Deep State's help to Pakistan's JuD, LeT risky-Expert

ANI | Updated: May 17, 2018 13:08 IST

Washington D.C. [United States of America], May 17 (ANI): An expert on South Asian affairs has cautioned the ruling dispensation in Pakistan, and particularly the country's armed forces and intelligence, also known as the "Deep State" not to go overboard in extending its support or assistance to terror-backing outfits like the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI).
In an article written for and published by the Hudson Institute, C. Christine Fair, Provost's Distinguished Associate Professor, Security Studies Program at the Washington-based Georgetown University, says, "The Deep State has gone to tremendous lengths to help ensconce JuD firmly and formally within Pakistan's domestic politics and it has successfully fended off international pressure to clamp down on the organization."
Fair in making a reference to the Milli Muslim League's (MML) formal entry into electoral politics, lists at least five reasons why this over reliance on the JuD and the LeT on the part of the "Deep State" is risky.
She says, First, what if the MML-despite the deep state's most concerted effort-fails to become a viable party with national standing? Given that the MML is the de facto political wing of the JUD, will an MML political electoral catastrophe adversely affect the legitimacy of JuD's militant activities abroad or its efforts to fight takfiri foes at home?
Second, will the MML simply join the crowd of religious parties or could the MML be a competitor to or collaborator with the Jamaat-e-Islami, the Islamist political party that has long been the political handmaiden of the army and the ISI at home and abroad?
Third, when confronted with the demands of winning votes, how will the MML's staunch opposition to takfir (A controversial concept in Islamist discourse, denoting excommunication) as practiced by myriad Deobandi militant groups manifest itself in political competition with various factions of the Jamiat Ulema-e Islam (JUI), the Deobandi political party?
Fourth, Alternatively, what happens if the MML manages to establish a robust grassroots presence throughout Pakistan as transpired when General Zia-ul-Haq helped Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League-N become a party with a national presence and political legitimacy?
Fifth, Will the MML and the JuD be able to maneuver itself into a position of greater financial and policy independence from the ISI and the army, which has patronized the organization for so long?
Professor Fair is of the view that the army "presumably anticipates that it will be able to enjoy many years of acquiescent partnership with the MML before it has to consider a serious divergence of interests."
Admitting that the LeT enjoys the unstinted support of the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment, Professor Fair recalls that in 2002, when the United States designated it a Foreign Terrorist Organization along with Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) after the latter conducted a suicide attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001., Pakistani intelligence notified them both, "which allowed them to regroup under different names and move their funds to new bank accounts."
"In the case of LeT, the group's leader, Hafiz Saeed, announced the formation of a new organization, Jamaat ud Dawa (JuD)... Pakistan has continued to defy international calls to ban its pliant proxy and, under the watchful eye of the state, LeT has continued to proliferate other front organizations, including the ostensibly humanitarian organization, Falah Insaniat Foundation (Foundation for Welfare of Humanity, FIF). Most recently, in August 2007, LeT audaciously floated a political party, Milli Muslim League (the National Muslim League, MML), for the purposes of contesting Pakistan's upcoming 2018 general elections," Fair said.
She believes that Pakistan's move to create the MML has more to it than is visible to the naked eye.
Fair says, "I contend that the formation of the MML is part of a more serious effort to use the pro-state organization against the myriad militant groups tearing the state apart, while also investing in another political alternative to the current political parties that will pay dividends over the longer time horizon."
"Based upon available information about the MML, its ties to the JuD and its mentorship by Pakistan's security organizations, I reject the claim that the MML's formation signals a new effort on the part of the Pakistani state to redirect JuD's external militarism towards a new domesticated political role, and thus serves as a state-directed "de-radicalization" or "demobilization" effort to mainstream Islamist militants."
"I argue, instead, that the MML will be a complement to JuD's efforts to stabilize Pakistan internally and enhance LeT's external activities in the service of the deep state."
Professor Fair says that, "It is very unlikely that (Hafeez) Saeed could have launched the MML without the explicit approval and active assistance of the army and the ISI, given that Saeed made this announcement a mere few weeks after he was released from house arrest."
She believes that the MML has made rapid strides in Pakistan politics because of the "explicit backing and support of the Pakistani security establishment".
She also makes a mention of the significant role being played by Pakistan's Information Secretary Tabish Qayyum in ensuring the legitimization of the MML through his various articles, even going to the extent of saying that the JuD is an ideal foil to the ISIS
"Qayyum's writings and digital footprint provide the clearest evidence (yet) of the support that the MML has enjoyed from Pakistan's security establishment as well as its inherent ties to JuD,"Professor Fair says.
She also highlights the fact that the MML has aggressively been able to market its manifesto well enough for the media in Pakistan to give it the right kind of mileage.
"What is puzzling about the MML's emergence is that even though Saeed has abjured politics since its founding, he has not bothered to offer even a modest explanation for the volte face. (Notably, no one has asked Saeed to justify this reversal.) Instead, Saeed and the JuD are behaving as if the MML is a natural progression for the organization," Professor Fair opines.
"In addition to fostering the internal security concerns of the deep state, there is little doubt that the army anticipates that the MML, over the longer term, will be a future partner in curtailing Pakistan's beleaguered democracy.. The army views the two mainstream political parties (the Pakistan Peoples' Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League of Nawaz Sharif (PML-N)) as nemeses, while Imran Khan, for his part, has repeatedly demonstrated that his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) can be a tool for disruptive politics, but not a party able to form a government...the army needs to cultivate new political partners if it has any hope of continuing to keep Pakistan's democracy on a short leash," she concludes. (ANI)