Pakistan,” he said.

Imran says he won’t allow any militant group to operate from Pakistan, Dawn, 14 Nov 2011



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