The Pakistan government, in what is a significant move and reportedly the first of its kind, has warned its military of the country’s increasing international diplomatic isolation, and asked that it assist in cracking down on militant groups. An exclusive report in Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper said that in an “extraordinary” meeting earlier this week, intelligence agencies and army officials were told “not to interfere if law enforcement acts against militant groups that are banned”.

The report said the civilian government had “in a blunt, orchestrated and unprecedented warning” explained the country’s current situation of “diplomatic isolation” and that Islamabad’s current talking points on foreign policy were being “met with indifference in major world capitals”.

The meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and attended by senior cabinet and government officials, as well as senior military personnel headed by Inter-Services Intelligence chief Rizwan Akhtar. Sharif also instructed that the investigation into the Pathankot attacks be finished soon and that trials on the 2008 Mumbai attacks be restarted, Dawn reported.

During a presentation on the country’s foreign affairs scenario, Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry added that “while China has reiterated its support for Pakistan, it too has indicated a preference for a change in course by Pakistan”. Chaudhry also added that “the principal international demands are for action against Masood Azhar and the Jaish-i-Mohmmad; Hafiz Saeed and the Lashkar-e-Taiba; and the Haqqani network.”

ISI chief Akhtar in reply said that the state should arrest anybody it thought necessary. However, the report added that Akhtar was concerned about the timing of these moves, and that they needed “to not be seen as buckling to Indian pressure or abandoning the Kashmiri people”.

Pakistan has faced pressure from India to crack down on militant groups working inside its country since the Pathankot attack in January. Following the attack on an Army base in Uri, Kashmir, on September 18 (where 19 soldiers died), relations between the countries have deteriorated. India has accused Pakistan of harbouring the JeM militant group it says was behind the attack, while Pakistan has denied the allegations. Both countries have taken each other on verbally at the United Nations.

Last week, India also conducted military strikes along “terror launchpads” at the Line of Control, which Pakistan has denied.

Protests in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir

Meanwhile, leaders and locals from various parts of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir staged a massive protest against the government on Thursday, accusing it of helping the Taliban kill United States soldiers and of harbouring militants. Gilgit-Baltistan National Congress Director Senge Hasnan Sering also called Islamabad a “thief in Gilgit-Baltistan” and added that Pakistan can never forge friendship with Kashmiris.

Simultaneously, protests erupted in Muzaffarabad, Kotli, Chinari, Mirpur, Gilgit, Diamer and Neelum Valley towns with people in PoK alleging that their life has become a "living hell" because of nearby militant training camps and demanded that they be destroyed immediately, reported NDTV. “Banned organisations and terror camps are provided with food and ration here. We condemn it,” said one of the protesters.

Sering, who spoke at an interactive event organised by US think-tank Atlantic Council, accused Islamabad of carrying out atrocities on the people of Kashmir and violating human rights. “You [Pakistan] have been exploiting resources in Gilgit-Baltistan without paying royalty or compensation for the last 70 years. I call you a thief in Gilgit-Baltistan and a thief in Gilgit-Baltistan cannot be a friend in Jammu and Kashmir,” said Sering.