A decade after the Arab Spring overthrew several Arab leaders, Pakistan is embarking on a risky course of filling the void of dirty work in Europe opened up by the departure or execution of strongmen in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen, Money Control reported.
Caught up in domestic preoccupations like state elections and dress code in educational institutions, Indians have not taken much note of numerous planned assassinations of Pakistani dissidents in Europe.
Without these domestic preoccupations, media and public opinion in India would have had a field day over the conviction last month of an East London businessman of Pakistani origin, who agreed to kill a critic of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) living in Rotterdam, and authoring a hugely popular blog.
Muhammad Gohir Khan would have received about £100,000 if he had managed to kill the dissident blogger, Ahmad Waqass Goraya, according to evidence in a Crown court.
Joint investigations by law enforcement in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands have led them to a heap of conspiracies across Europe, but mostly in the UK to rid these locations of Pakistani dissidents living in exile.
In turn, it has led to a reopening of enquiries into the death of Karima Baloch, campaigner for an independent Balochistan, whose body was found in a lake in Canada in December 2020.
Threats to her life back in Pakistan had forced Baloch to flee to Canada in 2015, where she was given political asylum. From Canada, Baloch continued her fight for Balochistan’s independence, and paid for that fight with her life.
In addition to the Netherlands, the UK and Canada, threats to the lives of Pakistani political exiles are also being investigated in France, where a journalist has encountered danger to his life.
In one case, Yunas Khan was told by the French police that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ruling party, Tehreek-e-Insaf, was behind a conspiracy to get rid of the journalist.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, exposures from investigations into a slew of assassination conspiracies may be beneficial publicity for Pakistani intelligence in circles that are willing to invest in political assassinations worldwide.
This is said to be the emerging view among Europe’s anti-terror agencies which are seized of the matter.
Between the 1980s when dictator Zia-ul-Haq shaped terrorism as an instrument of Pakistan’s State policy and the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, the Pakistani intelligence agency and Pakistan’s Army General Headquarters in Rawalpindi profited immensely from what Zia put into place.
They continued to benefit from Washington’s generosity after Islamabad agreed to co-operate with the Pentagon in regime change in Kabul after 9/11.
Pakistan’s deep state appears to be looking now at the prospect of political assassinations as a new instrument of State policy.
Since the initial rapprochement between Libya and the West, and the subsequent overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya as well as Saddam Hussein in Iraq, there has been a pause in both acts of terror and targeted assassinations in Europe.
The recent plots against dissidents on the continent, brought to light by several investigations could point to a new policy taking shape under the watchful eyes of the intelligence agency where the void left by the old regimes in Libya, Iraq, and others is sought to be filled by Pakistan.
Control of Kabul by the Taliban has given Islamabad access to the vast and lucrative drugs business, of which Afghanistan is the fountainhead.
The intelligence agency is now believed to be grooming Afghan-linked Pakistani drug gangs in Europe to be its Non-State accomplices in giving muscle to this new policy.
The UK is a particularly fertile ground for this purpose because of the presence of a large diaspora community in England, which is not exceptionally well off, and could be lured by drug money.
This came to light when the Metropolitan Police in London were investigating threats to the life of Ayesha Siddiqa, a well-known political analyst and academic, who has been critical of the Pakistan Army.
Significantly, an ethnic Pakistani, who took hostages at a synagogue in Texas last month, came from the UK, where his family emigrated to almost half a century ago.
The family is solidly British and well-networked in the Muslim community in the UK.
Its members are not recent emigrants.
Such overseas Pakistanis are ready fodder for any new ISI strategy of making political assassinations an instrument of State policy.
British double standards are clearly in evidence in such situations.
When Russia is suspected of poisoning President Vladimir Putin’s enemies in exile in Europe, no effort is spared to tarnish Moscow’s image and hold the Kremlin to account.
Very little of that happens when members of the diaspora community are involved in plots against one of their own: because they constitute a vote bank for UK politicians, especially those from the Labour Party.
In the 1980s and ’90s such silence in the West enabled Pakistan to become the reservoir of global terrorism, unnoticed. History may be about to repeat itself.
KP NAYAR has extensively covered West Asia and reported from Washington as a foreign correspondent for 15 years. Views are personal.