The lowdown on the crackdown

The powerful similarity between events preceding this week’s ban on three Islamic groups and last month’s capture of 18 ‘al-Qaeda’ suspects from the tribal areas, is a striking example of Pakistan’s policy choices increasingly succumbing to the Bush administration’s preferences.
The government’s apologists may well argue that the two recent examples – the banning of the three Islamic groups and the action against alleged ‘al-Qaeda’ members, could not be characterised as taken under US pressure, simply because the planning for each of these campaigns began long before the public messages from Washington. Yet, it’s equally true that even the most well thought explanation could not work to pacify the scepticism making the rounds of the public.
Farhan Bokhari, The News/Jang.

With folks like Nancy Powell and Zalmay Khalilzad keeping up the pressure, Musharraf seems to have been forced to make some moves. As I pointed out in my recent posts, it was a case of words speaking more loudly than actions. Key jehadi leaders like Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar are still on the loose, the bank accounts were seized after giving enough time for moving funds out and many names on the ‘list’ were of emigres or dead persons.

The results of the crackdown seem to be less impactful than they should have been, nevertheless they are more acceptable than the alternative. The pressure must be maintained, though.

Updates:

  • Hussain Haqqani writes
    But the heart of the general or his team is not in abandoning the jihadis. They would like the jihadis to behave, avoid public display of fervour and attacks on domestic sectarian targets. There would be penalties for not toeing the line, occasional crackdowns.
    But the jihadis cannot and will not be treated as the enemy — unlike politicians, instinctively considered enemies by the ruling generals.
    Pakistan’s rulers see this as a win-win strategy. Pakistan gets the benefit of being a US ally, without giving up the option of sub-conventional warfare for influence in Afghanistan and Kashmir…
    Given India has repeatedly blundered in handling Kashmiris, it is only a matter of time before the indigenous unrest reaches the proportions of the early 1990s. The jihadis would be useful at that stage, especially if the Americans pull out of Afghanistan or their interest in the war against terrorism declines. The Indian Express

  • Nasim Zehra’s scholarly analysis of Pakistan’s anti-terrorism strategy
  • Well-placed sources in the Pakistani establishment have told Asia Times Online that – the Pakistani government’s denials apart – there is a serious split between those who decide (generals) and those who implement (field commanders) Pakistani policy.

    Saleem Shehzaad also reports that the Pakistani field commanders and ISI elements masterminded the failure of a joint US-Pakistan anti-terror operation in South Waziristan. This probably was the main event that caused the US to exert pressure on Musharraf, and brought about the latest crackdown.

  • Christina Rocca refuses public comment on the Taliban-ISI nexus
  • B Raman completes the lowdown with a detailed article in Outlook Online; excerpts
    Surprisingly, the Government did not ban the activities of the LET under its new name. It only placed it on a so-called watch list in order to monitor its activities under its new name of JUD…
    No action has been taken against their offices in POK and the Northern Areas, thereby indicating that, as in the case of the previous ban, the present ban too does not apply to these areas where they would be free to act as they pleased…
    (Musharraf) has consistently evaded any action against the HUM and the HUJI.The HUM has been figuring in the US list of Foreign Terrorist Organisations since October, 1997, and has been involved in acts of terrorism in India, the southern Philippines and Chechnya. So is the HUJI. The HUM was also involved in the terrorist strikes of last year against Western nationals in Pakistani territory and in the 1995 kidnapping of some Western tourists in Kashmir under the name Al Faran. Despite this, he has never banned it.