Indian parliament attack – what it achieved for India

December 22, 2010

By Momin Iftikhar

It might have been overshadowed by the Mumbai terrorist strike in Nov 2008 but attack on the Indian Parliament on 13 Dec 2001, on all accounts, remains a watershed in the jerky evolution of Indo-Pak relations, particularly in shaping the course of the Kashmir resistance movement. With the only accused awarded death penalty still awaiting the disposal of his mercy petition, the nine year old incident in which five unidentified gunmen attacked the building of the Indian Parliament, remains a happening thing, yet to be finally wrapped up.

All the five attackers were killed during the attack while four persons were arrested on charges of abetting the attackers as facilitators. These included Mohammad Afzal, a former JKLF militant who had surrendered in 1994, his cousin Shaukat Hussain Guru, Shaukat’s wife Afsan Guru and SA R Gilani, a lecturer of Arabic at the Delhi University. After a year of trial a POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) Court found all four guilty; awarding death sentence to men while Afsan was given five years’ rigorous imprisonment. On appeal the Delhi High Court acquitted Professor SA.R. Gilani and Afsan Guru on 29 Oct 2003 due to absence of incriminating evidence while upholding the death sentence for the remaining two. The case was raised to the Supreme Court, which in its verdict on Aug 3, 2005 lifted the death sentence for Shaukat leaving him with an imprisonment of ten years while confirming the death sentence for Afzal Guru. It is Afzal, the ultimate fall guy of the incident, who awaits the hangman’s noose pending the disposal of his mercy petition by the President of India for the sixth year running.

Coming within hundred days of the September 11 strike, the Parliament attack seemed fortuitous from an Indian foreign policy perspective; tightly following a well scripted narrative. Two aspects had made this charade compelling for India. First, the Taliban rout by US had opened new vistas for exploitation for India in its search for a foothold in Afghanistan. A marked Indian advantage was the coming to power of an anti Taliban Government in Kabul, lifted into saddle by authority of UN-sponsored conference in Bonn, Germany. The new leadership comprised primarily of the Northern Alliance elements- a motley assortment of Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazara warlords whose desperate survival in face of the Taliban onslaught had only been made possible by a no-holds-barred Indo-Iranian support. Pakistan’s west flank stood exposed and India was bent upon making most of the unexpected opportunity by exploiting Pakistan’s proximity to the Taliban to project it as sponsor of terrorism.

Second; India wanted to use the windfall opportunity to paint the freedom struggle in Kashmir with the broad red brush of terrorism. Pakistan’s emergence as an indispensable US partner in the war on terror in Afghanistan didn’t augur well for the Indian designs. There was a need to not only shift the international anti terrorist spotlight on Pakistan itself but also on the Kashmir specific militant organizations whose claims to represent the internationally sanctioned cause of self determination bestowed upon them the status of freedom fighters – a mantle which chagrined India much.

Once the parliament attack materialized India developed the scenario with the alacrity of a preplanned war game. Within hours it had accused ISI – and Pakistan Government of complicity without the benefit of any supporting evidence. For the first time in thirty years it recalled its ambassador to Pakistan. It also ended rail and bus service between the two countries and banned Pakistani commercial aircraft use of India air space. In a most alarming gesture it started the mobilization of troops within a week of the incident along the entire 1800 miles border between the two countries, confronting Pakistan with the largest ever hostile concentration of forces.

The ratcheting up of the coercive diplomacy yielded tangible results for India. On 26 December the US responded by the addition of LeT and JeM, both Kashmir centric militant organizations, to a State Department list of “designated terrorist organizations” – a momentous step that Washington had apparently been trying to avoid. This US action reinforced India’s long sought position that supporting the Kashmiri armed struggle was illegitimate. As summarized by the New York Times; “Pakistan after 50 years of battling India over Kashmir, must now abandon the armed struggle there and rely hence forth on political means of confronting India.”

To divest the Kashmiri armed struggle of its indigenous moorings the term “cross border terrorism” began to circulate immediately following the attack and became inseparable component of any Indian diplomatic interaction related to Kashmir Issue. It is worth recalling that till then Indians had not referred to decade long uprising in Kashmir as terrorism. The Lahore Declaration signed by Indian Premier Vajpaee bears ample testimony to this fact. But following 9/11 the world changed and the line separating freedom struggle from terrorism had vanished, providing India with a great opportunity to project itself as a victim of terrorism instead of being an unabashed oppressor of Kashmiri population.

Immediately following the parliament attack India unleashed a reign of terror to break the back of Kashmiri resistance. To drive home the ‘victim of terror syndrome’, it managed to airlift hundreds of Taliban fighters from Afghanistan jails and used them as clay pigeons to conduct fake encounters in IHK; cashing in on India’s long association with Northern Alliance warlords, now in power in Kabul. The trend become deeply embedded in the Indian army culture whereby fake encounters in Kashmir have become the short cut for the up and coming ambitious Indian army officers intent upon securing a promising career.

