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Making sense of Pakistan terror machine’s latest attack and its aftermath


Pakistan Arrests 40 in Terror Crackdown

'It is an eyewash' By Irfan Husain, Dawn, Karachi

Pak is running with the hare and hunting with the hounds By Kamran Shafi, Dawn, Karachi

A Region In Ferment by Robert D Kaplan, The Nation

Pakistani military and the Afghan problem by M.K. Bhadrakumar, Indian analyst

We must not let the ‘soft state’ crumble By Inder Malhotra, Indian analyst

In times of crisis, it’s vital to be resilient By Jayanthi Natarajan, Indian politician

'Tactics must be changed on war on terror': Imran Khan, Pakistani politician

Mumbai attacks: Perils in parallels by Shakeel Syed, Arab News

Pakistan's Dilemma by MARK SILVERBERG, Israeli analyst

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau




Pakistan Arrests 40 in Terror Crackdown



ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan intensified its crackdown on the terror outfit alleged to have orchestrated November's three-day siege of Mumbai, arresting about 40 people in raids on militant camps and offices across north-western and central parts of the country.

Mumbai's Suspects


India police released names and photos of nine suspected Islamic militants killed during their attack on Mumbai.

Javed alias Abu Ali -- Allegedly involved in the attack at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel


Shoaib alias Abu Soheb -- Involved in the attack at the Taj Mahal hotel


Fahad Ullah -- Allegedly involved in the attack on the Oberoi Trident Hotel


Nazeer alias Abu Umer -- Allegedly involved in the attack at the Taj Mahal hotel


But a senior Pakistani official made it clear that no suspect arrested by Pakistan would be handed over to India.


There is immense pressure on Pakistan to dismantle Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group accused of carrying out the attacks that killed 171 people. Tuesday's raids saw an expansion of the crackdown beyond Pakistan's part of Kashmir, where officials said one of the outfit's founders, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, was grabbed this week by soldiers, along with 11 others.


Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani confirmed Wednesday that Mr. Lakhvi had been taken into custody and was being investigated. He also said Zarar Shah had been arrested. Indian media reports have identified Mr. Shah as another suspect in the assaults.


New Delhi offered no official response to the arrests Tuesday. An Indian official has said India is waiting to see the extent of Pakistan's actions.


There was confusion over whether a major terror suspect wanted by India, Maulana Masood Azhar, had been detained in Pakistan. India's CNN-IBN television station quoted Pakistan Defense Minister Ahmad Mukhtar as saying he had, but a Pakistani security official in Islamabad said he hadn't.


Mr. Azhar, once imprisoned in India, leads Jaish-e-Mohammed, a militant group that, like Lashkar, rose to prominence fighting Indian rule in divided Kashmir and has been blamed for terror attacks in India. Indian officials have demanded he be turned over even though his group hasn't been linked to the Mumbai attacks.


Another Pakistani official said Lashkar was the only group being targeted in the raids and that about 40 of its members were arrested Tuesday in seven of its camps and offices. The raids took place in the North West Frontier Province, a hotbed of Taliban and al Qaeda activity, and Punjab, Pakistan's most populous province and Lashkar's heartland.

Mumbai police said they will question an Indian national they identified only as Sabauddin about the attacks and any training he received. He has been in custody in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh in connection with other attacks, said Rakesh Maria, joint commissioner of police in Mumbai, who is heading the probe.


In Mumbai, police released many of the names, aliases, home towns and photos of the nine suspected terrorists killed during the attacks. Their ages ranged from 20 to 28 years old and most were from Pakistan's Punjab province, said Mr. Maria.

—Eric Bellman in Mumbai and the Associated Press contributed to this article.


Write to Matthew Rosenberg at


Copyright 2008 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved


'It is an eyewash'

By Irfan Husain, Dawn, Karachi

December 10, 2008


In the wake of 9/11, many moderate Pakistanis had hoped that in the process of ridding Afghanistan of the Taliban, the Americans would also help Pakistan roll back the forces of extremism that were threatening to tear the country apart. Over seven years later, the Taliban are resurgent, and their Pakistani clones have tightened their grip on the country’s jugular.


