Act on LeT and JeM, top Pakistan cop had told Nawaz Sharif
New Delhi:More than three years before former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif questioned the policy of using Pakistan-based militants for assaults on India, the top cop who probed the Mumbai attacks had urged the PML-N government to take action against the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed in Punjab province.
Tariq Khosa, the former head of the Federal Investigation Agency and one of Pakistan’s most respected police officials, was asked by the PML-N government to prepare a counter-terrorism action plan in the aftermath of the Taliban massacre at an army-run school in Peshawar on December 16, 2014.
The “national counter-terrorism strategy” that Khosa presented to a working group, which included the then interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, on December 21, 2014, formed the basis of discussions that resulted in the National Action Plan on terror that was approved by the government later the same month.
In his book,The Faltering State, Khosa provides details of the counter-terrorism strategy, including the need for a crackdown on the LeT, JeM and other groups.
“The real heartland of militancy is in the Punjab province. Action against banned outfits like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the so-called Punjabi Taliban must be taken by the Punjab government,” says the strategy, included in full as an appendix in Khosa’s book.
The strategy also specifically called for action against “non-state actors” that are used to achieve foreign policy objectives.
“No non-state actors and militants will be allowed to operate in the country in the garb or façade of NGOs or so-called to achieve foreign policy objectives. Apart from banning a militant organisation, it is important to put restrictions on and ban the violence-prone activities of the office bearers and activists of the proscribed outfits,” says the strategy.
At the time, Punjab province was ruled by the PML-N, with the government headed by Sharif’s younger brother, chief minister Shehbaz Sharif.
By the time the 20-point National Action Plan (NAP) was approved, it included only a token reference to action against terror groups based in Punjab and did not specifically name organisations such as LeT, blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people.
The NAP only stated: “Zero tolerance for militancy in Punjab.”
Punjab continues to be the main base for both the LeT and JeM, which raise most of their funds and get most of their recruits from Pakistan’s most populous province. Though a few actions were launched in Punjab following the Peshawar massacre, the LeT and JeM were never targeted comprehensively.
Khosa, who refused an offer from Sharif to “accept a public office and spearhead efforts to implement” the NAP, also details his investigation of the Mumbai attacks in the book. Quoting from an article he wrote for the Dawn newspaper in 2015, he writes: “Pakistan has to deal with the Mumbai mayhem, planned and launched from its soil. This requires facing the truth and admitting mistakes.”
He reiterates that Ajmal Kasab, the only attacker captured alive in Mumbai, is a Pakistani national, whose “place of residence and initial schooling as well as his joining a banned militant organisation was established by the investigators”.
He also reiterates that the attackers were trained near Thatta in Sindh province and launched by sea from there. Their training camp was identified and secured by investigators. The investigators also located the fishing trawler used by the attackers for the initial stage of their journey and also traced the engine of a dinghy abandoned by the attackers near Mumbai harbour to a Karachi shop from where it was bought by a LeT-linked militant.
Khosa concludes the chapter on the Mumbai attacks trial in his book by saying: “Yes, at times the truth is bitter and uncomfortable! We MUST face the demons of militancy; otherwise the militants can unravel the state of Pakistan.”