General Shuja Pasha, former chief of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s national intelligence agency, had admitted shortly after the Mumbai terror attack in 2008 that the attack was planned by “our people” (meaning officers of the ISI). This has been revealed by former Pakistani ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani in his forthcoming book. Gen Pasha made the startling admission to Haqqani during his visit to Washington on December 24-25, 2008. At the end of Gen Pasha’s meetings with his CIA counterpart Gen Michael Hayden, Gen Pasha visited Haqqani at his residence. “Pasha said to me, ‘Log hamaray thay, operation hamara nahin thha’,” Haqqani writes in the book titled, India vs Pakistan: Why Can’t We Just Be Friends? Haqqani said Gen Pasha told Gen Hayden that “retired military officers and retired intelligence officers” of Pakistan had been involved in the planning of the Mumbai terror attack. No wonder, the Pakistan government never agreed to co-operate with the Indian investigators and prosecutors in bringing the planners, executors and handlers of the terrorists engaged in the 26/11 attack.
Pakistan’s attitude in the Pathankot is similar. It has refused to pursue the case against the accused, just as it did in the 26/11 case, despite India providing all the evidence and even allowing Pakistani investigators to travel to the site of terror attack. As in the 26/11 case, so in the Pathankot case, vital evidence including intercepts of conversations before and during the attacks have been provided to Pakistan by India that pointed a finger at terror groups enjoying the patronage and support of the Pakistani military. India’s evidence pointed to Masood Azhar, the head of Jaish-e-Mohammad and his brother Abdul Rauf who took responsibility for the attack on the Pathankot airbase in a video posted on two websites, namely alqalam.com and rangonoor.com. When India facilitated probe into Pathankot terror attack by a five-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) of Pakistan, comprising military, police and intelligence agencies, it looked as though a new kind of understanding had been reached between the two nations to co-operate to fight terrorism. However, soon Pakistan threw off its façade. The Pakistani establishment fed the country’s media that the Pathankot attack was ‘stage-managed’ by India. India still awaits a formal response from Pakistan for allowing an NIA team to visit that country for conducting its investigation in the case.
Pakistan has likewise consistently denied patronage and protection that it has extended to Dawood Ibrahim who is an accused in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case and several other crimes. It is clear that it is the army which still calls the shots in Pakistan. The civilian government counts for little in so far as relations with India are concerned. The civilian government has tried several times to build up good relations with India – of course, without compromising on the Kashmir question – and New Delhi too has warmly responded. But every time the two countries seem to be reaching a point where normalization appears possible, the Pakistani army and ISI have done something to spoil the scene. The Pathankot case, and before that the killings on the Line of Control in Kashmir, were intended to disrupt the process that was started with the visit of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The admission by Gen Pasha that ISI officers planned the Mumbai attacks in 2008 only adds to the long list of revelations that Pakistani military played a role in planning attacks on India. There has been incontrovertible evidence of Pakistani military setting up training camps for terror groups and providing the recruits arms and also support in planning and executing attacks.
Of course, you can’t just blame the Pakistani military for normalization not happening between India and Pakistan. The Pakistani civilian leadership has been encouraging terrorism in Kashmir for years in its design to internationalize the Kashmir issue. Pakistan’s ambassador to India welcomes Kashmir separatist leaders to his residence. Nawaz Sharif raises the Kashmir issue in his meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, urging him to intervene in “defusing tensions” between Pakistan and India. He calls for holding of a plebiscite in the state. Sharif raises the issue in the UN General Assembly. Unless the civilian leaders of Pakistan give up internationalizing the Kashmir issue and resolve to settle it bilaterally with India – with active engagement of the leaders of the Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist communities of Kashmir – the Pakistani military hawks are going to find ample space to do mischief. It is the civilian leadership of Pakistan who must stand firm on taking Pakistan on road to friendship with India. Then only the Pakistani army will fail to unsettle them.