‘Taliban Khan’ and some of his cabinet ministers are so sympathetic with militants. When Prime Minister Imran Khan is looking for a Taliban model justice system to cure the social evils, several members in his cabinet have openly voiced their support for the likes of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar and Hafiz Saeed….writes Dr Sakariya Kareem
Former Pakistan Senator Mr Farhatullah Babar, Secretary General of Pakistan People’s Party, is a respected politician across the world. There are many admirers for him because of his stand on issues like freedom of expression and people’s rights. He was press secretary to former president Asif Ali Zardari. When Babar tweets he does know that the world is watching them. So on 4th April 2019, he re-tweeted some thoughts on Prime minister Imran Khan which made by ‘Naila Inayat’ which accurately reflect the prevailing milieu in Pakistan.
The original tweet reads: “PM confesses to draw inspiration from Taliban, four cabinet ministers overtly sympathetic to militants, Masood Azhar protected from UN action and Mumbai attack court case stalled why will the world believe that we are serious in fighting militants.”
Each of the statements made in the tweet provides insight into the mind of the Pakistani establishment and the challenge of dealing with a state that wholeheartedly supports extremism and terrorism. The first point made is about PM Imran Khan confessing to draw inspiration from the Taliban. In a recent interview to the BBC, PM Khan spoke his mind out when he appreciated the Taliban (or tribal) way of justice in Afghanistan. The world needs no reminder that Imran Khan has always maintained his sympathies for the Taliban. Little wonder that the media labelled him Imran ‘Taliban’ Khan! The Taliban justice system is the same as it exists in the tribal areas of Pakistan and there is little doubt that Pak PM Imran Khan would be quite happy to see the same system implemented in Pakistan.
The other point of note is that several ministers in Imran Khan’s cabinet have openly voiced their support for the likes of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar and Hafiz Saeed. In December last year, Pakistan’s Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Khan Afridi had been caught on video expressing support for Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) founder Hafiz Saeed and his political front, the Milli Muslim League (MML), which was designated a terror group by the United States in April 2018.
In the video, an MML representative can be heard telling Afridi about the party’s problems in getting registered with the Election Commission of Pakistan. Afridi, who belongs to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, responded by saying: “Insha Allah, (let) any mother’s son (do what they want), as long as we are in the (National) Assembly and Tehreek-e-Insaf is there, leave alone Hafiz Saeed sa’ab, anyone who is supporting Pakistan’s rights… we will support them. This is our tradition.”
Another minister Noor-ul-Haq Qadri, Pakistan Minister for Religious Affairs and Inter-faith Harmony, had earlier in September 2018 shared the stage with LeT and Jamat-ud-dawa founder Hafiz Saeed.
The event at which Qadri sat with Saeed was a meeting of the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (Defence of Pakistan Council — DFC). It was founded by the LeT/JuD chief in October 2011. The US announced a reward of US$ 10 million for information leading to Saeed’s arrest in 2012. In his speech during the meeting, Qadri made it clear that he was present at the DFC meeting on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s orders. Earlier, Imran Khan had sent a special message to the DFC at its very first rally in December 2011, and in February 2012, sent party vice-president Ejaz Chaudhary to its Karachi rally. There Chaudhary quoted Imran Khan has saying that he and his party the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) were fully supportive of the objectives of the DFC.
Clearly, Pakistan is not going to mend its ways! Or is it? If certain recent statements made by the Pak PM are anything to go by that is. Just under a year in office and Imran Khan has started making the right noises for the international community to hear on action being taken against extremists and terrorists operating in Pakistan. In a recent interview to the media in Islamabad, PM Khan said “We have decided, for the future of our country — forget the outside pressure — we will not allow armed militias to operate anymore,’’ he said. He admitted that the Pakistan Army created these groups, referring to the time when Pakistan’s ISI used US money and weapons to create extremist groups like the LeT and Taliban.
How exactly does ‘Taliban’ Khan intend to crackdown on the very forces the Pakistani state help create. It is not clear if his government will use the National Action Plan set in motion by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. It is unlikely that he will use military force as this would backfire on the PTI.
Reports indicate that the government has prepared a de-radicalisation plan which includes, sending 200,000 teachers to religious schools across Pakistan to teach secular subjects like English and Maths! There is little doubt that what is forcing the Pakistani government to think through actions against terrorists and extremists is the state of the economy and the need to avoid being blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
The economy is shaky and an IMF loan is in the offing. For this to fructify, Pakistan needs to show that it is serious about cracking down on terrorist entities operating from Pakistan soil.
Mr Babar is also very critical of the government’s rights violations and enforced disappearances. While addressing a protest demonstration held by the families of victims of enforced disappearances, Mr Babar urged the government to fulfill its promise for bringing in legislation to criminalise the practice and end torture of people in custody.
Mr Babar said that human rights were universal and not confined to national boundaries and demanded that the voice of victim families be heeded before they appealed to the international community.
Pakistani media widely report Babr’s quotes. He said the enforced disappearances are the worst form of torture, despotism, and negation of the rule of law that must not be allowed.
The former senator also said that internment centers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and erstwhile tribal areas had become “Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib prisons” of Pakistan and called for converting them into normal jails to be governed by jail manuals.
Curbs on freedom of expression had further aggravated the issue in internment centres, he said, deploring even lawmakers were not allowed to visit these centres.