So what went wrong? First, Iraq diverted the West’s military might and focus. And in Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf’s need for support from Islamic groups gave extremists political space as well as protection. Since the rigged elections of 2002 until recently, mutations of the Wahabi/Salafi Islamic militias have become stronger and better organised in the tribal areas.           


Financed largely by Pakistani and Gulf businessmen, these groups trained their volunteers – largely drawn from Pakistan’s mushrooming madrasas – in bomb-making, as well as other ways of creating mayhem.


A number of hard-line Islamists drawn from the ranks of retired army and intelligence agency officers served as trainers, and the graduates of this Terror Academy became increasingly active in the region. But Pakistan was the biggest victim of this campaign, with over 50 suicide attacks claiming nearly a thousand lives (including that of Benazir Bhutto) last year alone.


This, then, was the situation Asif Zardari inherited when he was elected President. Always suspect in the eyes of the army for being a Sindhi, as well as a member of the PPP who was married to a Bhutto, his grip on power is tenuous at best. The reality of the power equation in Pakistan is that the army is the most organised and powerful party around. And although the present military leadership would prefer to stay out of the limelight after nine years of Musharraf’s high-profile rule, it still calls the shots where Pakistan’s regional policy is concerned.


In at least two recent episodes, the generals have shown the political leadership exactly where power resides. When the government announced a couple of months ago that the ISI would henceforth report to the Interior Ministry, it took barely six hours for this notification to be withdrawn.


More recently, when Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani announced that General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the Director General of the ISI, would go to India to help in the investigations of the November 26 Mumbai attacks, he was forced to retract his offer within hours.


Given this reality, it is difficult to see how terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed can be reined in. Both have received official blessings and support in the past. Even if formal links with the ISI have been severed, training camps are difficult to shut down permanently, given the sympathy these groups enjoy in sections of the military, the police and the judiciary.


Since Zia’s poisonous rule in the 80s, extremism has seeped into every level of the bureaucracy. Many Pakistanis are in denial about the extent to which their country has been infected by this plague. Under these circumstances, the arrest of an individual like Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, a commander in the LeT, is meaningless. In the past, too, top terror suspects like Masood Azhar of the Jaish-e-Mohammed and Hafiz Saeed of the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba have been scooped up in the wake of terrorist outrages, only to be released a few weeks later. 


One major reason the army is unwilling to completely sever its links with extremists is that it fears an alliance between India and Afghanistan that would see Pakistan encircled. Having an army of proxy warriors is an insurance policy military planners are reluctant to surrender.


 Years ago, a general said to a colleague: “By supporting the mujahideen in Kashmir, we have tied down at least four Indian divisions there. What could be a more cost effective strategy?” Now, this same strategy has come to haunt Pakistan and the region.


Irfan Husain is a columnist for Dawn.




Pak is running with the hare and hunting with the hounds

By Kamran Shafi


Dec. 9: FIRST and foremost the matter of that mysterious (and threatening) telephone call to the President of Pakistan, allegedly from someone at the Indian foreign office, said between the lines to have been Pranab Mukherjee, the foreign minister, himself.


Needless to say, Mr Mukherjee has denied the report vehemently, which denial has been more vehemently rejected by Pakistan through its spokespersons, Farhatullah Babar weighing in too. Mr Babar is reported in the press as having said that "President Asif Ali Zardari was phoned up from the Indian foreign ministry's authentic number and evidences in this respect have been imparted to India".


Information minister Sherry Rehman has spoken on the matter too, saying that the "threatening phone call made to President Asif Ali Zardari had been processed, verified and cross-checked under an established procedure". She is quoted as saying: "In fact the identity of this particular call, as evident from the caller-line-identification device, showed that the call was placed from a verified official phone number of the Indian ministry of external affairs".


