Pakistan, where terrorists ‘disappear’ but ‘reappear’ when needed

UN terror list (2018) had 139 Pakistan entries (Photo: PTI)

Pakistan is a strange land where people seem to be ‘appearing’, ‘disappearing’ and ‘reappearing’ all the time. While this strange occurrence follows no discernible pattern, but it does appear to have a definite link to sensitive issues, mostly those related to terrorism. For example, despite New Delhi providing Islamabad with his exact whereabouts in Karachi, Islamabad kept denying that 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blast mastermind Dawood Ibrahim was living in the country.

A decade after the Mumbai serial blasts, the then Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s special envoy Shahryar Khan admitted that “Dawood [Ibrahim] was in Pakistan.  However, he quickly went on to add that “…I believe he was chased out of Pakistan”. However, in keeping with Islamabad’s unmatched ability to issue open-ended statements that provide an immense scope of deniability, Khan said that “If he is in Pakistan, he should be hounded and arrested”. Since this didn’t happen, it would be fair to assume that Ibrahim had indeed fled Pakistan.

The same Dawood Ibrahim who was purportedly “chased out of Pakistan” had ‘disappeared’, suddenly ‘reappeared’ in 2020 when an official Pakistani notification that sanctioned 89 key terrorists under provisions of “Security Council resolution 2368 (2018) adopted under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations”, mentioned him as being a resident of Karachi and owning three properties here.

That this miraculous ‘reappearance’ happened precisely a month before the plenary meeting of global money laundering and terrorism financing watchdog Financial Action Task Force [FATF] was due to meet to decide on Pakistan’s retention or removal from grey list, is obviously no mere coincidence. Unfortunately, this ‘reappearance’ was short-lived.

When Indian authorities demanded that being an Indian national, Ibrahim, who is currently a resident of Karachi should be handed over to New Delhi so that he could be tried and punished for his criminal and terrorist activities, he once again ‘disappeared’ and since then, he’s not been heard of. On its part, Pakistani authorities maintain that mention of Ibrahim’s name in the notification and listing out the three homes he owned in Karachi wasn’t an admission of his presence in the country. Strange but true!

On February 14, 2019, a suicide car bomb attack on a Central Reserve Police Force bus in Pulwama [J&K] killed 40 policemen and proscribed Pakistan based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad [JeM] took responsibility for this attack. Realising that this horrific act would enrage the international community, the then Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi immediately played the sympathy card to save JeM founder Masood Azhar.

A distressed Qureshi told the media that “He [Masood Azhar] is in Pakistan, according to my information. He is very unwell. He is unwell to the extent that he cannot leave his house because he is really unwell,” and use of the word ‘unwell’ thrice in such quick repetition says it all. However, even though Qureshi had confirmed Azar’s presence in Pakistan after the Pulwama attack, DG ISPR conveniently “disappeared” him by saying, “Jaish-e-Mohammed does not exist in Pakistan. It has been proscribed by the United Nations and Pakistan also”. 

Barely two weeks after Azhar’s ‘disappearance’, there was another case wherein an unnamed Indian suddenly ‘appeared’ on a bright winter morning- only to ‘disappear’ into thin air the same evening. It was February 27, 2019, and Indian Air force [IAF] fighter pilot Wg Cdr Abhinandan Varthaman was apprehended by Pakistan army after his MIG 21 was shot down. DGISPR claimed that two IAF fighter jets had been downed and while one IAF pilot [Wg Cdr Varthaman] had been apprehended, two others were in “the area”.

Around midday, while talking to the media, DGISPR claimed that “Our ground forces arrested two pilots; one of them was injured and has been shifted to CMH [Combined Military Hospital] and, God-willing, he will be taken care of.” But by evening, DGISPR “disappeared” the hospitalised IAF pilot he had claimed was in Pakistan army’s custody by tweeting that “There is only one pilot under Pakistan army’s custody.” So, doesn’t this strange turn of events make this incident one of the most intriguing cases of a sudden “appearance” followed by an equally quick “disappearance”?

Fast forward to the present and one finds that after a two-year hiatus, another unbelievable ‘reappearance’ has hit Pakistan. This time, it’s a Lashkar-e-Taiba [LeT] terrorist named Sajid Mir, who as the ‘operational commander’, played an important role in planning and conduct of the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Despite a USD $5 million bounty announced by the FBI, has been evading the law, thanks to protection provided by Pakistan’s military establishment.

Not only has Islamabad denied Mir’s presence in Pakistan but portraying him as a God-fearing preacher tried to protect him from possible persecution, by going to the extent of suggesting that he was dead. This is why Mir’s sudden and completely unexpected ‘reappearance’ is in itself nothing less than a miracle.

While Islamabad may deny it, but with a long ‘disappeared’ Mir not only suddenly ‘reappearing’, but also being secretly tried and swiftly sentenced just days before FATF was to decide on Pakistan’s grey listing status, there’s no doubt that this is what has compelled Islamabad to act against the LeT terrorist. That’s why one can say with complete conviction that should FATF continue maintaining pressure on Pakistan to end providing support to terrorist groups, then, be rest assured that even the JeM chief Masood Azhar who suddenly ‘disappeared’ after the Pulwama terrorist attack too, will unexpectedly ‘reappear’!

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