India accused Pakistan for it and treated the attack on the Indian parliament as a casus belli; taking the subcontinent to the brink of a war. It would be interesting, though, to note as to what the Indian judicial system found out after four years of deliberations. The Indian Supreme Court, in its verdict of Aug 2005 cast aside charges of a ‘Pakistani Connection’; throwing overboard the story of conspiracy linking ISI, Masood Azhar, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Ghazi Baba, Tariq, and the rest. All that the judgment refers to is that five unidentified armed men attacked Indian parliament and died, and that Mohammad Afzal participated in the conspiracy. Sadly, this aspect has gone unnoticed in India by design and the world at large by default.


ISI on Taliban’s Board of Directors, What About Indian Airforce Molestor Deported From Israel?

June 16, 2010

Music Teacher Molests A Girl In A Florida Indian Temple For Four Years, But That’s Not News Because He Is Not A Pakistani!


You Heard About Indian Air Force Officer Deported By Israel For Molesting A Kid? Neither Did I

A music teacher masturbated and forced his female student to have sex with him. This happened inside the South Florida Hindu Temple for four years. The student is 14 now and testified in court on Tuesday . Semen splatter has been found by the police inside the Hindu temple.

When the girl’s family tried to go public with this, the Indian community forced them to keep the scandal under wraps, shunning the girl and her family.

If this was a case involving a Pakistani, even if there was a hint of Pakistani involvement, like maybe the Indian music teacher traveled to Karachi en route to the Himalayas, this news would have been on CNN, Fox and BBC. But since it involves an Indian, the US media will give it a pass.

This is not an issue of religion. Deviants are found in all religions. It’s an issue of how the Am-Brit media selectively treats stories that impact government’s foreign policy priorities.

For example, in keeping with the official Washington policy of elevating India as a future power, the Am-Brit media won’t cover the story of an Australian preacher burned alive with his two young boys by an Indian religious mob. But when the professors of London School of Economics decide to become Inspector Gadgets and release a ridiculous ‘I-hate-you’ report against ISI and the Pakistani military, it is accorded maximum space by the Am-Brit news media because it simply suits current Am-Brit policies.

[See the original story here: Music Teacher Found Guilty Of Sexually Molesting Girl In Hindu Temple ]

So you can get away with a lot these days if you’re an Indian offender facing the Am-Brit media [a.k.a. the "international media"].

Take for example the case of the Indian Air Force officer deported by Israel last year for molesting a 6-year-old. I consider myself a new junkie and I have plenty of junkies like me in our PakNationalists team who scour the news as a hobby and yet I never heard of this story until today.

While the Am-Brit media pushed this news under the rug, the Indian Express covered the story and linked it to the reports of Indian peacekeepers in Africa found involved in child prostitution:
But the story that takes the cake for how the Am-Brit news media is totally motivated and often passes biases for analysis and news is the following story.

“This is the first time that an official from the IAF has been charged with attempting to abuse a child during a foreign posting. In the past, soldiers from the Indian Army posted at a peacekeeping mission in Congo have been investigated and found guilty for child abuse by the United Nations. A UN report revealed last year indicted Indian Peacekeepers posted in Congo for child abuse and paying minor Congolese girls in North Kivu for sex in 2007 and earlier this year.”

When 69 Pakistanis were burned alive aboard the so-called Peace Train as it traveled through India, BBC’s Jill McGivering, like most Am-Brit corresponds, pinned the blame on Pakistan and Kashmiri freedom groups.

Read these two fascinating paragraphs written by Ms. McGivering:
Even in her analysis, BBC’s Ms. McGivering was convinced that the perpetrators were Pakistanis and that the high number of dead Pakistanis was probably a blunder on the part of the attackers who aimed at ‘a different target’ like maybe Hindu Indians.

“The prime suspects might be groups such as Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, the main Islamic militant groups who have been blamed for many high-profile bombings. Recent attacks on Delhi, Mumbai and Varanasi, for example, seemed designed to damage India’s image abroad and stoke anti-Pakistan feeling inside India. But the fact that so many of the dead on the train were Pakistani Muslims may indicate that the devices were intended for a different target, or exploded prematurely.”

Of course, in 2008, three serving Indian military intelligence officers were arrested and charged with planning and executing the terrorist act. A Hindu terror group was also indicted as having helped the three Indian officers.

But did the BBC or Ms. McGivering apologize for their wrong information and wrong analysis?

No.

Did the BBC and the rest of the Am-Brit media highlight the nexus between Indian intelligence and Hindu terror groups?

No.