Really now? Boggles the senses, what!


First my own personal recollection of the person of Pranab Mukherjee. I had the pleasure of calling on him three years or so ago, when he was defence minister and I was part of a delegation of Pakistani ex-soldiers visiting India as part of the India-Pakistan Soldiers Initiative for Peace (IPSI), then so brilliantly run by that sterling man Brig. Rao Abid Hamid, also of the HRCP.


I found Mr Mukherjee to be a thoughtful, very bright and very well-spoken man who chose his every word with great care. He maintained eye contact with us; addressed every question fully and with deliberation. There was no shilly-shallying in his manner. Most of all, he arrived for our meeting in his ministry's conference room exactly on time. Could a person such as he, having spent a lifetime in politics and government, have made such a call to the President of a country with which his had very difficult relations?


An aside: all the chiefs of the armed forces were also in the defence ministry at the time as we found when we saw three Ambassador staff cars, all with four-star plates in navy blue, light blue and red denoting the three services parked at the rear of the ministry building from whence enter ordinary mortals.


But back to the famous telephone call that made us go to Amreeka Bahadur for reassurances, et al. It may well be the case that in a fit of anger Pranab Mukherjee did indeed do the wrong thing and call our President. The onus of providing incontrovertible and undeniable proof is entirely on us.


It simply is not enough for Farhatullah Babar, good man though he is, and Sherry Rehman, as bright a person as she is, to say what they have said. In Mr Babar's case the "evidences in this respect" are not only to be "imparted" to India but to the rest of the world too, in every little detail so that some of the bashing that we are getting these days can be deflected towards India. In Ms Rehman's, it is important to tell the world the methodology that went into identifying the telephone number. Saying it was the "caller-line-identification device" is simply not enough.


Indeed, the presidency, the mother of all agencies at any rate, should have a recording of the telephone call. It should be a simple matter to identify the voice speaking to Asif Zardari using existing state-of-the-art technology that can detect even the smallest inflection/speech pattern and match it with Mr Mukherjee's. If our government is right, it would hand a huge PR coup to Pakistan! If it is wrong, it would be another matter and add to the discomfort already being felt. From what seem like repeated kicks in the teeth administered so cruelly by high officials of our non-Nato ally, to open declarations of accepting India's version of the Mumbai events, to a newspaper like the Observer carrying a report that the Mumbai accused caught alive was indeed from within us, our country once again finds itself in at the deep end.


But how in God's name do we even attempt to keep our heads above water when we do not confront our own devils? How can we get out of the deadly and vicious cycle of events that are driving us, when we simply will not admit that there is filth under our own beds? We yell and scream at the world to believe us when we say we too are the victims of terror and yet we simply will not do enough to protect ourselves and the world from the evil that exists, and grows, among us.


As just one example, what earthly reason was there for the inadequate security of the Nato supply terminal right outside Peshawar which was blown up just yesterday, destroying 170 loaded trucks including 62 APCs? What the devil is going on?


I have said repeatedly that I am completely against the method in which the so-called war on terror is being waged, heartlessly and want only, by the American administration aided and abetted by us. But the government is completely on board, and has therefore allowed Nato supplies access through Pakistan. So why does it then not do its all to protect those supplies?


How difficult is it to station an infantry company and an armoured squadron around the terminal, and provide armed mobile escorts to the convoys? Why is there not even a wall around the privately run terminal, dash it all? Why are the pickets, situated on commanding positions all along the Jamrud-Landikotal road (along which Nato supplies have been hijacked repeatedly), not manned to keep an eye out for those intent on harming the convoys? Is this government too running with the hares and hunting with the hounds like the Commando?


When will we wake up; when will we realise that the final reckoning is here? And then we have the gall to suggest that we will move our troops from our western borders to face a belligerent India?


Stop press: news reports coming in as I write this suggest our security forces have attacked camps of the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and its sister organisation in Azad Kashmir. We will never do the right thing on our own; we will only act after having our arm twisted.

