Pakistan: Is it possible to break the links to radical groups?

A leaked Abbottabad’s report on Osama bin Laden’s life in Pakistan claimed that it can not rule out the possibility that someone in the government was complicit in hiding OBL. It is probably not a shocker, isn’t it? But is it even somehow possible to break or weaken those links some elements in Pakistani government, intelligence and military have to radical, terrorist groups? Read few comments.

Shaun GregoryProfessor of International Security in the School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University

I think you have to separate the issue of whether the government/Army/ISI was complicit in hiding OBL from the wider question of Pakistani gov/Army/ISI support for radical terrorist groups. It is clear that there are some radical/terrorist groups in Pakistan – most importantly the Lashkar-e-Toiba – which enjoy the backing of the state, wider public support, and which are large organisations with political and social roles (much like Hamas and Hezbollah). These groups are viewed by the Pakistani state as strategic assets. This means that the Pakistan state would expect LeT to fight for the state if Pakistan is attacked by India, the US or Israel. It also means that the Pakistani state stands behind the LeT as it conducts violent operations against India both to destabilise India and to pressure India over Kashmir.

So the answer to your question is that Pakistan gov /Army/ISI can be incentivised to act against those terror groups which threaten the Pakistan state (or example the Mehsud TTP, TNSM, Balochistan Liberation Army, etc), but it is very very unlikely that it will act against groups like the LeT, SSP or Afghan Taliban which serve its strategic interests.

Marvin Weinbaum, Professor Emeritus of Plitical Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Scholar-in-Residence, Middle East Institute

What I can say is that the way I understand the operations of the security services in Pakistan is that they operate under general guidelines which enable them to undertake operations—like hiding OBL— that may be approved by higher officials but that those officials are deliberately kept uninformed so that they have plausible deniability.

At this point in time breaking links to groups like LeT would be virtually impossible. The organization is too closely intwined with the ISI. Also, LeT has roots in the society that give it considerable immunity from its being curbed. Only if LeT and other jihadi groups that do not attack the state were to change their policy would the military be forced to act. At this stage the government has no desire to make enemies of its favored extremist groups. It has enough on its hands with those groups that it has little influence on.

Sagarika Dutt, Senior Lecturer, Politics and International Relations, Nottingham Trent University

I agree with the views expressed in this report. But, in my opinion it does not suggest that Pakistan is sponsoring terrorism. It has supported radical groups like the Taleban, in the past, for achieving its own aims, usually relating to Pakistan’s security. But Pakistan is not necessarily out to destroy western countries. The Pakistani military and intelligence have their own strategic calculations that need to be understood.

On the other hand, the rise of Islamism is a threat to all societies, including Pakistan. It will be possible to weaken the links between the Pakistani military, intelligence and radical/ terrorist groups as the country becomes more democratic, governance improves, and the army and ISI cease to operate in a clandestine fashion. Pakistan is a weak developing country and that is part of the problem.


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