By Ahmed Quraishi


Certain Obama, Uncertain Allies

December 4, 2009

Shuja Nawaz

There is no doubt about it now. This is Obama’s War. He took full ownership of it last night. From the history to the conduct of operations, warts and all. He acknowledged how and why the United States went into Afghanistan, why it has stayed, and why it will leave under his timetable, with all its caveats. But to many the speech may not provide the basis for winning the war, because the objectives are still uncertain and more importantly, Obama has uncertain allies around the world and in the region. Without help from all of them, the United States alone will not be able to prosecute a successful counterinsurgency nor exit as gracefully as the president’s timetable implies.

The NATO Secretary General’s immediate and unequivocal statement of support notwithstanding, political Europe has been a weak reed. France and Germany need to show more resolve and invest more in this fight. It is not clear if that situation will change dramatically. The Afghan government is also weak. President Hamid Karzai will not only need to produce an effective cabinet and government machinery but also reshape the Afghan national security forces in double-quick time to allow the United States military to exit safely.

Pakistan remains a house divided: it is not clear if the powerful military that has run Afghan policy since the 1980s is as ready to sign on to the Obama strategy against the Afghan Taliban as the civilian president may be. Indeed, President Asif Ali Zardari’s own political position appears tenuous as he is being forced to shed the extraordinary powers he inherited from Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Where the Pakistani Prime Minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, stands is uncertain at best, especially without military backing. So, it is unclear who speaks for Pakistan today and it is unclear to what extent a common response has come from Pakistan’s power centers to the Obama letter delivered via National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones. President Obama’s veiled threat that the U.S. will not “tolerate a safe haven for terrorists whose location is known” will not resonate in the corridors of army headquarters. The Pakistan army is already overstretched in the fight against its domestic Taliban and under attack by Punjabi militant groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, while looking over its shoulders at India’s growing economic and military might and powerful presence inside Afghanistan. Till India and Pakistan come to terms with each other on the basis of common security and economic goals, Pakistan’s attention will remain diverted to the east. Obama’s advisers hinted at attempts to persuade India and Pakistan to desist from using Afghanistan as an area of competition. What leverage they have to effect that change is unclear.

If the United States takes unilateral action inside Pakistan, the public sentiment that has been poisoned by the drone attacks, among other things, may go against any major shift in Pakistan’s position on the Afghan Taliban who take shelter in the western borderlands. For most Pakistanis, al Qaeda is a vague and distant entity. Their immediate concerns are food, energy, and internal security. The U.S. recognizes these concerns but till the government of Pakistan takes actions to resolve its internal challenges itself, no amount of aid or advice from the outside will restore stability and growth to Pakistan.

It was good to hear Obama speak directly to the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan. That message needs to be repeated often, especially to let them know that the United States will help them directly in improving their lives and will not make short-term deals with individuals or groups at the center of power. Speeding up promised aid and opening up investment opportunities and the creation of jobs in infrastructure and manufacturing Pakistan will go a long way to change the mindset of the Pakistani masses.

Al Qaeda is not a large or powerful presence in Afghanistan. The Pashtun Taliban are. Success in Afghanistan will not come from simply beating them on the battlefield. Recall that the Soviets conquered most of Afghanistan and occupied nearly every hill, many times over. Success will come from providing security to the Afghan people in a substantial portion of the Pashtun belt. Protecting the population against the insurgents by embedding forces in communities will be the key to success in the south and east, not in setting up powerful fortresses, as the Soviets discovered. And they had more troops in the country than the United States has now. Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s war plan to translate the President’s strategy into action will determine the extent to which he can buy time and space for the Afghans to take over this war and begin providing good governance.

The President may have bought some political time at home by giving his general the troops he sought, rapidly, and extending to next summer the increased U.S. military commitment and additional support from his allies. Will that forward movement be enough for his fellow Democrats to fend off attacks on them during the 2010 elections? And will there be results enough in 2011 to sustain his own re-election bid in 2012? The political “war plan” of “General” Rahm Emmanuel for U.S. elections was clearly behind the timeline for the field operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan set by the President in his speech. He needs to win both wars decisively to buck history. But he will need a lot of help from his friends at home and abroad. An immediate test will be an unequivocal statement of support from the leadership of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Stay tuned for the silence.

Shuja Nawaz is the Director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council. This essay previously appeared at Foreign Policy. Photo credit: Getty Images.