By arrangement with Dawn



A Region In Ferment

10 Dec 2008, 0000 hrs IST, Robert D Kaplan

 WASHINGTON: The divisions we split the world into during the Cold War have at long last crumbled thanks to the Mumbai terrorist attacks. No

longer will we view South Asia as a region distinct from the Middle East. Now there is only one long continuum stretching from the Mediterranean to the jungles of Burma, with every crisis from the Israeli-Palestinian dispute in the West to the Hindu-Muslim dispute in the East interlocked with the one next door. Yet this elongated Greater Near East does not signify something new but something old.


For significant parts of medieval and early modern history, Delhi was under the same sovereignty as Kabul, yet under a different one from Bangalore. From the 16th to the 18th centuries, the Mughal dynasty governed a sprawling empire encompassing northern and central India, almost all of Pakistan and much of Afghanistan even as Hindu Maratha warriors in India's south held out against Mughal armies. India's whole history what has created its rich syncretic civilisation of Turko-Persian gems like the Taj Mahal is a story of waves of Muslim invaders in turn killing, interacting with and ultimately being influenced by indigenous Hindus.


Hindu-Muslim relations have historically been tense. Remember that the 1947 partition of the subcontinent uprooted at least 15 million people and led to the violent deaths of around half a million. Given this record, the relatively peaceful relations between the majority Hindus and India's 150 million Muslims has been testimony to India's successful experiment in democracy. Democracy has so far kept the lid on an ethnic and religious divide that, while its roots run centuries back, has in recent years essentially become a reinvented modern hostility.


The culprit has been globalisation. The secular Indian nationalism of Jawaharlal Nehru's Congress, built around a rejection of western colonialism, is more and more a thing of the past. As the dynamic Indian economy merges with that of the wider world, Hindus and Muslims have begun separate searches for roots to anchor them inside a bland global civilisation. Mass communications have produced a uniform and severe Hinduism from a host of local variants, even as the country's economically disenfranchised Muslims are increasingly part of an Islamic world community.


The Muslim reaction to this Hindu nationalism has been less anger and violence than simple psychological withdrawal: into beards, skullcaps and burqas in some cases; self-segregating into Muslim ghettos in others. The terrorist attacks in Mumbai had a number of aims, one of which was to set a fuse to this tense inter-communal standoff. The jihadists not only want to destroy Pakistan, they want to destroy India as well. India in their eyes is everything they hate: Hindu, vibrantly free and democratic, implicitly and increasingly pro-American, and militarily cozy with Israel.


Just as the chaos in Iraq through early 2007 threatened the post-Ottoman state system from Lebanon to Iran, creeping anarchy in Pakistan undermines not only Afghanistan but also the whole Indian subcontinent. The existence of terrorist outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba that have links with the Pakistani security apparatus but are outside the control of Pakistan's own civilian authorities is the very definition of chaos.


A collapsing Pakistan, and with it the loss of any real border separating India from Afghanistan, is India's worst nightmare. It brings us back towards the borders of the Mughal world, but not in a peaceful way. The jihadist attack on India's financial centre not only damages India-Pakistan relations, but makes Pakistan's new civilian government which has genuinely tried to improve ties with India look utterly pathetic. Thus, the attack weakens both countries. Any understanding over Kashmir, the disputed Muslim-majority territory claimed by Pakistan, is now further than ever from materialising, with mass violence there a distinct possibility. Meanwhile, Pakistan's military suspects that Washington will desert their nation the moment the leadership of al-Qaeda is, by any chance, killed or captured.


Making matters worse, every time the US launches an air attack into Pakistan from Afghanistan, it further destabilises the Pakistani state. That is why the Mumbai attacks bring true joy to the most dangerous elements of the Pakistani security establishment: the tragedy has caused the world to focus on India's weaknesses that have been obscured by its economic success. See, many Pakistanis are saying, your beloved India is not so stable either. This is nonsense, of course. India, with all its troubles, is far more stable than Pakistan. In the meantime, every day that goes by without riots in India is a defeat for the Mumbai terrorists. Indeed, India's own Muslims have demonstrated against the attacks.


