An anti-terrorism court (ATC) on Tuesday sentenced two Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) members to 10 years in prison, for raising funds for the banned outfit. With relations between India and Pakistan balanced on a knife’s edge, one wonders if this crackdown is a strategy to improve relations between both as a form of appeasement to India, or a genuine effort to limit terrorism in Pakistan.

The conviction of Kashif Siddique and Rashid Iqbal makes it potentially the first time that members of JeM have been convicted under the Anti-Terrorism Act. The state wants to convey that dialogue resumption between India and Pakistan is a priority for the Nawaz government. The past few days has seen the government pick up its pace with regards to the Pathankot investigation. While the two convicted seemingly had nothing to do with the attacks themselves, Pakistan is looking to do just about enough for India to resume the dialogue process. It remains to be seen whether India will take this bait, however. This action is not likely to soften the Indian government’s expectations of Pakistan.

Past experience suggests that JeM, like some other banned organisations, has access to sophisticated legal counsel which can help protect its operations and its leaders’ freedom. How is the government planning to mitigate this problem, given the preponderance of many criminals to escape normal courts without convictions? The ATC seems to be likely destination for other JeM members, if tried, but the military courts might be more suitable, because of the higher conviction rate. For the state, the challenge will be to ensure that the initial actions against JeM are converted into sustained and meaningful measures that ensure the long-term dismantling of militant groups. It must be remembered that bringing Jaish-e-Muhammad down may help in the talks process, but benefits Pakistan more in the way of eliminating a prominent terrorist outfit. It is axiomatic that Pakistan cannot hope to eliminate terrorism from its soil and leave such groups unscathed. The Special Investigation Team (SIT) looks likely to visit India to continue its investigation, but the journey will be futile if the investigators are denied entry into Pathankot airbase. The government needs to forget about how positively its actions might be received on the Eastern border, and should instead use this opportunity to do what it promised to its people; to effectively end extremism in the country and ensuring that innocent lives are not threatened by those looking to wreak havoc in the name of religion.