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TRUMP CARD: Pakistan On Notice

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US President Donald Trump with global Arab leaders (Rashed Al Mansoori / Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi) ---

US President Trump’s decision on Pakistan will not see the end to training camps organised by ISI-backed jihadi groups like Hizbul Mujahidin in Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir…Dr Sakariya Kareem

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US President Donald Trump with global Arab leaders (Rashed Al Mansoori / Crown Prince Court – Abu Dhabi) —

 The US State Department has designated Hizbul Mujahidin as a Foreign Terror Organisation and a Specially Designated Global Terror Group far too late to make any difference to the Pakistan-sponsored unrest in Kashmir.

Even Pakistan doesn’t seem to be too much perturbed. Its Foreign Office said it was ‘saddened’ by the US action while hinting that the US was not considering anything against Pakistan because the US continues to seek its help in getting out of the Afghan mess.

The US action will not see the end to training camps organised by ISI-backed jihadi groups like Hizbul Mujahidin in Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Hizbul Mujahidin will find its assets in the US frozen and might have problems in raising money outside Pakistan. That again would be of no concern to the jihadi outfits in Pakistan who easily change their nomenclature and identity with the support of the State.

Over decades of operations, these groups always found ways to circumvent the so-called restrictions placed on their main activities—recruiting and training jehadis to carry out the nefarious Pakistani designs in India. Their push into India was always facilitated by the Pakistani army and that is not going to stop.

As for cash, the two sources of Pakistan-based terror groups will not dry up—individuals and the ISI. Individuals and organisations based inside Pakistan and in the Middle East are among the ‘donors’, the cash contributors to militant Islamic groups. They are not dependent on the banking network to send money to jehadis in Pakistan when the Hawala route is available to them.

Pakistan’s former President Pervez Musharraf

It was in 2001 when the US had first designated some India-centric Pakistani jihadi groups like Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-i-Tayyaba as global terror groups. Hizbul Mujahidin, founded in 1989 when militancy made its debut in Jammu and Kashmir, ought to have been in that first list.

It is difficult to say if that would have stopped the export of terror from Pakistan to India. The ‘banned’ militant groups in Pakistan do not face many hurdles in carrying out their militant activities in India  largely because of the help from the Pakistani military and government. With full knowledge of the Pakistani government, these so-called banned groups have been operating freely under different names, collecting money, recruiting jehadis and training them in small camps spread over Pakistani Punjab and PoK.

During the dictatorship of Pervez Musharraf, one of his ministers had converted his farm into a training camp for jehadis. The bigger terror training groups have continued to operate inside seminaries.

However, it cannot be said that the latest US move will have no impact whatsoever in Pakistan. The biggest worry for the Pakistanis is how to convince the outside world that those who kill innocent people in Kashmir are ‘freedom fighters’.

Members belonging to banned organisations like Hizbul Mujahidin or militant groups in Kashmir will not be accepted as ‘freedom fighters’ anywhere in the world.

The unrelenting anti-India propaganda unleashed by Pakistan is based primarily on hawking the line that Indian forces are ill-treating the ‘freedom fighters’ in Kashmir. Thanks to its appalling record in promoting global terrorism and its shameful duplicity in the fight against terror, Pakistan has found it impossible to make the world believe in its distorted and misleading narrative.

KHYBER AGENCY, Aug. 19, 2016 (Xinhua) -- Photo released by Pakistan's Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR) on Aug. 19, 2016, shows Pakistan Army Chief General Raheel Sharif (3rd R) sits with troops in northwest Pakistan's Khyber Agency. Pakistan Army Chief General Raheel Sharif on Friday visited troops in a mountainous region where the security forces are fighting the militants to block their cross-border movement, the military said. (Xinhua/ISPR/IANS) by .
Former Pakistan Army Chief General Raheel Sharif (3rd R) sits with troops in northwest Pakistan’s Khyber Agency

The Muslim world expresses lip sympathy to Pakistan in its anti-India tirade. India’s relations with Muslim countries have not suffered. Pakistan has been making futile efforts to alienate India from the Muslim world even though in some of these countries religious fundamentalism thrives with covert state support.

After designating Hizbul Mujahidin as a global terror group, the US has to move to the next stage of imposing some sort of ‘sanctions’ if it is really interested in choking Pakistani efforts to export terror to India. There have to be direct economic consequences on the government of Pakistan which is not ready to step back from using terror as an instrument of its state policy. It wants to subdue India and establish its hegemony over Afghanistan.

Pakistan may appear to exult over its ‘all weather’ friendship with China but it will find it very difficult to make progress without US bounty which it receives in the form of cash as well as military equipment. The US may have curtailed the quantum of aid it gives to Pakistan but that does not worry Pakistan.

What will certainly worry Pakistan is choking of US funds, unless it learns to ‘behave’, and further restrictions on the supply of US military equipment.

Many in the US are fed up with the Pakistani shenanigans. They want their administration to deal with Pakistan more strictly, judging its behaviour with facts on the ground. Americans do not want Pakistan to be allowed to work against US interests in Afghanistan or elsewhere and still expect large US dole.

The Chinese may have promised billions of dollar worth of aid to Pakistan but even the overflowing coffers in Beijing will find it difficult to satisfy the Pakistanis. In the last 70 years, Pakistanis have got used to living on large doses of foreign charity.

The US should have placed Pakistan in the same league as North Korea (and maybe Iran) for its duplicitous behaviour observed constantly since 9/11 terror attacks on US soil. The Trump administration is believed to be more realistic in assessing its Pakistan policy than the previous Obama administrations.

If that is true, Pakistan can expect strict punitive measures by Washington. Whether that will change it may not be sure. But at least, it will make Pakistan realise that it cannot take the world for granted and carry on with its policy of using terror as a legitimate state tool.