The road ahead for India and Pakistan

October 7, 2009

Siddharth Varadarajan


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh shakes hands with his Pakistani counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani during a bilateral meeting at Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt. File Photo: PTI

If terrorism will not compel India to settle outstanding disputes with Pakistan, keeping the dialogue process suspended indefinitely is not going to force Islamabad to be more mindful of New Delhi’s concerns either. Both strategies have failed; it is time the two countries moved beyond them

There is a story senior journalist A.S. Panneerselvan tells of the experience of the first group of Tamil Tigers who were brought to a remote camp in Uttar Pradesh for arms training by the Indian government in the early 1980s. Every evening, the camp’s Tibetan cook would look at the group of Sri Lankan Tamils and start laughing. Eventually, one of the Tamils learnt enough Hindi to ask the cook what was so funny. “Thirty years ago,” the old man said, “I was in this camp with other Tibetans getting trained and there was somebody else to cook for us. Now you are here and I am cooking for you!” “That may be so,” the LTTE man said, “but I still don’t see what’s so funny.” Prompt came the reply: “You see, I’m wondering who you will be cooking for 20 years from now ? I think it may be the Chakmas!”

Unfortunately for the Indian establishment, the LTTE story did not end so tamely, over cooking pots and a camp fire. Well before the terrorist group eventually met its end in the Vanni earlier this year, the Tigers assassinated a former Prime Minister of India and were responsible for the death of countless Indian soldiers.

I am recalling this story in an article about India and Pakistan because it reminds us of three processes that are an essential part of modern South Asian statecraft and which help define the contours of the current crisis in the bilateral relationship. First, that every state in the region has, at one time or another, patronised extremist groups or tolerated their violent activities in order to advance its domestic political or regional strategic interests. Second, the activities of these groups invariably “overshoot” their target and begin to undermine the core interests of their original patrons. Third, there comes a time in the life of all such groups when the nature and extent of their violence reach a “tipping point” as far as the same state is concerned.

A mature, well-developed state is one which is able to read the early warning signs and effect a course correction in official policy well before that tipping point is reached. In the absence of this maturity, states respond in one of two ways. States with a tendency to stability are at least able to recognise when a tipping point has been reached and act accordingly. But states which are unable to recognise either the early warning signs or the tipping point itself and which continue to pretend that the non-state actors they have patronised can be subordinated to an official command structure despite evidence to the contrary run the risk of destabilising themselves.

The Congress party leader in Bombay, S.K. Patil, encouraged the rise of the Shiv Sena in the 1960s in order to undermine the city’s communist-led trade union movement. The Sena overshot its target and eventually became a political rival to the Congress. By the time the Sena revealed its true self in the communal violence it helped orchestrate in Bombay in 1992, it was too late for anyone to act against it. The Sena had already become a part of the establishment, its violence normalised, its leaders insulated from police action and proper judicial sanction.

A second example of the same phenomenon, but with a different ending, emerged in Punjab in the 1980s. Indira Gandhi welcomed the rise of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his extremist politics because she saw in him an effective counter to the Akali Dal in Punjab. The Khalistani ideologue’s violence was tolerated for some time; the tipping point for the establishment should arguably have come when a senior police officer, A.S. Atwal, was gunned down by Bhindranwale’s men in April 1983. But New Delhi waited and waited, acting against the ‘Sant’ only in June 1984.

The trouble with acting against extremist groups after the tipping point is reached is that the process can be long drawn out and costly, especially in terms of human life. Successive governments at the Centre pacified Punjab but not before nearly 20,000 people lost their lives in Operation Bluestar, the November 1984 massacres, and the brutal police campaigns in the Punjab.

In Pakistan, the military-cum-intelligence establishment has had a long-term policy of creating, cultivating and using extremist groups both as a lever against mainstream political parties within the country and as a tool of foreign and military policy against India and Afghanistan. Some of these groups very rapidly ‘overshot’ their initial targets, especially domestically. The state responded by targeting particularly wayward terrorist leaders but did not abandon the overall structures of official permissiveness. External pressure following 9/11 led to the temporary course correction of abandoning the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Lal Masjid situation in Islamabad was another potential tipping point but its lessons were ignored, leading to the growth of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. Then came Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, but the nexus between extremism and a military establishment keen to subvert the return of democracy muddied the waters. Sufi Mohammad’s folly in openly defying the Pakistani state soon after the Nizam-e-Adl fiasco in Swat brought about a more decisive point of inflection, which is today still being played out in the Malakand division.

But even if the Pakistani army has joined the battle against terrorism in the frontier regions bordering Afghanistan in earnest, there is no question of the military establishment recognising the danger that anti-India terrorist groups have started to pose to Pakistan itself. A section of the Pakistani political leadership saw in the terrorist attack on Mumbai in November 2008 the grave threat that groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba pose to the stability of the region. Nudged along by the United States and by a non-confrontationist Indian approach, an unprecedented criminal investigation was launched against a section of LeT operatives. Since the LeT has never launched a terrorist attack inside Pakistan, however, it is easy for sceptics there to argue that the group does not pose a threat. That is why the establishment there is reluctant to act against Lashkar chief Hafiz Saeed. But wise statecraft is about recognising the early warning signs, not waiting for the tipping point. Imtiaz Gul’s book, The Al-Qaeda Connection, provides plenty of evidence on the deep links which exist between the LeT, the Jaish-e-Mohammed and even the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, on the one hand, and the TTP in Pakistan’s tribal areas, on the other.

