Militant groups still operating openly in Pakistan: Report
Washington: Major radical organisations, including anti-India militant groups, continue to operate openly in Pakistan, a media report said on Monday, as top administration officials here pointed fingers at Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan for the failed Times Square bombing attempt.
"Banned groups such as Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed have formed organisations with new names that operate freely. Some of their leaders have been arrested for alleged links to terrorist attacks, then released by the courts," The Washington Post said.
Meanwhile, identical statements came from US Attorney General Eric Holder, and John Brennan, the Deputy National Security Advisor, blaming the Pakistan Taliban for the Times Square attempt.
India has said that Pakistan has so far been reluctant to take action against anti-India terrorist groups like LeT and JeM and its leaders, against whom New Delhi has provided evidence, are freely roaming around.
Validating India's contention, The Washington Post said major anti-India militant groups and other radical Sunni organisations in Punjab need little cover.
"The groups have in recent years increasingly focused attacks within Punjab as provincial officials have tried to placate them, both to capitalise on their popularity and in hopes of moderating their views," it said.
The paper recalled how Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was widely criticised in March for calling on the Pakistani Taliban to "spare Punjab”, which he suggested had common cause with the militants by rejecting Western dictates.
"Another provincial minister visited the seminary of a banned group and campaigned for office with the leader of another. Jaish-e-Mohammed recently built a large walled compound in the southern Punjabi city of Bahawalpur," it said.
"These groups have not been touched," the paper quoted leading Pakistani analyst on extremism Ahmed Rashid as saying.
"They have been through a metamorphosis and turned their guns inward and linked up with other groups in the northwest, but no one is acknowledging it. The word is out that if you hang with them, you're safe," it said.
Brennan told the Fox News in an interview that a number of terrorist groups have been operating in Pakistan, and it needs to be made sure that "there's no support being given to them by Pakistani government".
"They need to maintain the pressure on all of these groups. There are no militant or terrorist groups in Pakistan that should be allowed to continue there," he said.
Holder, meanwhile, said the US had evidence of the involvement of the Pakistan Taliban in the Times Square case, and Pakistan needs to do more.
"I am satisfied with the help that we've gotten from our Pakistani counterparts... Do we want them to do more? Yes. And we will be making more requests of them in the coming days," Holder said.
Both Holder and Brennan said that investigations have revealed that TTP was behind the Times Square bombing attempt.
"We know that they helped facilitate it; we know that they helped direct it. I suspect that we are going to come up with evidence which shows that they helped to finance it. They were intimately involved in this plot," Holder said.
According to The Post while Pakistan says it is still investigating the extent of Shahzad's militant links, some security officials have said that he definitely had ties with Jaish-e-Mohammed.
"Terrorism analyst Muhammad Amir Rana said that what appears to be a lack of political will to tackle militant organisations in Pakistan's heartland is actually rooted in a problem with far greater implications for the global battle against terror: the groups' reach and presence in cities has made them a beast that cannot easily be dismantled," it said.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also issued a stern warning to Pakistan, saying if any terrorist strike against the US was traced to that country, there would be grave consequences.
Notably, in New Delhi, Russian Ambassador to India Alexander M Kadakin, said that around 40 terror camps are still running along the Af-Pak border.
Holder said the Times Square incident is an indication of the new threat that the US faces from these terrorist organisations, these affiliates of al Qaeda or these organisations that are somehow connected to the kinds of things that al Qaeda wants to do.
"It also indicates the worldwide concerns that we have to have if we are going to be effective," he said.
In an interview, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake had said that Pakistan needs to take action against these Punjab-based terrorist outfits.
"The principal problem (that prevents the two countries from peace talks) is that of terrorism and it is important for Pakistanis to continue the important steps that they have taken against terrorism in Swat and South Waziristan and against some members of Taliban and they extend that fight to the groups that are based in Punjab such as LeT that are attacking not only India, but also the United States, and potentially could attack Pakistan itself," Blake had said.