Pakistan on Thursday dropped a clear hint at taking action against a banned group blamed for the Pulwama suicide attack as the country outlawed two charities run by Hafiz Saeed who India alleges had masterminded the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
The move to ban Jamat-ut-Dawa and Falah-e- Insaniat Foundation — the two organisations that India believes are front for the banned Laskhar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the hint of possible action against Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) came during a meeting of the high-powered National Security Committee (NSC).
India blames the LeT for being behind the deadly rampage by gunmen in its financial capital of Mumbai on November 9, 2008 that had left over 160 people dead. Delhi also claims that Maulana Masood Azhar, chief of JeM, the group that purportedly claimed responsibility for the Pulwama attack, is based in Pakistan.
Presided over by Prime Minister Imran, the NSC meeting was attended by key federal ministers, three services chiefs as well as heads of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI).
Soon after the meeting that lasted over three hours, the interior ministry issued a statement in which it said that the NSC reviewed the National Action Plan (NAP) in detail.
“It was decided during the meeting to accelerate action against the proscribed organisations,” it added. “It was further decided that Jamat-ut-Dawa and Falah-e- Insaniat Foundation be notified as proscribed organisations by the ministry of interior.”
The JeM was banned in 2002 by then military ruler General Pervez Musharraf. The reference to expediting action against proscribed organisations suggested that Pakistani authorities would act against the JeM.
The decision is seen as significant and could be aimed at defusing tensions with India, although the NSC stated in “unequivocal terms that the state of Pakistan is not involved in any way, means or form in the Pulwama incident” which it said “was conceived, planned and executed indigenously”.
The NSC meeting reviewed rising tensions with India in the wake of Pulawma attack last Thursday. India immediately blamed Pakistan after a young suicide bomber, a native of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), drove his explosive laden vehicle into a convoy of Indian security forces, killing nearly three dozen soldiers. Not only that, Indian media and politicians also whipped up war hysteria in the country inflaming anti-Pakistan and anti-Kashmir sentiments among the people.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration has since been threatening to retaliate as it gave a free hand to the Indian forces to bring the perpetrators of the attack to justice. The move has further flared up tensions in the region with fears of a possible Indian use of force against Pakistan.
According to an official handout released by the government after the NSC meeting, the forum said Pakistan had sincerely offered investigation of the incident and dialogue on the issue of terrorism among other disputed issues with India.
In a first formal reaction to the attack, Prime Minister Imran on Tuesday offered India all possible assistance in investigating the Pulwama incident. He at the same time vowed to take action if “any actionable intelligence” established Pakistan’s link with the attack.
India, however, spurned his offer as a ‘lame excuse’, insisting that Pakistan had to take ‘credible and visible actions’ before it could think of any dialogue.
Despite negative signals coming from New Delhi, the NSC hoped that India would still respond positively to Pakistan’s peace overtures. It also reiterated that “based on the investigation or any tangible evidence provided, the state of Pakistan shall take action against anyone found using our soil.”
However, the NSC also noted that India must do deep introspection to realise that why people of IOK have lost fear of death. The violence by Indian forces in IOK is highly counterproductive, it added.
The committee urged the global community to play its part in resolving the long pending Kashmir issue in accordance with the UN resolutions and aspirations of the Kashmiris.
At the same time, however, the prime minister also responded to India’s war hysteria by authorising Pakistan’s armed forces to respond “decisively and comprehensively to any aggression or misadventure by India.”
“This is a new Pakistan and we are determined to demonstrate to our people that the state is capable of protecting them and believes that monopoly of violence stays with state,” the prime minister told the participants of the NSC meeting.
“We recognise that terrorism and extremism are the top issues in the region and the whole region, including Pakistan, has suffered,” Imran further said.
The prime minister said Pakistan alone had endured over 70,000 casualties in the process besides heavy loss to the national exchequer. That was why the National Action Plan (NAP) conceived and issued in 2014 outlined concrete sequenced measures with consensus of all political parties and institutions of Pakistan.
“Having addressed direct threat to the state of Pakistan, we need to move to ensure that militancy and extremism are routed from the society and the state never becomes hostage to extremists,” the prime minister said.
In this regard, he directed both the interior ministry and the security institutions to immediately accelerate actions on ground.