But India, not just Pakistan, desperately needs help. Just as solving or at least neutralising the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is a requirement for reducing radicalism and Iranian influence throughout the Levant, the same is true of the India-Pakistan dispute at the other end of the Greater Middle East. Our notion of the "peace process" is antiquated and needs expanding. We need a second special negotiator for the Middle East, a skilled diplomat shuttling regularly among New Delhi, Islamabad and Kabul.


Our best strategy is, as difficult and trite as it sounds, to be at all places at once, not with troops, necessarily, but with every bit of energy and constant attention that our entire national security apparatus and those of our allies can bring to bear.


The writer is a national correspondent for `The Atlantic'.


Pakistani military and the Afghan problem

M.K. Bhadrakumar


Current developments in the three-way equations involving the United States, Pakistan and India highlight that for the foreseeable future, they would need to factor in a “sleeping partner” — Afghanistan. India, in particular, needs to be cognisant of this strange coupling.


To be sure, the number 1 priority in the U.S.’s regional policy for the coming 4-8 years is going to be the war in Afghanistan. The Afghan war is a high stakes enterprise in the U.S.’s global strategies. Many profound questions are already intertwined, namely, the entire future of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in the 21st century, the U.S.’s containment strategy towards Russia, and indeed the efficacy of unilateralism and war as means of conflict resolution.


Yet, there are complexities, which surface fleetingly, but mostly remain invisible to the naked eye. First and foremost, in the present tense phase in Indo-Pak relations, Pakistani military has gently held out that it might be compelled into a redeployment of its nearly 100000-strong crack divisions from Pak-Afghan border regions to eastern border with India. The threat veiled in innuendos has been stunning, cutting deep into the geopolitics.


Simply put, the GHQ in Rawalpindi underscored that if it sniffed, Afghan war will spin out of control. One, all bets are off regarding what General David McKiernan, commander of the U.S. troops in Afghanistan, admitted a few weeks ago as “a shift in thinking at the senior levels in Pakistan that this [Taliban] insurgency is a problem that threatens the very existence of Pakistan, and that they have to deal with it perhaps in ways that they didn’t contemplate a few years ago…a willingness and capacity, although they have a long way to go to conduct counterinsurgency operations on the Pak side of the border.”


We need to factor what went through General McKiernan’s thought process this week. Preserving the Pak top brass’s “shift in thinking” and encouraging its “willingness and capacity” to cooperate with NATO forces will be Washington’s main diplomatic agenda at the moment. Quite obviously, it can’t be otherwise as 32000 American troops are currently deployed in Afghanistan and 20000 more combat and support troops are possibly on their way to the Hindu Kush in the coming weeks.


Two, Pakistani military is literally holding the jugular veins of the NATO as without its troops on the Afghan-Pakistan border, the alliance would be facing the spectre of the Taliban running berserk, which would bring on its trail more armed clashes and death and destruction for western troops. Three, over three quarters of the supplies for the US troops transits through Pakistani territory. The U.S. is unwilling or unable to use alternate Russian or Iranian transit routes. Four, in the absence of Pakistani military presence in the tribal areas, the US will be compelled to press its Special Forces into operations those badlands, which is fraught with frightening downstream consequences.


The geopolitical salient, therefore, remains highly complex. Simply put, the US cannot countenance a nasty Indo-Pak confrontation. The US and Indian interests and concerns at the moment are similar, though their priorities are dissimilar. Clearly, there are serious limits to U.S.’s capacity and willingness to exercise leverage over Pakistan. (Gen. McKiernan also admitted that U.S. and Pakistan militaries are coordinating on the Predator swoops over the tribal areas despite that being a hugely controversial issue in the Pakistani domestic opinion.) All in all, therefore, India needs to engage Pakistan bilaterally at the political and diplomatic level.