Given these political realities, what can India do to encourage Pakistan to recognise that the terrorist groups operating on its soil are an undifferentiated syndicate and pose a common threat to both countries? Of all the forms of encouragement, refusing to talk is the least effective. It is not a coincidence that those sections of the Pakistani establishment which continue to see the jihadi terror groups as future assets are the very sections least anxious to see the resumption of the bilateral dialogue. Exchanging rhetoric and putting pressure via public statements are also not likely to pay dividends. Nor is there any point in messing up the strong case India has in Mumbai with overkill. Pakistani officials have pointed out, for example, that the salutation “Major General sahab” – one of the co-conspirators allegedly identified by Ajmal ‘Kasab’ and seen by the Indians as proof of Islamabad’s official complicity in 26/11 – is never used in the subcontinent; the preferred greeting is ‘General sahab’.

At a recent Track-II meeting of Indian and Pakistani analysts, former ambassadors, military officers and intelligence chiefs organised by the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies in Bangkok, there was consensus on the grave threat terrorism poses to Pakistan and to India. Specifically, the need for India and Pakistan to open a back channel on counter-terrorism was recognised, with the participation of intelligence agencies from the two countries. This would supplement the back channel on Jammu and Kashmir which worked effectively till 2006 and which, the Track-II meeting felt, needs to be revived at an early date. The Composite Dialogue process, too, was seen as having served a useful purpose in the past.

With last month’s meeting in New York between the Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan yielding little in terms of forward movement by either side, there is a danger of the bilateral relationship getting stuck into one of those ruts that finally require the mediation of extra hands in order to be rescued. Rather than wait for that, the first available improvement in optics – the start of the Mumbai trial in Pakistan, for example – should be seized upon to move ahead on the back channel, with the front channel being revived in a calibrated manner as confidence increases. Indefinitely postponing talks will not help protect India from future terrorist attacks. And talking will not make it more vulnerable. India should stop confusing hard line diplomatic strategy for effective counter-terrorism.

If terrorism will not compel India to settle outstanding disputes with Pakistan, keeping the dialogue process suspended indefinitely is not going to force Islamabad to be more mindful of New Delhi’s concerns either. Both strategies have failed; it is time the two countries moved beyond them.


Ghost of Terrorism visiting India

September 18, 2009

I.A. Panshota

Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram, while inaugurating a three-day conference of directors-general and inspectors-general of police convened by the Intelligence Bureau on September 13, 2009 has been reported as saying that Pakistan-based groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad are continuing to plot terror attacks against India and getting support from disgruntled elements. The statement has sent a shock wave to all the innocent and law abiding Muslims of the region, as the community, he alleged for fomenting troubles in India is victim of worst conceivable human tortures in Indian, besides being most deprived and strife ridden, who deserve global sympathies, not the spikes to rub salts into the wounds. He not only contends incriminating these Muslims but also implicated infiltrators for making attempts from across the border to forge unity among separatists in Jammu and Kashmir and escalate violence.

How realistic he is, remains a big question for the parties accused, when he asserts that Terrorist groups including LeT and JeM who, according to him, persist in their endeavor to launch terror attacks who, continue to innovate, new ways and means of fueling such troubles. They find support among disgruntled elements within India. The list of his allegations did not end here. He even referred to the Mumbai attacks as a “game changer” terming these activities something beyond Indian tolerance claiming “we can no longer afford to do business as usual” His open or veiled threat was to all the concerned, most obviously to Pakistan, when he gave vent to his pent up anger, saying “Let me state our position clearly. On terrorism, our stance is zero tolerance, the case of threat or attack, our response will be swift and decisive”.

Day in and day out, Indian grumbling and grousing against Pakistan continue unabated. Chidambaram further stated that policing in India was always a challenge and cross-border terrorism is a matter of deep concern but after 26/11, the challenge has become graver. He said security agencies were able to dismantle 12 terrorist modules in 2008 and almost 13 more in the first half of the current year. He believed that level of their preparedness to fight any terror threat attack would be further elevated. But he did not justify the gruesome killing of the innocent people in the Kashmir, East Punjab and North East’s seven states where more than three hundred thousand people have been killed during the last three decades, beside other collateral damages.

The fact that Pakistan has not been able to fully recover from its trauma of suicide bombing, as its horror and wreckage has literally rocked the total political infra-structure and government is busy making all out efforts to provide bare minimums necessities of life to its people. How come handful aid-workers of LeT or HuM groups, mostly god-fearing religious elements muster up courage and support to enter India to activate their like-minded elements for any such terrorist activity of unleashing mayhem and chaos in the country.

