Pakistan needs to focus on dismantling terror groups: Think tank

March 14th, 2009 - 6:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Brussels, March 14 (IANS) Dismantling “Sunni extremist networks” should be the core of Pakistan’s counter-terrorism policy in the wake of the recent upsurge of jihadi violence in the country, an international think tank has suggested.
The International Crisis Group (ICG) has also warned that the radical Sunni groups which remain the primary source of terrorism in Pakistan are expanding thier influence gradually, posing a great threat to internal security of the country, EuAsiaNews reported Saturday.

The Brussels-based think-tank, in its latest report titled “Pakistan: The Militant Jihad Challenge”, said the extemist groups were simultaneously fighting internal sectarian jihads in Pakistan, regional jihads in Afghanistan and India and a global jihad against the West.

Their links to international networks like Al Qaeda make them even more dangerous than before, IGC’s South Asia Project Director Samina Ahmed said.

“The Pakistani Taliban has attacked not just state and Western targets, but Shias as well,” she stressed.

“Its expanding influence is due to support from long-established Sunni extremist networks, based primarily in (Pakistani) Punjab, which have served as the army’s jihadi proxies in Afghanistan and India since the 1980s,” she said.

Their continued patronage by the military, and their ability to hijack major policy areas, including Pakistan’s relations with India, Afghanistan and the international community, impedes the civilian government’s ongoing efforts to consolidate control over governance and pursue peace with its neighbours, the report said.

The aftermath of the Mumbai attack presents an opening to reshape Pakistan’s response to terrorism, which should rely not on the application of indiscriminate force, including military action and arbitrary detentions, but on police investigations, arrests, fair trials and convictions. This must be civilian-led to be effective, stressed the report.

“The current political crisis in Punjab will provide a decisive test for the Pakistan Peoples Party and Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League to resolve their differences through the political process”, said Robert Templer, ICG’s Asia Programme Director.

“If the democratic transition falters, the military and the militants will be the sole winners,” he added.

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