Pakistan suffered a major diplomatic defeat as its erstwhile ally China signed off on a statement that denounced several terrorist groups that are both openly and covertly supported by the Pakistani state. The blow comes just two weeks after President Trump called out Pakistan for providing “safe haven” for terrorist groups operating in the region and advocated for closer ties with India.
The Sept. 4 declaration by the the BRICS nations (Brazil, China, India, Russia, and South Africa) explicitly names three terrorist groups – the Afghan Taliban and its subgroup the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Jaish-e-Mohammad – that are directly supported by the Pakistani state.
“We, in this regard, express concern on the security situation in the region and violence caused by the Taliban, ISIL/DAISH [Islamic State], al Qaeda and its affiliates including Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, TTP [Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan] and Hizb ut-Tahrir,” the BRICS nations stated.
The BRICS countries also said that “those responsible for committing, organizing, or supporting terrorist acts must be held accountable” and called for “dismantling terrorist bases.”
The BRICS statement was released two weeks after Trump, in an Aug. 21 speech that outlined US policy in South Asia, took Pakistan to task for harboring and supporting terrorist groups that target and kill US citizens, and said there would be a radical change in the US stance toward the South Asian nation. After blasting Pakistan for its support of terrorist groups, including the Taliban, Trump said that the US would seek to strengthen ties with Pakistan’s neighbor and number one enemy, India.
Pakistani officials denounced Trump’s speech and pinned their security hopes on closer ties with and the support of China. In the past, China has blocked Indian attempts to get the United Nations to list Pakistan-based jihadists such as Jaish-e-Mohammed emir Maulana Masood Azhar as international terrorists.
While China maintains relations with Pakistan to balance its rival India in South Asia, China also has legitimate concerns about terrorist groups based in Pakistan. In particular, the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (or ETIM or the Turkistan Islamic Party), which is based in Pakistan’s tribal areas, is a threat to Chinese interests in its western province of Xinjaing. Chinese officials have chided Pakistan about the presence of ETIM on Pakistani soil in the past.
The BRICS statement explicitly names ETIM as an “al Qaeda affiliate” currently operating in the region. In 2010, Rehman Malik, who served as Paksitan’s Rehman interior minister, claimed ETIM’s “back is broken” and that the group is no longer viable inside Pakistan after announcing the death of its emir, Abdul Haq al Turkistani. However, Malik wrongly reported Turkistani’s death (he re-emerged in 2014) and remains a viable threat to this day.
Pakistani officials have angrily denied that its country provides safe haven for terrorist groups and cites its war against the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (TTP) as proof that it combats terrorists. However, Pakistan continues to support groups such as the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harakat-ul Mujahideem and Hizbul Mujahideen, and tolerates other terrorist outfits such as Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi [see map above].
Pakistan’s policy of strategic depth and supporting terrorist groups that further its foreign policy goals (the so-called good Taliban) while battling jihadists who fight the Pakistan state (the bad Taliban) has not only destabilized its neighbors, including Afghanistan and India, it has also led to catastrophic losses inside Paksitan. Tens of thousands of Pakistanis have been killed by groups such as the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan as they have waged a terrorist insurgency across the country. Pakistan refuses to admit that these bad Taliban are supported by the good Taliban.