Islamabad, Oct 6: Worried about being isolated internationally, the Nawaz Sharif government has reportedly told the army and the ISI to act against the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad.
At a meeting held in an undisclosed location Sharif is said to have told the army and ISI that they need to crack down on terrorists, failing which Pakistan could be isolated internationally.
The report published in Pakistan's leading newspaper Dawn says that the meeting of the civil and military leadership was held at an undisclosed location. There was a verbal duel between Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab and younger brother of Nawaz Sharif and ISI chief Gen Rizwan Akhtar.
The newspaper also states that during the meeting Pakistan Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry told the military leadership that even the country's all-weather friend China had expressed a preference for a "course correction" by Pakistan.
"Then, to a hushed but surprised room, Chaudhry suggested that while China has reiterated its support for Pakistan, it too has indicated a preference for a change in course by Pakistan.
Specifically, while Chinese authorities have conveyed their willingness to keep putting on technical hold a UN ban on Jaish-i-Mohammad leader Masood Azhar, they have questioned the logic of doing so repeatedly," the report further states.
The Dawn further reports that two sets of actions had been agreed upon. First, ISI DG Gen Rizwan Akhtar, accompanied by National Security Adviser Nasser Janjua, are to travel to each of the four provinces with a message for provincial apex committees and ISI sector commanders.
The message: military-led intelligence agencies are not to interfere if law enforcement acts against militant groups that are banned or until now considered off-limits for civilian action. Gen Akhtar's inter-provincial tour has begun with a visit to Lahore.
Second, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has directed that fresh attempts be made to conclude the Pathankot investigation and restart the stalled Mumbai attacks-related trials in a Rawalpindi anti-terrorism court.
Dawn also reports that Chaudhry said that relations with the US have deteriorated and will likely further deteriorate because of the American demand that action be taken against the Haqqani network.
On India, Chaudhry stated that the completion of the Pathankot investigation and some visible action against Jaish-e-Mohammad were the principal demands.
Responding to foreign secretary Chaudhry's rather dramatic conclusions, the ISI chief present in the meeting asked what steps could be taken to prevent the drift towards isolation. "Chaudhry's reply was direct and emphatic: the principal international demands are for action against Masood Azhar and the Jaish-e-Mohmmad; Hafiz Saeed and the Lashkar-e-Taiba; and the Haqqani network," Dawn said.
"To that, Gen Akhtar offered that the government should arrest whomever it deems necessary. At that point, came the stunning and unexpectedly bold intervention by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
Addressing Gen Akhtar, the younger Sharif complained that whenever action has been taken against certain groups by civilian authorities, the security establishment has worked behind the scenes to set the arrested free.
Astounded onlookers describe a stunned room that was immediately aware of the extraordinary, unprecedented nature of the exchange," the Dawn also reports.