Lawsuits, terrorism and the economy

Last month, a lawsuit was filed against top officials of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and leaders of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) in a court in New York by the family of a couple who lost their lives in the Mumbai 2008 terror attacks. The lawsuit has alleged that the ISI “provided critical planning, material support, control and coordination for the attacks” to the 10 men who carried out the attacks. The Brooklyn court has apparently summoned ISI chief Lieutenant-General Ahmed Shuja Pasha and his predecessor Lieutenant-General Nadeem Taj, among others, to appear before the court next month. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani assured the National Assembly on Thursday that if the current and former ISI chiefs do not “agree to appear before the American court, nobody can send them”. He was responding to Opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar’s remarks that the government should not allow this to happen. Practically speaking, the inherent character of spy agencies and their covert operations is such that no country would allow its secret service people to appear in any foreign court of law and Pakistan is no exception. If the ISI officials appear before the court in the US, it would be akin to a tacit admission that Pakistan was somehow involved in the Mumbai terror plot, not to mention that such an appearance would also invite awkward questions that could prove to be an embarrassment. Pakistan is not going to set a new precedent; thus the court summons is a non-starter. Legally speaking, American courts do not have the jurisdiction to issue an arrest warrant for our spooks and an ‘institution’ like the ISI cannot be summoned under international law. Perhaps even the plaintiffs are aware of this fact and have only named the ISI officials to highlight the case in the international arena. The prime minister also said that we will not compromise on our sovereignty and integrity. As for sovereignty, it must be asked whether we really have it or not. In recent years, not only has our sovereignty been compromised, it has actually been ‘sold’.


On another note, Prime Minister Gilani said “no one should have the impression that they can dictate when military operations should be conducted in North Waziristan”. The US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan have been asking for a military offensive in North Waziristan because of the safe haven provided to the Afghan Taliban there. Despite the American pressure to conduct an operation, our military and government have given a plethora of excuses for not doing so. There are reports that the real cause for this delay is because the Taliban are being shifted from North Waziristan to Kurram Agency and until the ‘shifting’ is complete, an operation will not take place. Whatever the reasons, it seems that our military is going to decide the time for the operation itself despite the urgency of the situation.

Prime Minister Gilani hit the nail on the head by saying that “until and unless conducive law and order (environment) prevails” in the country, no one will take the risk of investing here. Our economic woes are increasing day by day and we have to understand that it is not just because of the global recession but also because of the security situation. Why would an investor, foreign or local, risk their money at a time when terrorist activities are on the rise? It is time to realise that nurturing non-state actors has only affected our relations with other states, near and far. This practice must be stopped now and terrorism should be eradicated from Pakistani soil for our own good.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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