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Amid Pakistan terror sanctuary indictment, Imran’s mask slips off

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan last week let the cat out of the bag, calling slain global terrorist Osama Bin Laden a martyr, leading to widespread outrage. Osama was taken out in a pre-dawn swoop in 2011 by US special forces in Abbottabad without keeping Pakistan in the loop, embarrassing its military establishment big time as his house was adjacent to an army garrison.

Imran’s martyr remark brought back memories of his justifying the Taliban movement in the past, which earned him the ‘Taliban Khan’ moniker. He later moderated his articulation, particularly after he became PM, but the liberal mask slipped off last week. However, it tallied with the latest US State Department’s indictment of Pakistan continuing to serve as a safe haven for terror outfits targeting India and Afghanistan.

The report faulted Islamabad’s rulers for making no effort to prosecute Jaish-e-Mohammad founder Masood Azhar and Sajid Mir, who masterminded the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. Both are “widely believed to reside in Pakistan under the protection of the state, despite government denials”, it asserted.

Another player in the 26/11 plot, Tahawwur Rana, has been arrested in the US following India’s extradition request. A former Pakistani army officer, Rana conspired with his buddy David Coleman Headley to help execute the Mumbai terror attacks. His extradition would strengthen India’s case on Pakistan being the epicentre of global terror.

Support to terror was the principal reason why New Delhi threw a curve ball to downgrade bilateral ties. It directed the Pakistan High Commission in Delhi to cut its staff by 50% within a week, adding India would do so reciprocally. Pakistan is already on the grey list of the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for lax policing of terror financing.

The arrogant neighbour is keenly aware that it has few friends globally. For instance, even its principal allies chose not to take its side against India’s punitive airstrikes on a Jaish terror camp deep within Pakistan in Balakot. As for its economy, it was already a basket case before Covid struck. Instead of theatrics like the sudden offer to open the Kartarpur corridor for Sikh pilgrims, it ought to clean up its terror slate. But that could be wishful thinking till Imran is in the saddle.

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