Pakistan acting against terror ‘but army support in doubt’

Pakistan acting against terror ‘but army support in doubt’
* Analysts question government’s ability to destroy organisations long protected by military
Daily Times, December 13, 2008

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has cracked down on groups suspected of terrorism in the wake of the Mumbai attacks, but analysts question the government’s ability to destroy organisations long protected by the powerful military.

On Thursday the government closed down Jamaatud Dawa – one of Pakistan’s biggest charities – placing its leaders under house arrest and freezing its assets after the United Nations said it was a front for the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, which has been accused of planning the Mumbai siege last month.

Ayesha Siddiqa, an independent security analyst, said the government’s determination to root out militancy was clear, but it was too early to tell how effective it would be in the face of strong historic support in the military.

“The political government is serious. The political government knows that it will get no space to operate if the radical right is in partnership with the military. So it wants to crack down,” she told AFP. “(But) it will be a couple of days, maybe a week, before we see what the nature of this crackdown is.”

She said the government currently held sway because of strong US pressure for action against groups suspected of involvement in terrorist activities.

But she said there was “institutional support” in the military for certain organisations, and that the new civilian government had not yet put the mechanisms in place to control the powerful army.

Analysts warned that by acting now the government, which came into power only this year after eight years of military rule, risked appearing weak.

“Our policies and actions should be pro-active instead of reactive,” said Ishtiaq Ahmed, professor of international relations at Islamabad’s Quaid-e-Azam University.

“We should have started this operation long ago on our own. Now, when we are doing it under pressure from India, the Indians might say, look, we were right.”

The government has been at pains to stress it is not responding to pressure from India, which it says has provided no evidence implicating Pakistani citizens in the attacks.

It now has a fine line to tread in satisfying international demands that it tackle terrorism without angering the population by appearing to kowtow to its traditional rival. afp

Also See:
Mumbai: A Battle in the War for Pakistan - Council on Foreign Relations
Pakistan's military takes a big hit - Asia Times

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