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OIC & BALAKOT: The Isolation of Pakistan

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Abu Dhabi: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj at the inaugural session of the 46th Foreign Ministers Meeting of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), in Abu Dhabi, UAE, on March 1, 2019. (Photo: IANS/MEA) by .
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj at the inaugural session of the 46th Foreign Ministers Meeting of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), in Abu Dhabi, UAE,

Pakistan has a cross-border terrorism policy against Muslim neighbours-Iran and Afghanistan – and a policy of interference in the internal affairs of Muslim Bangladesh.  The above record of Pakistan does not seem to have bothered the OIC much so far.  But now that about 40 Muslims countries have vowed to fight terrorism under the leadership of Saudi Arabia, the OIC’s perception about who promotes terrorism should change. It is now very clear that Al Qaeda, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Lashkar-e-Toyyabba (LeT), Jamaat-ud-Dawa(JuD), Jaish-e-Mohammad(JeM) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) are all one…writes Dr Sakariya Kareem

Abu Dhabi: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj at the inaugural session of the 46th Foreign Ministers Meeting of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), in Abu Dhabi, UAE, on March 1, 2019. (Photo: IANS/MEA) by .
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj at the inaugural session of the 46th Foreign Ministers Meeting of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), in Abu Dhabi, UAE (FIle)

The 57-countries strong Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) at its meeting in United Arab Emirates (UAE) dealt multiple set-backs to Pakistan when it was hoping for world’s reaction to India’s “aggression” in its favour in Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa.  No sympathetic reaction came.  Not even from its so-called all-weather friend China.  The OIC made its reaction very clear by standing by its invitation to India’s Foreign Minister to be the Chief Guest at the meeting despite the boycott by Pakistan, a founder member of the OIC.

Indian Air Force bombed Jaish-e-Mohammad’s terror training camps, in Balakot where, according to intelligence reports, about 300 terrorists were assembling to review the suicide attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama on February 14 killing 40 CRPF men.  It was said they had gathered to hatch another attack in India.  Before they could act, Indian jets pounded then early morning of February 26, i.e. 12 days after the Pulwama carnage.

The world’s indifferent reaction to India’s action in Balakot shows that Pakistan’s persistence with its terror policy is isolating it in the world. Of course, Pakistan will reject this assessment.  Those sections of Pakistanis, who have been benefiting, in one way or the other, from China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), have confidence in China because this country does not insist, at least publicly on Pakistan not to give protection to terrorists. On contrary, China’s support to Jaish-e-Mohammad’s Chief Masood Azhar in United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has isolated it in this body.  Some reports in Pakistani press indicate that China wants to free itself from this embarrassment in the UNSC.  By not siding with its all weather friend on its complaint of “aggression” in Balakot on February 26, China, perhaps wanted to tell Pakistan that it is finding it difficult to carry Azhar cross any further.

In fact, what Azhar’s outfit did in Pulwama on February 14 and claimed it proudly and how cussedly Imran Khan’s Government reacted to it, must have disgusted his country’s well-wishers even in the Muslim world.  What happened in the OIC was a clear sign of it at a time when the Muslim countries have formed a front under the leadership of Saudi Arabia, to challenge terrorism.  Pakistan is not in it though its former Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif is its Commander.  In other words, with Saudi Arabia-led Muslim Countries’ anti-terrorism front, it is no more easy for the OIC to ignore Pakistan-based terrorist activities in neighboring countries.  The OIC’s invitation to the Indian External Affairs Minister to be the Chief guest at its meeting, could be its well-meditated message, or rather an affront, to Pakistan.  It has been Pakistan’s effort right since its inception 52 years ago to keep India out of it though it (India) has world’s second largest Muslim population a larger than what Pakistan has.  All these years the OIC passed one-sided Pakistan planted false resolutions on Kashmir disappointing India.

PAKISTAN-KARACHI-INDEPENDENCE DAY-CELEBRATIONS by .
Pakistani navy soldiers attend a ceremony at the mausoleum of the founder of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah to mark the country’s Independence Day in southern Pakistani port city of Karachi on Aug. 14, 2018. Pakistan got independence from the British colonial rule on Aug. 14, 1947 after a heroic struggle under the leadership of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. (Xinhua/Masroor) (qxy)

The invitation to the Indian External Affairs Minister was made more unpalatable for Pakistan because the OIC went ahead with it despite its complaint of “aggression” by India in Balakot.  Imran Khan’s government was enraged. It boycotted the OIC meeting.  Its Foreign Minister Mahmud Qureshi said this meeting of the OIC was called at Pakistan’s initiative to discuss Kashmir.  But the OIC invited India without informing it.  The OIC rapped incursion into Balakot, yet it stood by this invitation.  Hence, the boycott still worse an Urdu BBC commentator said the OIC meeting did not include Kashmir in its agenda. Another commentator said Pakistan’s friends are now India’s friends.

