An influential US Congressman has warned that Pakistan will continue to slide into international isolation if it does not take actions against terrorist groups operating from its soil.
Ami Bera, the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, also urged China to play a constructive role by lifting its veto over UN Security Council resolution to designate Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar a global terrorist.
“The United States’ Congress stands ready to support Pakistan should Prime Minister (Imran) Khan begin cracking down on terrorist groups in earnest. This will only help improve his nation’s economy,” Mr Bera wrote in an op-ed published in News India Times on Friday
In his op-ed titled ”Time For Pakistan to Chart a New Course”, the four-time Indian-American Congressman from California said that Pakistan did the right thing by releasing Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman.
“This de-escalated a dangerous situation but more has to be done. Prime Minister Imran Khan should use this opportunity to reset his country’s relationship with the world and chart a new course for Pakistan,” he said.
This starts with cracking down on the JeM and other terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba which was responsible for the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, Mr Bera said, adding that unfortunately, Pakistan’s behaviour towards these terrorist groups have been contradictory and self-defeating.
“Pakistan has banned many of these terrorist groups, including adding two more groups on March 5, but at the same time tolerates them operating within its own borders. This has caused the international community to isolate Pakistan,” Mr Bera said.
Pakistan says it has taken some initial steps, like detaining 44 suspected terrorists, including the brother of JeM chief Masood Azhar. It is, however, unclear whether this “preventative detention”, as Pakistan described it, will lead to criminal prosecutions and justice being served, he said.
“Prime Minister (Imran) Khan can help Pakistan earn enormous goodwill by tracking down and bringing to justice Masood Azhar, whom the Pakistani Foreign Minister indicated was alive, with his whereabouts known. They can further that goodwill by dismantling the terrorist networks that operate within Pakistan.
“These actions are in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1267. If Imran Khan does not take these steps, I’m afraid Pakistan will continue to slide into international isolation, which will only serve to increase economic hardship on the Pakistani people,” the Indian-American Congressman said.
“I also call on China to play a constructive role in India and Pakistan relations. A good first step would be for China to cease blocking a UN Security Council resolution designating Masood Azhar a global terrorist,” Mr Bera said.
His article came days after Pakistan, under immense global pressure after the Pulwama terror attack and India’s air strikes against a JeM terrorist camp in Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on February 26, started taking actions against some of the terrorist outfits and their leaders over the past few days.
In Islamabad, the Interior Ministry on Thursday claimed that a total of 121 members of the proscribed terror groups have so far been taken into “preventive detention” across Pakistan.
Tensions between India and Pakistan flared up after a suicide bomber of Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed or JeM exploded over 60 kg of RDX near a CRPF bus, killing more than 40 soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district on February 14.
India launched a “non-military, pre-emptive” counter-terror operation in Pakistan’s Balakot on February 26. The next day, Pakistan Air Force retaliated and downed a MiG-21 fighter jet of the Indian Air Force, while losing an F-16 jet of their own. Pakistan also detained the MiG-21 pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was handed over to India on Friday.