Pakistan Moves to End Policy on ‘Good Taliban’December 29, 2014 in Pakistan
After several months of moving away from supporting some jihadist groups, Pakistan may be making more substantial changes in the aftermath of the Peshawar school massacre. Pakistan’s security agencies have long used militant groups against India and Afghanistan. After the recent school massacre however, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif declared that the Pakistani government would no longer make a distinction between “good” militant groups, or those that help Islamabad achieve its foreign policy goals, and groups that do not. He added that militants “would be dealt equally with an iron hand.” Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said last Sunday that Pakistan was at war with militants, and asked citizens to help authorities in a countrywide crackdown. Authorities subsequently made several arrests in connection to the school attack. Sharif also lifted a seven-year-old moratorium on the death penalty for terrorist cases, which resulted in the prompt execution of six prisoners. Pakistan’s military controls security policy independent of the civilian government, so it is currently unclear how closely it will follow a zero-tolerance approach to jihadists. The knee-jerk reaction and quick executions of condemned prisoners who were unrelated to the Peshawar attack will be seen as ill-conceived by some quarters and will fuel further plots for “spectaculars” in future. The domestic policy debate in coming months will reveal whether the current outcry and related security forces and judicial activity is the start of a new era in anti-terror operations and internal security policy or simple state vendetta in response to public outrage to the targeting of so many innocent children.