Whenever the Kashmir crisis re-enters international headlines, India’s perpetual narrative regarding the Pakistani state tends to get amplified outside of south Asia and unfortunately, Pakistan typically does little to counter the propaganda in a point-for-point manner. Below are some frequently repeated but unsubstantiated and materially false accusations against Pakistan (almost all of which are Indian in origin), following explanations of the truth behind the matter.
–“Pakistan funds terror organisations”
Such accusations require proof and lots of it. When it comers to detailing such proof, a good source is Wikileaks. This is the case due to the fact that Wikileaks has a well documented record of exposing regimes which in fact do fund terrorist groups, as well as a strong record of exposing war crimes committed by various regimes throughout the world.
Fortunately, there is a lot of information on Pakistan contained in the United States diplomatic cables leak which was first published by Julian Assange’s organisation between 2010 and 2011. A summary of the leaks demonstrates a high level of confidence in Pakistan’s military by US officials who were otherwise sceptical of Pakistan’s then PPP led government.
This should not be surprising due to the fact that while Pakistan’s Army excelled at repelling terrorist onslaughts that could have otherwise destroyed the entire nation, the PPP government was effectively useless.
Fortunately, since then, Pakistan’s governance has greatly improved, but the fact remains that even in the early 2000s, US officials privately admitted that Pakistan’s military was a strong counter-terrorist force, rather than the terrorist backer, funder and enabler that India consistently accuses it of being.
Even a sensationally headlined article from the Times of India called Wikileaks: Pakistan’s Worst Nightmare, fails to mention any linkage between Pakistani state institutions and terror groups. In hindsight, the article actually vindicates the position of the Pakistani Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) as the November 2010 article reveals that American allies at the time were worried that non-state terror groups would take over all of Pakistan. Thanks to Pakistan repelling these terrorist forces, the fears of 2010 have been rendered redundant.
Finally, in 2009, Wikileaks published internal emails from the pro-Washington US based think tank Stratfor. Here, it was thought that Pakistan’s ISI was trying to promote the Khalistan movement in Indian Punjab. For the sake of context, Canada’s current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been scolded by New Delhi for his open associations with pro-Khalistan activists in both India and North America.
Of course, nothing came of the fears expressed in the Stratfor emails and today, the biggest centres of pro-Khalistan activism tend to be among NGOs and unaffiliated activists in Canada and Britain – not Pakistan.
“Pakistan allows terrorists to operate on its soil”
All nations are in danger of terrorists operating on their soil and in this sense, there is nothing exceptional about Pakistan. What is exceptional is how Pakistan’s duel-track approach to counter-extremism has turned the once ungovernable Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province into a place capable of good governance and economic renewal. While Pakistan’s Army and ISI worked for decades to stem the tide of terrorism in what was once called the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), 2013’s provincial election saw the dawning of a new era in the politics of what after 2010 became KP province.
In 2013, Imran Khan’s PTI led a regional coalition government which emphasised the need for civil institutions to work hand in hand with the Army and ISI, in order to eradicate the extremism that took hold in the province after terrorists from Afghanistan flooded the area after the US war on the Afghan Taliban government, which began in 2001.
The KP of today is very different than the KP of the past. In Imran Khan’s own words, the people of KP do not give politicians second chances as they know that the difference between good and poor government can literally be a matter of life or death. Today’s PTI majority provincial assembly continues to oversee expanded opportunities in the realms of education, medical care, the improved status of women and the elimination of local warlords and Afghan born terrorist leaders who in the past used a combination of material bribery and blackmail to stifle the freedoms of the population and retard the progress of healthy state institutions.
This is a clear example of Pakistan fighting terror with a root and branch approach and it is one that now serves as an internationally acknowledged model for counter-extremism.
In Pakistan’s south-west Balochistan province, the country has for decades faced terrorism from the BLA whose links with both India and in the 70s and 80s, the USSR, were well known. While the BLA still remains active thanks to its relationship with some foreign regimes, the group is far weaker than it once was. Furthermore, the economic renewal of Balochistan owing to the Chinese funded Gwadar port which forms the southern terminus of CPEC, has led many ordinary people to themselves join the fight against political extremism and anti-state violence, so that they can enjoy a peaceful and prosperous future that CPEC and related development projects can bring. Of note, infamous English anti-Islam hate preacher Tommy Robinson has been on record supporting anti-Pakistan separatism in Balochistan. This may help to contextualise the kinds of people who support anti-Pakistan terrorism for a western audience.
Of course, there are still some small al-Qaeda linked cells in parts of western Pakistan. This itself is largely the legacy of the disastrous Soviet and American wars in Afghanistan. That being said, contrary to much Indian propaganda, al-Qaeda and all related groups are proscribed as illegal by Pakistan and hundreds of Pakistani soldiers have been martyred in the fight against an international terror group that unfortunately still has members across all continents.