No doubt on that score. However, that isn’t all. A contingent of American “experts,” including a few who are distinctly identifiable as cold warriors of the Afghan jihad in the 1980s, have begun coming out of the woodwork lately. They advance the thesis that Afghanistan cannot be stabilized unless Pakistan’s security concerns vis-À-vis India are addressed, namely, the “core issue” of Kashmir, which the incoming Barack Obama administration should mediate. What motivates this melodramatic kite-flying is still unclear or who its real mentors are. There is the haze of a twilight zone with 5 different U.S. agencies – White House, Pentagon, CENTCOM, State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency – ploughing independent furrows toward a new Afghan war strategy. All sorts of wire-pulling and behind-the-scene manipulations are going on in the run-up to the incoming Obama presidency.


Fortunately, except for a few jingoists in our midst who pedalled the idea of an Indian military intervention in the “war on terror” in Afghanistan, we have all along understood that such a course would be an entrapment that would inexorably internationalise the Kashmir issue. Prudence, therefore, continued to prevail in our policy towards Afghanistan.


Indeed, the leitmotif of Pakistan’s Afghan policy has never been Kashmir. Instead, it always was and continues to be the unresolved Pashtun nationality question, which leaves the Durand Line a disputed border with over 8 million Pashtuns straddling it on both sides. To compound, the 100-year treaty, which brought Durand Line into being also lapsed in 1993. Let us remember that the Shah of Iran mediated on the issue, and it was much before the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto got the then Afghan Islamist student leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar to take up residence in Peshawar to carry out subversive activities against the Kabul regime. India had nothing to do with all this, though by the mid-1990s, we couldn’t take anymore the incessant bleeding engendered by ISI’s hostile activities from militant camps located on Taliban-controlled territory.


In short, unless Kabul recognizes the Durand Line, Pakistan will prefer a weak, disunited Afghanistan. When this entire co-relation is very obvious, the intriguing part is why influential "Afghan experts" – the most glaring is the article in Foreign Affairs magazine by two Pentagon consultants Ahmed Rashid and Barnett Rubin – still pedal the thesis that Pakistani policy towards Afghanistan is driven by its adversarial relationship with India over the Kashmir problem.


Conceivably, these “experts” are worried about Delhi’s Afghan policy in the post-UPA era and aim at rattling Indian nerves by holding out a “Kashmir card.” Or, they intend to pressure Delhi from coordinating with regional powers such as Russia, Iran and the Central Asian republics, which may undercut the U.S. objective of possessing the Hindu Kush as its exclusive geopolitical turf. Of course, Pakistan also stands to lose if a regional consensus on Afghanistan’s stabilization emerges.


Delhi needs to navigate choppy waters. The coming period will be turbulent when the Obama presidency settles in and Washington’s new Afghan strategy is yet to gain traction. What complicates the geopolitical manoeuvring is the underlying reality that Pakistani military remains petrified about Mr. Obama’s Afghan strategy. Mr. Obama subscribes to the Pentagon strategy the US military adopted in Iraq with success in vanquishing Al-Qaeda — “surge” coupled with “Awakening” of Iraqi Sunni tribes.


The Afghan variant of this “kinetic” strategy devolves upon bribing select Pashtun tribes to bear the brunt of the fighting against the large number of insurgent groups, which include the Taliban and the al-Qaeda. The move is controversial as it may let loose more violence and anarchy in the Pashtun tribal areas bordering Pakistan and will likely stoke the fires of Pashtun nationalism. Secondly, Pakistani military will be nervous about Mr. Obama’s tough posturing toward the Pakistani military’s doublespeak on the war — saying one thing and acting contrarily. Mr. Obama has threatened he wouldn’t hesitate ordering US forces move into Pakistani territory if the security situation so warranted.


