Terror Revelations from Pakistan
Tilak Devasher, Consultant, VIF

On 29 October Fawad Chaudhry, Minister for Science & Technology while speaking in the National Assembly, boasted that the Imran Khan government was responsible for the Pulwama attack in Jammu and Kashmir that had taken place in February 2019. The Pulwama terror attack had killed 40 para-military personnel. He said, ‘…Pulwama mein jo hamari kamiyabi hai who Imran Khan ki qayadat mein is kaum ki kamyabhi hai, uske hissedar aap bhi sab hain, uske hissedar hum bhi sab hain.’1 (Our success in Pulwama was an achievement of the country under the leadership of Imran Khan. You (Opposition) are also a stakeholder in this success and we are also stakeholders in this success).

After admitting Islamabad’s role in the Pulwama attack triggered an uproar Chaudhry tried to backtrack claiming that his remarks had been misinterpreted. He asserted that when he spoke of Pulwama he was referring to Pakistan’s immediate military response in the aftermath of Balakot airstrikes carried out by Indian Air Force on 26 February 2019. However, the damage had been done and his back tracking carried little weight.

Chaudhury’s admission confirmed what India has been saying all along and vindicated India’s stand that Pakistan was directly responsible for the Pulwama attack. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) charge sheet filed in August 2020 asserts that the Pulwama attack was a well planned conspiracy hatched by the Pakistan based terror group, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM). The main accused, Mohammad Umar Farooq, a Pak national had been trained in Afghanistan in explosives. The NIA investigations revealed that the RDX used in the attack was obtained from Pakistan.

Fawad Chaudhry has had a colourful and fluid political journey, hopping from party to party. A lawyer by training, he dabbled in journalism before joining Pervez Musharraf’s All Pakistan Muslim League (APML). He quit the APML in March 2012, and joined Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) when he served in the governments of Prime Ministers Yousaf Raza Gillani and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf between April 2012 and March 2013. He again switched parties and contested the 2013 elections unsuccessfully as a candidate of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q). In June 2016, he joined the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and was elected to the National Assembly in the 2018 general election. He was appointed Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting in August 2018 but in a reshuffle, was shifted to the relatively unimportant, (by Pakistan standards) Ministry of Science & Technology in April 2019.

Chaudhury’s statement has been doubly damaging for Pakistan. He not only confirmed Pakistan’s role in terrorism but also accepted that Kashmir is a part of India. His boast that ‘Humne Hindustan ko ghus ke maara (We hit India in their home) was an acknowledgement that J&K was part of India. This demolished Pakistan’s long held position that Kashmir was ‘disputed’

Chaudhury was responding to an earlier statement made by a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader and former Speaker of the National Assembly Ayaz Sadiq on 28 October. Sadiq had recounted in the National Assembly what had transpired during a meeting in February 2019 when the Imran Khan government took a decision to release Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman of the Indian Air Force. According to Sadiq "I remember [Foreign Minister] Shah Mahmood Qureshi sahib was present in that meeting, which the Prime Minister had refused to attend. The Chief of Army Staff also attended…With legs shaking and sweat on the forehead, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said to us, 'For God's sake, let him (Abhinandan) go back now'”, because India has plans to attack Pakistan at 9 pm that night. He added that ‘no attack was imminent; they only wanted to capitulate and send Abhinandan back’.2 Sadiq’s implication was that the PTI government had buckled under fear of an Indian attack and released the Indian pilot.

Federal Information Minister Shibli Faraz on 30 October hinted at legal action against Ayaz Sadiq for accusing the government of releasing Wing Commander Abhinandan under pressure. What Ayaz Sadiq said is not forgivable, he wrote in a tweet. "Now the law will take its course." Faraz asserted that "weakening the state" is an "unpardonable offense", and promised that Sadiq and his followers to be punished for it.3

Interestingly, a case has been registered against Ayaz Sadiq at Lahore’s Civil Lines police station over his remarks. The complainant, identified as Furqan, has said that Sadiq was a traitor as he tried to spread false propaganda against the Pakistan Army. He claimed he was a patriot and did not belong to any political party.4

Reacting to the statement of Sadiq, without directly naming him, DG ISPR Maj-Gen Babar Iftikhar said in a press conference on 29 October that political statement about the Abhinandan release was an attempt to ‘distort history’. He said, ‘A statement was given yesterday [Wednesday] which tried to distort the history of issues associated with national security.’ He added ‘… it is extremely disappointing and misleading to link Wing Commander Abhinandan’s release with anything other than a mature response of a responsible state’. This, he added, was an attempt to create doubts about Pakistani nation’s clear victory over India in the 29 February air battle. “And this is not acceptable to any Pakistani.”5