If the statement of the honorable Minister is based on facts, then why India does not allow the fact finding missions of the world to visit North-East, Kashmir and other disturbed areas of the Northeast India? If, all is true, which he has narrated above, who then tempts the 17 most active rebel groups in India, whose strength runs into thousands who are actively involved in the freedom movement throughout the country. If India is land of so peaceful people, why its Human Rights record has always remained one of worst in the world? If the government is providing good governance to its masses, then why world’s most draconian and inhuman laws like Terrorists and Disruptive Activities Prevention Act, Disturbed Area act, POTA, Punjab Security State Act, National Security Act and Armed Forces Special Powers Act are still imposed in the country.

To ascertain the fact, let us browse the official record pending decisions in the courts and other verifiable sources of information. It is not difficult to dig out the truth and establish the credibility of Indian Interior Minister’s statement. What is ratio of the Muslims activists, who are involved in all such terrorist and criminal activities? This could be verified from the records of various under trial cases pending decisions in various courts. How many people have suffered extra-judicial killings and by whom? When there was no organization like Harkat-e-Mujahideen, or Lashkar-e-Tayyba, who then created such massive troubles in India. Why did India deploy more than seven hundred thousand security personnel in North East and as many in Kashmir, if the people are happy with her polity? On the country, a country like Pakistan which cannot harness the activities of a few hundred people, how come, it could create such a big wave or trouble in India.


Pakistan turns on its jihadi assets

July 31, 2009

By Syed Saleem Shahzad

KARACHI – Intense United States efforts and assurances have put Pakistan and India on track to renew their dialogue process over key contentious issues, such as divided Kashmir.

An important upshot of this is that Islamabad has begun a crackdown on jihadi assets its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) raised in the 1990s for asymmetric warfare against India after losing three battles against its much bigger neighbor.

Asia Times Online has learned that a nascent crackdown on militants in Pakistan’s largest province, Punjab, will turn into a major operation and the remnants of all defunct jihadi organizations, no matter how peacefully they operate inside Pakistan, will be dismantled. A showcase of this exercise took place Monday in Anti-Terrorist Court II in Rawalpindi, the garrison city twinned with the capital Islamabad.

In front of a mass media presence, yesterday’s hero of the Pakistani military establishment, former Pakistani member of parliament Shah Abdul Aziz, appeared with a shaven head like any ordinary criminal and was ordered on judicial remand to be detained in Adyala Jail Rawalpindi in connection with the abduction and murder by the Taliban of a Polish engineer, Piotr Stanczak, in September 2008. He was beheaded by militants in February after talks with the government for the release of captured Taliban members failed.

Although Aziz was ordered to be jailed, Asia Times Online contacts say that he was bundled off to an intelligence safe house for further interrogation.

“This is the same Shah Abdul Aziz who delivered [Pakistan Taliban leader] Baitullah Mehsud’s letter written to the chief of army staff Ashfaq Parvez Kiani a few months ago as part of his job to get peace between the army and the militants,” retired squadron leader Khalid Khawaja told Asia Times Online. Khawaja is a former ISI official and now a human-rights activist for “disappeared” victims of the “war on terror”.

Military spokesperson Major General Athar Abbas, however, while confirming to the British Broadcasting Corporation that Aziz was in custody, denied the delivery of any letter to the army chief. Instead, he said the authorities had recovered a letter from Aziz written by Baitullah to retired Lieutenant General Hamid Gul, a former head of the ISI.

Nevertheless, Aziz was clearly on the military’s bandwagon. He was the Taliban’s commander in the Pul-e-Khomri region in Afghanistan during the Taliban regime in the late 1990s. After the US invasion in 2001 that toppled the Taliban, he hosted displaced Arab families in Pakistan and strongly advocated closer ties between the military and militants. He has been involved in numerous peace initiatives, ranging from the South Waziristan operations in 2004 to the crackdown on the radical Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad in 2007, as well as the moves to release an abducted Canadian journalist in North Waziristan.

In 2002, he won a seat in the National Assembly from Karak in North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). His election meetings were attended by top Taliban leaders and he became know as the voice of the mujahideen in the assembly. (He lost his seat in 2008.)

Despite his involvement in peace talks, the military came to suspect that Aziz was more of a spin doctor for the militants and on May 27 this year he was apprehended at the residence of Lal Masjid prayer leader Maulana Abdul Aziz, along with one Fidaullah, the alleged mastermind of various acts of terror in Islamabad.

According to a police statement, Aziz was arrested after another terror suspect, Ataullah Khan, a Taliban militant, said that Aziz had ordered the killing of Stanczak.

“This is a ridiculous claim,” Khawaja commented to Asia Times Online. “Ataullah was picked up by security personnel a few months ago from Kohat [in NWFP].

