One of the consequences of Trump’s temporary travel ban on the seven nations (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen) in the 2015 Terrorist Travel Prevention Act is that other nations with terrorism problems don’t want to be next.
The president’s travel ban didn’t even include Pakistan, and yet it prompted them to take actions that effectively prevented 39 Taliban members from entering the U.S. Pakistan is among those nations that have seen a surge in terrorist activity in recent years, with Tehrik-i-Taliban (aka the Pakistani Taliban) acting as an umbrella group under which dozens of terror groups organize.
As a result of the terrorist presence there, the White House hinted yesterday that Pakistan could be added to the temporary travel ban: “Maybe we will. The bottom line is we started with the seven countries that have previously been identified, did a 90-day review. Maybe during that 90-day review we find other countries or we take someone off or whatever. But it is a review process,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer replied to a question on why Pakistan wasn’t included in the list. White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus also hinted that Pakistan could be next on the list.
Pakistan took notice.
Unlike Iran, which responded by banning Americans from entering their country in return (there goes everyone’s spring break plans!), Pakistan responded by making an effort to fight terrorism in their country.
As the Washington Post reported: The sudden house arrest of a high-profile Islamist cleric in Pakistan on Monday sparked peaceful protests Tuesday by his followers, who condemned it as a government effort to appease the Trump administration after it banned visitors and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries over the weekend — and after a top presidential aide hinted that Pakistan could be added to the list.
Supporters of Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the fiery leader of the Jamaat-ul-Dawa movement [an affiliiate of the Pakistani Taliban], said the move by Pakistani officials had also come at the behest of India, Pakistan’s Hindu-led rival and neighbor. The group zealously opposes India’s claim to the disputed Kashmir border region, and a previous militant group led by Saeed, Lashkar-e-Taiba, was blamed for the 2008 terrorist siege that killed 166 people in the Indian city of Mumbai.
“There was pressure coming from the U.S. on Pakistani authorities to either arrest Hafiz Saeed or face the sanctions, and the government succumbed to that pressure,” Nadeem Awan, a spokesman for Saeed, said in an interview Tuesday. The U.S. government offered a $10 million bounty for Saeed’s arrest in 2012.
There was plenty of criticism of the U.S. travel ban from the Pakistani government, but there was no clear explanation for the abrupt decision to confine Saeed, who has been arrested and released several times in previous years and accused, but never convicted of, extremist activities. He has regularly preached impassioned anti-government and anti-India sermons to large crowds without being stopped by police, and he has a wide popular following. His group’s assets were frozen two years ago, but it has never been banned, and Saeed could be freed in six months.
The news of his detention was greeted in India with a heavy dose of skepticism. Many on social media noted that Saeed had been previously detained and speculated that Pakistan was reining him in now as a sop to the new American president. Indian authorities have long demanded tougher action against him and others accused of carrying out or orchestrating anti-India violence.
“Only a credible crackdown on the mastermind of the Mumbai terrorist attack and terrorist organizations involved in cross-border terrorism would be proof of Pakistan’s sincerity,” said Vikas Swarup, the spokesman for India’s Ministry of External Affairs.
Some Pakistani analysts also questioned the timing of the arrest and attributed it to pressure from Washington, noting that Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, said the ban might be extended to Pakistan.
Today (two days after Saaed’s arrest), Saeed has been banned from exiting Pakistan, and their Interior Ministry has added 38 others allegedly linked to Jamaat-ul-Dawa on their “Exit Control List.” As mentioned, Trump’s travel ban didn’t mention Pakistan, and yet it prompted actions that essentially prevented 39 Taliban members from entering our country. That’s an unintended consequence of the travel ban you likely won’t find reported on CNN today.
[Note: This post was written by Matt Palumbo. Follow him on Twitter @MattPalumbo12]