Militant Training Camps in Pakistan
Daily Times, February 27, 2006
EDITORIAL: The various ‘camps’ in Pakistan
Talking to Doordarshan, the state-run Indian TV channel, President George Bush said on Saturday that on his trip to Pakistan he would talk about “the terrorist activities, the need to dismantle training camps and to protect innocent life”. The question put to him was specifically about the Azad Kashmir ‘training camps’. The same day there was news from Kabul that President Hamid Karzai had shared intelligence with Pakistan indicating that Mullah Mohammed Omar, leader of the Taliban regime, and his key associates were hiding in Pakistan. Afghanistan also allegedly provided information about “the location of terrorist training camps along the border and in Pakistani cities”. The Afghan president also claims to have handed over a list of wanted Afghan men to President Pervez Musharraf and asked for their repatriation to Afghanistan.
Pakistan denies that there are terrorist camps of any kind on Pakistani territory. But there have been sporadic reports in 2005 that “training” could have restarted. In Balochistan, it is virtually impossible for the government to say with certainty that the Taliban are not “present and training”. President Karzai should know this as he was ensconced there before he was taken out and sent to Afghanistan to head the new post-9/11 government. Pakistan too has accused Afghanistan of colluding with India to send weapons to Balochistan, with Kabul vehemently denying it. The situation could be out of the hands of both parties. No one sitting in Kabul can say that weapons are not going across to the “farari” camps in Balochistan.
The Afghans say Mullah Omar could be anywhere in Pakistan; they have no proof of his location. Pakistan is not a small country. Large parts of it are outside the jurisdiction of the state, just like warlord-controlled Afghanistan. President Karzai has asked Islamabad to close down terrorist camps, but has he given documentary proof of where these are located? For that matter, Pakistan is supposed to have told President Karzai that Indian consulates in Afghanistan were sending weapons to Balochistan. But where is the proof? Interestingly there were front-page reports in the Pakistani press that Islamabad had actually done that and that President Karzai had denied involvement despite documentary proof. But then, talking to AAJ TV on February 21, 2006, the interior minister, Aftab Khan Sherpao, stated clearly that he was present at the Musharraf-Karzai meeting and saw no documentary proof being given to the other side about Indian involvement in Balochistan!
If Pakistan has a credibility problem, it is linked to the jihadi leaders still operating in Pakistan with renamed militias. The world interprets their presence in civil society as the retention of the “jihadi option” by President Musharraf in the event that the world is unable to persuade India to settle the Kashmir dispute. Certainly, in Azad Kashmir and the NWFP not long ago, the world was witness to jihadis busy in the work of rescue and rehabilitation, spending colossal amounts of money in the areas where they have always been known to have training camps. Indeed, a youth on trial in the United States actually confessed last year that he had received “training” recently in a camp run by a jihadi warlord now living safely in Islamabad. In fact, the biggest jihadi warlord of all — with clear links to Kunar in Afghanistan where the Arabs lived during the Taliban rule — is in Lahore publishing his defiant anti-Musharraf message in the Urdu press on a daily basis. And if the Bajaur incident is any indicator, there could be many more “loopholes” in the jurisdictional control of the government in Pakistan than most people realise. Therefore the “camps” are still Pakistan’s number one problem with the international community.
Presidents Bush and Karzai may look to their own interests, but Pakistan should review the policy on “camps” from its own perspective. There is no arguing against the fact that the jihadi camps hurt the state sovereignty of Pakistan more than they hurt either India or the new order in Afghanistan. By being in denial we may actually be ignoring a very significant aspect of reality in Pakistan. Just as the elected prime ministers during the 1990s were unable to control their Kashmir policy in the face of the jihadi warlords, President Musharraf too may have already reached the limit of his operative control of Pakistan in the presence of these “camps”. Thus Pakistan has to come out of this “mercenary” syndrome and learn to be master of its own policies. The camps — jihadi, Taliban, Al Qaeda — must all go in the interest of the people of Pakistan. The cost of retaining them is prohibitive.