His parents filed a case over his disappearance. But the police say he was arrested in Peshawar on July 16 and they came up with the statement that he had assassinated the Polish engineer on Shah Abdul Aziz’s instructions. Yet Aziz is on record as having already been picked up by the ISI on May 27. If he was arrested on the basis of a statement given to the police on July 16, why was he picked up on May 27?” Khawaja asked.

Aziz’s is a very high-profile case that has come as a surprise. Most people thought that after his apprehension on May 27 he would have been quickly released with a warning. However, the manner in which he was interrogated in an ISI safe house and publicly humiliated in court marks a clear change in the military’s mindset concerning its former Islamist allies – they are now believed to be a serious liability.

A commander of the banned militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad (Army of Mohammad), Habibur Rahman, who was killed last week in the southern Punjab city of Laya, is another case in point.

Rahman fought against Indian forces in Indian-administered Kashmir, then, after the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, he battled foreign troops there before being arrested by Pakistani security agencies.

During interrogation it was found that he was not involved with al-Qaeda, but his connection with the Taliban put him into the category of dangerous suspects (Schedule 4). He was released, but picked up again by police a few weeks ago in what is known as an unregistered case. His family filed a petition in the Supreme Court, which last week requested the concerned authorities to produce him before the court. Instead, his body was delivered to his relatives – he had died during interrogation.

Commenting on these cases, former ISI official Khawaja told Asia Times Online, “The role of the Punjab government run by the Pakistan Muslim League led by Nawaz Sharif is pathetic. They took votes to avenge [the military raid] on Lal Masjid, but now the Punjab police are using the worst sort of tactics against religious people. I warn Nawaz Sharif and his chief minister brother, Shebaz Sharif, to learn the lesson of [former president general] Pervez Musharraf, who took steps to appease the Americans, and then faced a dire situation. We will not let anybody do such things without accountability.”

Whatever the backlash that might come from the militants, the point is Pakistan has made a significant shift and taken Washington’s desires to heart.

Another instance of this is that this month Pakistan finally handed over a dossier to the Indian government on the terror attack on Mumbai last November in which more than 150 people were killed. Pakistan admitted the involvement of the militant Laskhar-e-Taiba (LeT) group and accepted that the entire operation had been planned and facilitated in Pakistan. Five LeT officials were named in the dossier.

This new mood of cooperation was reflected in a joint statement issued by Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Indian Premier Manmohan Singh in Egypt on July 16 in which they agreed to cooperate in the fight against terrorism as a part of a broader pledge to improve bilateral ties.

“The [ruling] Congress [party] is confident [that] when the [Indian] prime minister speaks in parliament on July 29, he will set at rest all questions, all apprehensions and speculation relating to the Indo-Pak joint statement at Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt,” Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi was reported as saying.

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online’s Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be reached at saleem_shahzad2002@yahoo.com

(Copyright 2009 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)


Something has gone terribly wrong

July 28, 2009

By Asif Haroon Raja

The belligerent attitude and wrongs of India has bred extremism in the region. Dozens of separatist movements and insurgencies in India and in occupied Kashmir are testimony to immoral and unjust Indian policies which Indian leaders have stubbornly pursued and refused to correct them.

All told, there are 42 separatist movements, insurgencies and terrorist groups in India. As per an American Think Tank Report, in the light of separatist and insurgent movements and terrorist networks, India is the most dangerous country in the world. Manmohan Singh has admitted this hard reality. It is the sole country in the world wherein its military is closely linked with Hindu terrorist groups.

Indian ruling elite is so obsessed with pompous plans of turning India into a world power that human misery doesn’t prick their conscience. While maintaining a black record of human rights against Indian minorities of other religions and blatantly meddling into internal affairs of all its neighbors with impunity, it brazenly makes allegations against its neighbors and hurls threats to cover up its own crimes against humanity. As a result of its high-handedness, treachery, policy of intimidation and blackmail, it is the most mistrusted and hated country in South Asia. It is because of Indian selfishness and conceit that South Asia has lagged behind as compared to other regions.

Indo-Pak relations got estranged in the aftermath of Mumbai incident in November 2008 and disrupted composite dialogue as well as diplomatic engagement between two countries. Age-old antagonism that had been apparently suppressed resurfaced with full intensity during last eight months. India adopted a fractious and unbending posture and continued to blame Pakistan for Mumbai attacks without providing concrete evidence. It stubbornly stuck to its unfair stance that unless Pakistan punished the culprits named by Indian authorities and dismantled anti-Indian terrorist network in Pakistan, resumption of talks would be out of question. Contrary to Indian mulishness, Pakistan adopted a conciliatory stance. It offered to investigate the case jointly and promised to punish perpetrators of crime after they were proven guilty in court of law. For the satisfaction of India, Hafiz Saeed and other members of Jamat-ud-Dawa and two other allied religious outfits were arrested and their bank accounts frozen. Pakistan raised some genuine queries on so-called dossier furnished by India which was full of loopholes. After an inordinate delay, half-baked answers were provided leaving far too many lacunas. India felt irritated as to why Pakistan was asking pointing questions or seeking clarifications and desired that it should obey its commands blindly as it responded to US dictates.

