Islamabad’s ban on Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and its head, Hafiz Saeed, will avoid risk of any possible sanctions against Pakistan, yet dialogue between India and Pakistan is, however, unlikely any time soon. In a recent move Pakistani authorities put Hafiz Saeed and several other affiliates of JuD under house arrest and at the end of January. Few days after the ban, the police stopped JuD from holding a conference on the Kashmir issue in Hyderabad.
These developments took place when unconfirmed reports suggested that US officials have clarified to Pakistan to take steps against JuD or face sanctions. It is widely believed that the recent action against Hafiz Saeed was taken after the US demand. The political and military leadership are aware of the importance of the viable economy of Pakistan at the time when costly war on terror (operation Zarb-e-Azb) is in its final stage. The PM would never opt for sanctions against the country as the Pakistani stock exchange and economy is doing well, an achievement that his party would try to cash in during the next election in 2018.
DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor in his maiden press briefing said that the action against JuD was taken in national interest. He also said that the action was decided by all the institutions (civil and military). In addition, a section of diplomatic circles believes that by stressing on anti-militancy the US wanted to make some grounds for resumption of Pak-India dialogue that got stalled after the Mumbai attack. And banning outfits blamed for the 2008’s terrorist attack is a tool for taking a step forward to normalise the situation between the two South Asian arch-rivals armed with nukes. Trump had in fact vowed during his election campaign to resolve core issues between Pakistan and India.
But contrary to the expectations, the recent steps against the suspected culprit of the Mumbai attack has caused no positive response on the part of India’s Modi-led government, who had pledged to isolate Pakistan on allegations of supporting terror attacks, the charges Pakistan rebuffs. The steps against Saeed just renewed blame game between India and Pakistan. The Indian external affairs ministry in a statement issued the next day after the house arrest of Saeed demanded of Pakistan to conduct a “credible crackdown” on militant groups. Responding to the Indian reaction, in his weekly briefing, Foreign Office Spokesman Nafees Zakiriya blamed India for supporting terrorism in Pakistan. This delayed the efforts for persistent dialogue between New Delhi and Islamabad.
Apparently, the reason for such a phenomenon is that the BJP wishes to keep its vote bank intact till the next elections. Modi’s past several years’ political history shows that anti-Pakistan stances were used as tactics to be popular among his voters. Just to prove his government as arrogant, Modi did not respond to several recent other positive gestures from Pakistan for deescalating tensions between the two countries. Pakistan has given several positive signals to New Delhi for reviving the dialogues. Recently Pakistan handed over an Indian soldier, who was arrested when he crossed the LoC a few months back in an amicable way to the Indian officials. Similarly, despite Indian negativity at last year’s Saarc conference in Pakistan, Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz visited Amritsar for the Heart of Asia Conference and faced harassment from the Indian government and the Afghan president instead of getting an opportunity for at least informal talks from the Indian side.
Then India finds pretext for its behaviour to deflect any possible pressure for resumption of the dialogue as well.
What Pakistan and India need to comprehend is that a conflict-free zone is in the interest of the two countries and peace, not random bursts of clashes could resolve issues between them.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 9th, 2017.
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