‘Pak fears UN plan may force Kashmiri militants’ extradition’
26 May 2004
The Daily Excelsior
WASHINGTON: Pakistan is opposing a UN resolution being proposed by the United States and five other countries calling for greater cooperation on extraditing suspected terrorists because it fears it would expose covert operations by Pakistan’s military agencies, US geopolitical analysts have said. 'While Pakistan is more than willing to hand over militants to the United States even without a formal treaty, it is not ready to do the same for neighbouring India,' analysts at Strategic Forecasting (STRATFOR) said. STRATFOR said Islamabad fears New Delhi could use the rules to force it to hand over Kashmiri militants who receive sanctuary within Pakistan and on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control (LoC). While Pakistan has acted against Al-Qaeda and Taliban in helping the US war on terror, it considers the anti-Indian activities of militant groups in Kashmir a legitimate struggle for self-determination, the analysts said. 'Though Islamabad denies providing material assistance to Kashmiri separatist groups, it acknowledges giving them political, diplomatic and moral support.' Islamabad’s official line on the Kashmiri separatists notwithstanding, it is no secret that Pakistan’s military intelligence apparatus inter-services intelligence has aided militant groups battling on the Indian side of the LoC for decades, STRATFOR said. 'Should it be forced to turn over a Kashmiri separatist to India, Islamabad’s covert operations on behalf of the separatists could be revealed. While these operations are dormant for now — as the peace process progresses — Islamabad would not like its extensive support infrastructure for Kashmiri militants to be exposed.' So the resolution would hinder Pakistan’s foreign policy toward India. It is true that Islamabad has reined in the militants to a great extent since India threatened war with Pakistan following the December 2001 attack on the Indian legislature in New Delhi, it said, pointing out that New Delhi and Islamabad also had made significant strides toward a peace process since the visit to Islamabad by former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in early January 2004. 'These moves aside, there has been no letup in militancy in Kashmir. Army Chief Gen N C Vij said on May 21 that more than 3,000 militants were amassing on the Pakistani side of the LoC to cross into Kashmir.' Just as India realizes the war in its Himalayan state is far from over, Pakistan also knows that the peace process does not mean it should give up its assets, STRATFOR said. For this reason, it added, Pakistan has resisted calls that it hand over the suspects involved in the murder of Wall Street journal correspondent Daniel Pearl to US authorities. The principal accused is Omar Saeed Sheikh, a member of Jaish-e- Mohammed — a Kashmiri militant group with ties to the Taliban and Al- Qaeda — which Islamabad banned in early 2002. 'Pakistan instead has risked making enemies out of its former Jihadist allies by trying Sheikh and his associates at home. The idea is that if Sheikh were turned over to Washington, the entire network, which Islamabad has kept on hold during the peace process, will be compromised. Islamabad is all too aware of the close relations between Washington and New Delhi.' Abandoning the Taliban was a necessary but affordable move on Islamabad’s part, STRATFOR said, and it, therefore, had no problem in handing over its suspected Taliban members to US troops. 'Similarly, Islamabad is more than happy to turn in Al-Qaeda members to Washington’s security and intelligence agencies. It is not ready to do the same with Kashmiri militants and India'.