Pak army’s operation in Malakand Division and in Waziristan brought no comfort to India since these operations were directed against anti-Pakistan elements and RAW sponsored militants. In fact, focused operations became a cause of discomfiture to them since their elaborate preparations and investment in Swat and adjoining areas since 2005 evaporated in thin air. They had expected Fazlullah led militants to fix the army in Swat valley for next ten years. They were cocksure that IDP issue would remain unmanageable for times to come, having a crippling effect on socio-economic aspects. Led with such fanciful hopes, ailing Manmohan recovering from his heart surgery in May last gurgled with joy that in his assessment Pakistan had become a failed state. He had confided in Obama that Pak nuclear facilities located in NWFP had become vulnerable and were in the grip of militants.. He behaved atrociously with Zardari during their last meeting in Russia where he reiterated Indian position that until Pakistan complied with Indian demands peace talks will not be resumed.

Sudden collapse of Swat front due to bold, imaginative and sound military operation caused a huge set back to Indian designs. Upsurge of image of army in the eyes of the public and even at the international plane, unqualified public support for the army together with return of IDPs to their homes and Baitullah’s defensive posture in South Waziristan went against their plans.

They tried to recover lost ground by instigating Baitullah to dispatch his suicide bombers and hit targets in major cities of Pakistan and also to put up a united front in Waziristan with the help of Gul Bahadur and Maulvi Nazir and to activate other fronts. Much to their dissatisfaction, the duo is reluctant to play their game wholeheartedly because of offensive posture maintained by the army and FC in Waziristan, Bajaur, Mohmand, and other restive areas. Rising casualties of US-Nato troops in Helmand province has made the position of USA delicate; it is now seriously contemplating exit strategy with the help of Taliban. Commendable performance of Pak army made its detractors making wild allegations to chew their words. It also took the heat of chauvinism out of swollen heads of Indian leaders. There is now a slight change in their tone and tenor.

On odd occasions when some of the Indian prime ministers tried to be a little flexible and accommodative, hawks in ruling regime, opposition and establishment made so much of hue and cry that they had to hastily disown whatever commitment made by them with Pakistani leadership. Vajpayee’s role during Agra talks in 2001 was a case in point. Recent example is that of Manmohan meeting with Gilani at Sharm-al-Sheikh. Although it signaled thaw in Indo-Pak relations but shaky Manmohan again made resumption of dialogue subject to fulfillment of specified conditions. It clearly highlighted his lack of confidence to face the hawks on his return.

Interesting part of last interaction between two leaders is that it has been agreed in principle to detach Kashmir and terrorism from composite dialogue. If Kashmir is excluded, whole purpose of dialogue gets defeated. As regards terrorism, India has been caught red handed indulging in sabotage and subversion in FATA, Swat and Balochistan. Pakistan has collected ample evidence to prove Indian involvement. Now when the time has come to put India on the mat, we seem to be ready to graciously accept Indian demands of excluding terrorism and thus bailing it out. Our leaders are probably seeing it from a narrow periscope of Mumbai incident only about which India has no means to prove its false allegations. Otherwise too, India has no moral ground to accuse Pakistan on a charge in which it is heavily involved. Main objective behind Indian belligerence is to once again extract concessions from Pakistan as it had done in January 2004. It would apply maximum pressure to make our leaders agree to completely pulverize Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, to once again give it in writing that Pakistan would not allow its soil to be used for terrorism against Kashmir or India and to forget about Kashmir.

Something has gone terribly wrong. Never before this nation was harassed, persecuted maligned and humiliated in such a manner. Our sovereignty and integrity as an independent nation was never compromised so blatantly. Our leaders howsoever inept and corrupt never became pawns in the hands of foreign powers to an extent of bartering away national interests, dignity and honor of the nation. Our leaders never held traditional adversaries of Pakistan as dear friends and more trustworthy than own people. Never before we compromised on Kashmir dispute since Kashmir has always been regarded as jugular vein of Pakistan. Our leaders never forced our army to kill its own people at the behest of foreign power. Never before our leaders said that the existential threat to Pakistan is not from its arch rival India but from local militants. Our leaders were never frightened of India as of now. Even after gathering foolproof evidence of their involvement in sabotage and subversion activities in a massive way to destabilize and break up Pakistan they remain tightlipped and do not give up policy of appeasement.

- Asian Tribune -


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