For the first time, Pakistan’s ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif has publicly acknowledged that militant organisations are active in the country and questioned the policy to allow the “non-state actors” to cross the border and “kill” people in Mumbai.
Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has questioned the policy of using Pakistan-based militant groups for cross-border attacks on India as he mounted a scathing attack on the powerful military establishment’s perceived meddling in politics.
Sharif, ousted from his post by the Supreme Court last July for dishonesty in the Panama Papers case and subsequently barred from contesting elections for life, indicated during an interview with Dawn newspaper that Pakistan had been isolated by the world community for failing to counter terrorism.
On the campaign trail in Multan ahead of general elections expected in a few months, the three-time premier said: “Militant organisations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me.
“Why can’t we complete the trial?” he added, an apparent reference to the trial of seven Lashkar-e-Taiba members, including operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, for their alleged role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people.
Speaking to Pakistani newspaper Dawn, Sharif, who was ousted from power by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in the Panama Papers case in 2017, said the following:
“Militant organisations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me. Why can’t we complete the trial?” — a reference to the Mumbai attacks-related trials which have stalled in a Rawalpindi anti-terrorism court.
The Mumbai attacks trial, which began in early 2009, has stalled in an anti-terrorism court in Islamabad. The judge has been changed more than eight times and the chief prosecutor was recently removed. Lakhvi is currently free on bail.
Sharif, 68, evaded a question on the reason for his ouster from public office and steered the conversation towards foreign policy and national security. He indicated that Pakistan’s policy on terrorism had failed to satisfy the world community.
“We have isolated ourselves. Despite giving sacrifices, our narrative is not being accepted. Afghanistan’s narrative is being accepted, but ours is not. We must look into it,” he said.
In an apparent reference to the military’s meddling in politics and its role in anti-corruption investigations against members of the Sharif family and leaders of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), the 68-year-old Sharif said: “You can’t run a country if you have two or three parallel governments. This has to stop. There can only be one government: the constitutional one.”
Sharif, whose second term was ended by a coup led by former army chief Pervez Musharraf in 1999, has for long run into trouble with the military for his efforts to normalise relations with India.
In 2016, the PML-N government’s relations with the military establishment soured after Dawn reported that the civilian leadership had told the army of Pakistan’s growing international isolation for failing to act against terror groups such as the LeT, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Haqqani Network.
Observers believe the row resulted in the army’s efforts to whittle down Sharif’s powers and sideline the PML-N ahead of the polls in 2018.
The statement is a strong indictment of Pakistan where even almost a decade after the dastardly attacks, despite overwhelming evidence, the masterminds of the attack are not only scot-free but continue to enjoy state patronage, with the likes of Hafiz Saeed being granted Pakistan’s own version of Z+ security and the freedom of the land to launch his politico-terror vehicle Milli Muslim League with which he intends to continue justifying Pak terror in Kashmir.
While Ajmal Kasab, the LeT terrorist who was captured by India during the attack, has faced capital punishment and David Headley, the agent who conducted reconnaissance, is lodged in a US jail with a 35-year sentence after pleading guilty to his role in the attack, Saeed and Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi either roam free or are placed under sham ‘house arrests’ when it appears that there’s global pressure to act.
As per official figures 166 people had died while over 600 were injured in the horrific attacks in South Mumbai.