A third aspect of the US strategy that makes Pakistani military extremely nervous is Washington’s game plan to rapidly build up a 134000-strong Afghan National Army as part of the U.S. “exit strategy.” The Afghan army’s officer corps is predominantly Tajik, who are more professional and motivated in fighting the Pashtun-dominated Taliban.


But, then, Tajik nationalism has always been an obstacle before Pakistani domination of Afghanistan – which largely explained the Pakistani ISI’s deep, irreconcilable hostility toward the late Ahmed Shah Massoud. If the NATO agenda of building up an Afghan army officered by Tajiks really gets under way, that will upturn the entire Pakistani agenda to dominate Afghanistan. As the former Pakistani Foreign Secretary Najmuddin Sheikh (who served under Benazir Bhutto) recently warned, “It would in fact be the realisation of Pakistan’s worst security fears.”


The unstated Pakistani fear is also that the Afghan Tajiks have cordial ties with Russia and Iran – and India. Thus, Pakistani military may need a Plan B, if Mr. Obama gustily plunges into the Pentagon’s new Afghan strategy. A viable Plan B will be based on finding an alibi to disengage from the “war on terror” so that the U.S. strategy doesn’t work, the present stalemate continues, and as the Taliban would say, the Americans keep the watch while time works in favour of the insurgents. India has to be on guard from being projected on to the chessboard as the Pakistani military’s alibi.


(The writer is a former ambassador and an Indian Foreign Service officer.)



We must not let the ‘soft state’ crumble

By Inder Malhotra


Dec. 9: It was in the second half of the 1960s, that the eminent Swedish economist, Gunnar Myrdal, called India a "soft state", an epithet that immediately caught on. In 1972, Indira Gandhi — at the peak of her power and glory after her personal victory in the 1971 general elections and the tremendous national triumph in the war for the liberation of Bangladesh — went to Stockholm to be the principal speaker at the first UN conference on environment. At a banquet in her honour, at which Myrdal was one of the guests she took the opportunity to confute him.


In view of how India had handled the grave problem of Bangladesh, "it cannot be called a soft state," she declared, looking directly at Myrdal. But he shook his head and told one of her senior aides sharing the table with him that the Bangladesh war had in no way changed his verdict.


Sadly, four decades later, Myrdal’s description of this country holds; Indira Gandhi’s doesn’t. In fact, the soft state has become incrementally softer. Unless we watch out and take appropriate corrective measures, the Indian state could even be in danger of crumbling. Nothing could have underscored this nightmarish reality more vividly than the unprecedented terrorist attacks on Mumbai. Ten murderous thugs of the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, came through sea at the country’s major port that is also the headquarters of the Western Naval Command, could strike at 11 different targets and hold to ransom not just three luxury hotels and a building inhabited by Jews, not just the "Maximum City," but the entire country for 60 long hours.


Reams of newspaper reports vouchsafe that the necessary warnings were scattered in secret files of rival agencies but never shared with those who should have been told. What those in charge of overseeing these agencies were doing is not known. No one has so far been held accountable for this unpardonable dereliction of duty, which seems to be the standard practice. No questions are being asked either about the 12-hour delay in the National Security Guards’ gallant commandos — who eventually controlled the situation — reaching the terrorists’ targets. If all this proves anything at all, it proves that almost the entire machinery of the Indian state has degenerated appallingly. Those whose mandate it is to govern the country cannot shrug off their share of responsibility for this alarming state of affairs.


To put the matter bluntly, there is a glaring leadership vacuum in this country of a billion-plus people. The heavily fragmented polity is mired in petty parochial and partisan pursuits, based on caste, religion and region. Visceral hatred between the two mainstream parties, the Congress and the BJP, has made impossible even the most elementary cooperation between the government and the Opposition, without which a democracy cannot function.


Moreover, each of the two main parties behaves in one way when it is in power and in exactly the opposite manner when in Opposition. To make matters worse, in the absence of the sagacious Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who kept them under control at least to some extent, Hindutva extremists have virtually taken over the BJP. This, combined with the Congress party’s defence of secularism that is more verbal than muscular, has led to communalisation of almost all issues, including terrorism.