While the statement of Chaudhury confirmed the role of Pakistan in terrorism in India and that of Ayaz Sadiq underlined how frightened Pakistan was about an Indian attack, a third statement made by JUI Senator Ata ur Rehman in the Senate confirmed Pakistan army’s role in terrorism within the country. The Senator lamented the apathy of entire Pakistan at the bomb blast in a mosque in Peshawar on 27 October in which eight children belonging to the Zubbairyah madrassa had been killed and over a hundred injured some seriously. During his speech, the Maulana directly accused the army generals of having carried out the bomb blast in order to prevent the rally of the Opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) scheduled for later in November. 6 Preliminary reports of the bomb blast would seem to confirm the Maulana’s accusations since military grade explosives were reported to have been used in the blast, not normally associated with the terrorists operating in the Pak-Afghan border.7 Neither did the Chairman Senate stop him nor did he expunge his remarks and now these accusations are part of the parliamentary record. It would be interesting to see if the army reacts to such a direct accusation.

Despite putting up a brave front, there is recognition in Pakistan that the statement of Fawad Chaudhary has rendered futile and wasted the efforts of the country to prove that it was not involved in terrorism. There are calls to hold him accountable. According to one Twitterati, ‘Chaudhury’s statement will prove to be a nightmare for the whole nation and will haunt us in the days to come. The Nation would have to pay the price against it. We are already in hot waters, India will raise the temperature.’ A noted journalist tweeted: ‘While Ayaz Sadiq was exceedingly indiscreet, Fawad Chaudhary’s boasts are a direct disaster with real and tangible defence policy implications. Will DG ISPR hold a press conference on his statement too? Generally, it has been an all round disaster-Mostly self-inflicted wounds.’

Interestingly, in the Pak mainstream media the focus has been on the statement of Sadiq in the context that it paints the army and especially General Bajwa, in a negative light buckling under pressure. This, in turn, is being linked to being part of the PDM and especially Nawaz Sharif’s narrative against the army. By doing so, the effort is to divert attention from the more damaging statement of Fawad Chaudhury that puts Pakistan in the dock for terrorism. That is why mainstream media has been probably been ‘prevailed’ upon not to report on Fawad Chaudhury. The Ata ur Rehman accusations have been blanked out in the mainstream as well as social media.

The fallout and repercussions of these statements are still working themselves out but taken together, they paint a true picture of what Pakistan is: a terrorist state that is involved in terrorism in both India and domestically and as a bully that gets frightened when confronted. This is what the combine of Gen Bajwa and Imran Khan have reduced Pakistan to. It will take a long time for Pakistan to dig itself out of the hole it has made for itself.

Endnotes
  1. https://twitter.com/ANI/status/1321778990831394820
  2. ‘It's too late to apologise, Shibli says on Ayaz Sadiq's remarks’, Dawn.com 30 Oct 2020, https://www.dawn.com/news/1587807/its-too-late-to-apologise-shibli-says-on-ayaz-sadiqs-remarks
  3. ‘Govt hints at legal action against PML-N's Ayaz Sadiq’, The Nation, 30 October 2020
  4. https://nation.com.pk/30-Oct-2020/govt-hints-at-legal-action-against-pml-n-s-ayaz-sadiq

  5. Riaz Ahmed , ‘Case registered against Ayaz Sadiq over controversial remarks’, Samaa TV, 30 October2020, https://www.samaa.tv/news/2020/10/case-registered-against-ayaz-sadiq-over-controversial-remarks/
  6. Javed Hussain, 'Misleading' to link Abhinandan's release with anything other than Pakistan's mature response: DG ISPR’, Dawn.com, 29 October 2020, https://www.dawn.com/news/1587624/misleading-to-link-abhinandans-release-with-anything-other-than-pakistans-mature-response-dg-ispr
  7. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znA6umD8wN4
  8. ‘Peshawar blast’, Editorial in Dawn, 29 October 2020, https://www.dawn.com/news/1587584/peshawar-blast

(The paper is the author’s individual scholastic articulation. The author certifies that the article/paper is original in content, unpublished and it has not been submitted for publication/web upload elsewhere, and that the facts and figures quoted are duly referenced, as needed, and are believed to be correct). (The paper does not necessarily represent the organisational stance... More >>


Image Source: https://www.thestatesman.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/fawad-chaudhary-1.jpg

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