Pakistanis know full well of the dangers of such a terrorist presence and as such are well prepared to fight this terror either alone or with an honest and transparent partner. In this sense, Pakistan’s fight against terrorism continues and this fight against an internationally recognised terror group should be supported rather than undermined by Pakistan’s neighbours.
–“Pakistan is run by its Army”
The history of armies leading countries out of dark periods and into those of renewal is well established throughout modern history. At a time when modern Turkey was threatened with western directed colonialism on all sides after 1918, it was Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s Turkish National Movement that reclaimed Turkey’s dignity and helped to form the modern Republic of Turkey. As it was Atatürk’s army that helped to create the modern state, so too did the army play a major role in shaping Turkey’s politics until very recent years when it became clear that the civilian government had sufficiently modernised itself and was up to the important task of overseeing stable governance. Yet few in the west nor in Asia have insulted the historic role of Turkey’s army in the way that they have done in respect of Pakistan.
In many ways, Pakistan’s 21st century war against a multitude of terror groups has been even more harrowing than the Turkish War of Independence. While for decades India had sponsored terror groups aiming to sever Pakistan’s national unity whilst no Afghan government has ever recognised Pakistan’s internationally acknowledged border along the Durand Line, it was the unleashing of George W. Bush’s “war on terror” that for Pakistan became a war for survival as extremist groups supported by Pakistan’s regional enemies swarmed across the border causing havoc throughout the country, but particularly in the north-west.
While America’s misguided war on Afghanistan after 2001 was supposed to be a war to avenge the 9/11 atrocity, this war unleashed onto Pakistan many micro-9/11s in which civilians were slaughtered by terror groups that were perversely aided by the fledgling Kabul forces that the US had installed. While US drone strikes in Pakistan killed civilians almost as frequently as they targeted actual terrorists, it was Pakistan’s Army that succeeded in turning groups like Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan from a force that threatened to plant the flag of terror in Islamabad into a rudderless, leaderless rump whose power has more or less been totally neutralised.
Between the period of 1999 and 2013, Pakistan’s Army was the one constant in a political system that ping-ponged between the Musharraf quasi-dictatorship and the corrupt 2008 election which re-established parliamentary democracy, but which failed to re-establish accountability. This is one of the reasons why PTI boycotted the 2008 election.
By 2013, Pakistan’s political system began to stabilise and in 2018, Pakistan held its second ever peaceful and democratic transition of power which saw a tired PML-N government give way to PTI’s first ever “third way” government in Pakistan.
While today, a competent government co-exists with a strong military in the same way that such a status quo exists in the US, Turkey, Russia and China, it is helpful to remember that between 1999 and recent years, the professionalism of the Army and ISI was literally the difference between Pakistan’s existence and the country being totally consumed by terrorism. Again, the US diplomatic cables leak published by Wikileaks ten years ago, underscores the fact that in private, American strategists acknowledged this as the dire reality of the early 2000s in Pakistan.
At a time when Pakistan’s political parties were heavily compromised, the Army and ISI kept the people safe so that democracy could one day be re-established. Today, that democracy has been re-established – so much so that the chattering classes of Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi are living so well that they have little better to do than complain about minutiae.
“Pakistan funds terrorism in Kashmir”
This argument is worse than false, it is a cop-out. Like many parts of the world, Indian occupied Kashmir (IOK) is home to an indigenous resistance against the presence of hundreds of thousands of heavily armed soldiers who have committed countless atrocities against the civilian population. These atrocities have frankly been far better documented by the United Nations than by the Pakistani state. To say that resistance to this occupation is Pakistan’s fault, implies that Kashmirs have no political agency and are somehow too weak or too stupid to demand the enforcement of their UN mandated right to self-determination. This is a dangerous distortion of reality and an insult to the human condition itself.
Furthermore, if one wonders why some groups in IOK have resorted to extreme measures, one should realise that in the words of Gandhi himself “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind”. As such, violence begets violence and as Indian forces clearly have the upper hand against a local resistance incapable of full scale mobilisation, India has a unique responsibility to de-escalate the situation and allow a proper international dialogue to take place, with the aim of fomenting the peace process mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 47.
This will save both Kashmiri lives and the lives of Indian soldiers. This is a win-win solution that Pakistan publicly endorses.
To put it in a different context, while groups classified as extreme by Pakistan exist in IOK, India’s ruling BJP exists as part of a consummate alliance with the militant Hindutva extremist group RSS. The contrast could not be more stark.
Finally, many in Pakistan who believe strongly in the cause of peaceful political self-determination for the people of IOK are very transparent about the fact that they believe Pakistan does too little on the Kashmir issue. In this sense, pro-Kashmiri activists themselves can help to expose the false Indian narrative which states that all anti-occupation Kashmiris are somehow tools of Islamabad.
Pakistan has faced threats to its existence from the moment it achieved independent statehood. In spite of this, the Pakistani people have persevered against the odds and today look forward to continually developing their state on the 21st century model of peace through prosperity. Today’s Pakistan is one that looks to the future whilst sadly, others are stuck repeating the false anti-Pakistani epithets of the past.