Ehsanullah Ehsan′s India claims and Pakistan′s favorite narrative | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 26.04.2017
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Ehsanullah Ehsan's India claims and Pakistan's favorite narrative

In a video released by the Pakistani military, a former spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban has accused India of supporting Islamist militants. DW examines why Pakistan and India continue to blame each other.

The Pakistani army's Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) department released Wednesday a "confessional" video of Ehsanullah Ehsan (main picture), a former spokesman for of the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) and Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militant organizations.

Last week, Asif Ghafoor, ISPR's director general, announced that Ehsan had turned himself in to Pakistan's security agencies.

"My name is Liaquat Ali, aka Ehsanullah Ehsan, and I belong to the Mohmand Agency," Ehsan is heard saying at the beginning of the six-minute-long video.

"These people have misled people in the name of Islam, especially the youth, for their own ends. They themselves do not hold themselves to the same standards they champion for others," Ehsan said.

But the main crux of the statement deals with Ehsan's accusation that India's intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Afghan security agencies are backing the TTP and JuA.

"After the operation in North Waziristan, we fled to Afghanistan," Ehsan continued. "Over there, we established and developed contacts with India and RAW," the former TTP spokesman claimed.

"They [the TTP leadership] got their [Indian] support, their funding and took money for every activity they did. They pushed the TTP soldiers to the frontlines to fight against the Pakistan Army and went into hiding themselves," he added.

'Jihadist proxies'

But Arif Jamal, a US-based security and Islamism expert, told DW that Ehsan's video is part of the Pakistani propaganda.

"The ISPR-released video has made a saint out of a top terrorist. I believe it is just the start. We will see 'confessional' videos of many other militants in the coming days," asserted Jamal.

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"RAW did not create any terrorist group in Pakistan. They were all formed by the Pakistani military to start a jihad in India-administered Kashmir and Afghanistan. It is true that they later spun out of the military's control," Jamal said.

"Ehsan made several ludicrous claims as if he was not aware of his organization's policies. He was a top commander and a decision-maker himself."

The 'enemy' discourse

Ehsan's India claims are similar to the Pakistani government's own accusations against New Delhi and its alleged support to terrorist groups in Pakistan.

Earlier this month, Pakistan sentenced Kulbhushan Jadhav, a former Indian naval officer, to death on espionage charges. Jadhav, who was arrested by Pakistani authorities in March last year, was later shown on TV "confessing" his role as an Indian spy.

Islamabad claims that Jadhav confessed to a Pakistani military court that he had been tasked by RAW to "plan, coordinate, and organize espionage/sabotage activities aiming to destabilize and wage war against Pakistan" in the southwestern province of Baluchistan and the southern port city of Karachi.

After almost every terrorist attack in Pakistan, the civilian government and military generals point fingers at India, which many experts say is a convenient way to shift responsibility. Also, the military and politicians use the "enemy India" state narrative to keep the population in war hysteria, analysts say.

The bombings in the cities of Lahore and Sehwan earlier this year were followed by Islamabad's harsh criticism of Kabul and New Delhi, with Pakistani authorities vowing to target insurgents inside Afghanistan.

Experts say that over the years, thousands of people have been killed in terrorist attacks perpetrated by Pakistan-based Islamist groups, but instead of re-evaluating its own flawed security policies, Pakistan's establishment continues to blame its neighboring countries.

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"The 'Indian agents' thinking is deeply entrenched not only in the mindset of our policy-makers, but also among the general public. Unfortunately, the media too promotes the 'foreign forces-did-it' narrative," Zeenia Shaukat, an activist working for a labor rights institution in Karachi, told DW.

But the "blame game" is not new in the South Asian region. India and Afghanistan also react to terror attacks by blaming Pakistan and that is how all these countries try to conceal their own shortcomings and responsibilities.

Setback for peace

The "confessional" videos, accusations and counter-accusations are counterproductive to peace efforts in South Asia.

Almost three years ago, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif wanted to bury the hatchet  and steer their countries on a path of peace and prosperity. There were high hopes for the improvement of bilateral relations between the nuclear-armed South Asian countries. Like Modi, Sharif, too, had business interests in mind, and he believed that friendly ties with a country set to become an economic giant in the next ten years would also boost Pakistan's frail economy.

But experts say the business communities in India and Pakistan, which want cordial ties between the two nations, are not as powerful as their military establishments and warmongers. And the hawks on both sides of the border thrive on sustaining hatred and conflicts.

Peace activists demand that Indian and Pakistani governments engage in a meaningful dialogue and discourage any move that strengthens the enemy narrative.

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