An article in Urdu ‘Ibrat’ says Pakistan should have attended the meeting to remind the OIC countries of its “sacrifices” for Muslims.  But what sacrifices? In the 1950s, Pakistan joined Western countries against Muslim Egypt during the Suez canal crisis.  During the 1970s Gen Ziaul Haq cracked down Muslim Palestinians on the orders of the king of Jordon.  In the early 1990s Nawaz Sharif’s government supported the United States aggression against Muslim Iraq.  And now China is emboldened by Pakistan’s connivance to de-Islamise Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.  Pakistan’s sacrifices’ for its own Muslims are well-known. They killed about three million Muslims in East Pakistan in less than a year in 1971. From 1948 to now the Pakistani Army has killed thousands of Muslim Baluch in aerial bombing and extra-judicial actions.

Pakistan has a cross-border terrorism policy against Muslim neighbours-Iran and Afghanistan – and a policy of interference in the internal affairs of Muslim Bangladesh.  The above record of Pakistan does not seem to have bothered the OIC much so far.  But now that about 40 Muslims countries have vowed to fight terrorism under the leadership of Saudi Arabia, the OIC’s perception about who promotes terrorism should change. It is now very clear that Al Qaeda, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Lashkar-e-Toyyabba (LeT), Jamaat-ud-Dawa(JuD), Jaish-e-Mohammad(JeM) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) are all one.   The last four have their safe havens in Pakistan.  The first two are always in and out of Pakistan where they have their supports among Islamists, officialdom and the Armed forces.

Whatever Pakistan may boast, it cannot deny two messages the Balakot episode has delivered to it.  One, India cannot be taken for granted. India’s non-retaliation against earlier terror attacks such as in Mumbai in November 2008 might have encouraged some terrorists and their backers to take India as a sitting duck.  The message of the Balakot operation should warn Pakistan not to take India’s meekness for its weakness.  One has to examine the belief instilled in the minds of Pakistanis during Gen Ayub Khan’s rule to understand why they won’t learn a lesson having lost thrice in wars imposed by it.  In the 1960s they were brainwashed to believe that one Pakistani was equal to 10 Indians in valour.  At least Pakistani Islamists and terrorists continue to suffer from this fallacy despite humiliation in 1965 and 1971 at the hands of India.  Till its Army’s humiliating defeat in 1971, Pakistan Army propagated this fallacy through dramas on radio from Muzaffarabad in occupied Kashmir throughout the 1960s.

Qamar Javed Bajwa. (Photo: Twitter/@iamCOAS) by .
Qamar Javed Bajwa. (Photo: Twitter/@iamCOAS)

The dilemma of the Pakistani Army is that it is willing to wound but afraid to strike.  It is, therefore, using terrorists to hit India to stop it from becoming a big power.  The anti-India Islamists and terrorists may still be believing one Pakistani is equal to ten Indians. Their frustration is that their army and they cannot prove their belief by action.  This kind of thinking against India in Pakistan was not understood in the West till the United States tasted Pak-Af based terrorism on September 11, 2001 (or 09/11) in New York and Washington. It was after this the US realized Pakistan was breeding poisonous snakes in its background.  It was only now that they acknowledged that India was a target of these snakes.  They also realized these snakes were slithering to the West. Now it is not only the West and India who complain of State-sponsored terrorism from Pakistan but other countries too including China and Muslims countries have indicated their conviction to this effect.

That is the reason why India’s retaliation in Balakot did not provoke sympathies for Pakistan in the world.  In fact this retaliation has exposed Pakistan for housing terror camps in far-flung regions.  Pakistan claims there were no terror camps where the Indian jets dropped bombs in Balakot.  Going by the locals versions of Pakistani Army’s ‘actions’ in tribal region against Al Qaeda and other militants who had escaped from Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban government, it looks the Army is the master of making appear and disappear terror camps in a jiffy. These militants had made their bases here to launch attacks on Afghanistan.

The Pakistani Army, as partners in the US-led war against terrorism, was supposed to conduct search operations to catch them.  But the local people, who were angry with the Army hosting these militants on the quiet on their land, repeatedly told Urdu BBC during 2002-2004, that the Army whisked away these militants along with their weapons, tents and luggage in their Army trucks to safer places when the Allied forces got the wind of their camps. This double dealing of Pakistan did not remain a secret from the Allied forces for long.