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War on terror: Pakistani military, civilian establishments at odds

Islamabad bans journalist from foreign travel after he tells truth

AT Monitoring Desk-KABUL: Islamabad has put the name of renowned journalist, Cyril Almeida, in the Exit Control List (ECL) when he broke the news on the differences developed in a meeting between the powerful military establishment and weak Nawaz Sharif’s government on fighting terror groups.

Almeida in a front-page scoop published in Dawn said the civilian government has warned the military establishment that Pakistan would face international isolation if consensus on key issues such as elimination of terror groups was not reached between the two.

According to the report, in the recent meeting consensus was built on two sets of actions. “First, ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] DG Gen Rizwan Akhtar, accompanied by National Security Adviser Nasser Janjua, is to travel to each of the four provinces with a message for provincial apex committees and ISI sector commanders. The message: military-led intelligence agencies are not to interfere if law enforcement acts against militant groups that are banned or until now considered off-limits for civilian action. Gen Akhtar’s inter-provincial tour has begun with a visit to Lahore. Second, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has directed that fresh attempts be made to conclude the Pathankot investigation and restart the stalled Mumbai attacks-related trials in a Rawalpindi antiterrorism court,” Dawn reported.

The decisions were taken after “an extraordinary verbal confrontation” between Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who is also brother of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and the director general of ISI, Pakistan’s notorious spy agency famous for creating and sponsoring terror organizations.

On October 3, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry in a presentation to a small group of civil and military officials said that the country was facing diplomatic isolations and Islamabad’s talking points “have been met with indifference in major world capitals”.

In the meeting DG of ISI, Rizwan Akhtar, led the military delegation.

“On the US, Mr Chaudhry said that relations have deteriorated and will likely further deteriorate because of the American demand that action be taken against the Haqqani network. On India, Mr Chaudhry stated that the completion of the Pathankot investigation and some visible action against Jaish-i-Mohammad were the principal demands.

Then, to a hushed but surprised room, Mr Chaudhry suggested that while China has reiterated its support for Pakistan, it too has indicated a preference for a change in course by Pakistan. Specifically, while Chinese authorities have conveyed their willingness to keep putting on technical hold a UN ban on Jaish-i-Mohammad leader Masood Azhar, they have questioned the logic of doing so repeatedly,” the scoop said.

Playing the cat and mouse with the civilian government, the ISI DG said the government should arrest whomever it wants. At that point Shahbaz Sharif told Gen Akhtar that whenever the civilian establishment has taken action against certain terror groups, the military established secretly worked “to set the arrested free”.

His name was put on the ECL four days after Almeida’s scoop was published in Dawn. ECL is seen as an extraordinary measure by the government to prevent wanted criminals or individuals involved in “mass fraud and corruption”.

His scoop has confirmed rift between Pakistan’s civilian and military leaderships over actions to eliminate terror outfits.

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