In May 2004, when Sonia Gandhi garnered huge goodwill by renouncing the office of Prime Minister and appointing Manmohan Singh to it, there were high hopes that, as the Congress president, she would concentrate on rebuilding the moribund party, while he would be left free to run the government. Unfortunately, on both counts there has been deep disappointment.


About the spectacle the Congress has made of itself in Maharashtra, never mind other states, the less said the better. As for the state of the government at the Centre, the good doctor has never been in control of it. Some of the Congress ministers have been more reluctant to accept him as the captain of the team than the ministers representing the allied parties whose main objective is to run the ministries allotted to them as personal fiefdoms. At no stage has there been any synergy between the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the periodically changing establishment of the Congress president.


Unless the Congress president and the Prime Minister, in that order, realise that the present pattern of governance at the top needs to be made more effective and purposeful, all the breast-beating and tear-shedding over what has happened would be meaningless, no matter how long the present dispensation is dragged on or what the results of the five Assembly elections now and of the Lok Sabha polls later are.


It may not be the fault of the present leadership alone that the governance in the country has plummeted so miserably. The erosion of all the institutions and instruments that comprise the infrastructure of the republic — the civil services, the police, the paramilitary and so on — through relentless and remorseless politicisation is making them practically dysfunctional. The pernicious process goes back to the Emergency in the mid-1970s. But the successive 11 governments have given it a further push, not tried to reverse it. In all civilised democracies, the police is the servant of the law. In this country it has been made the servant of the politicians in power. Every time a government changes in a state, the new chief minister, even if he belongs to the party already in office, instantly changes the chief secretary and the director-general of police.


The partisan DGPs taken off election duties by the election commission are rather numerous. For every politician anxious to bend the bureaucracy to his purpose, there are at least six civil servants bending over backwards to do his behest.


On top of it, there is the galloping cancer of corruption in every walk of life that has been eating into the nation’s vitals. Among other things, Mumbai showed that the head of Maharashtra’s Anti-Terrorist Squad and others would not have lost their lives if their bosses hadn’t bought for them sub-standard and useless bullet-proof jackets.


To stem this rot is imperative as well as a stupendous task. In its present shape the Manmohan Singh government cannot even attempt it.


In times of crisis, it’s vital to be resilient

By Jayanthi Natarajan


Never has public discourse been so dominated by so much rage and anger against the political establishment. I watched the television, along with every other citizen, struck mute by horror and dread, as the deadly events unfolded on our TV channels. My shock paralysed me and rendered me speechless. Like so many others, I found it was impossible to sleep, and followed the TV coverage.


Over the last few days, so much has been written and spoken and said, that it really seems superfluous to add yet another view. Yet, it is vital for me to write my piece and say my bit. This may be a voice from the wilderness and I am almost certainly in a minority with regard to my views, but, still I believe that it is important to speak out.


First, the shock and fury and sorrow.


Like every other Indians, politicians too felt rage that our country had been invaded by 10 gun-toting men, who held the entire nation to ransom for so many hours. Our hearts too bled when we heard the gunshots and then saw the desperate quest of those who were searching for their loved ones. We too spoke to friends and relatives in Mumbai to enquire if they were safe. We too held our breath as our brave men in uniform — the NSG commandos, the police and the armed forces — went bravely out to help those trapped. We too cheered their success. Our hearts too stopped when we heard Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamte and Salaskar were shot dead. We too were pained as iconic structures like the Taj Mahal Hotel were repeatedly assaulted by bullets and grenade attacks. And when the carnage was finally over, we too felt too battered and sorrowful to even feel relief.


We felt both great pride and greater grief to see the bodies of our martyrs being taken out. We looked at their bereaved families and our hearts went out to them. We stopped and reflected for a long time about the selfless heroism they showed and their steadfast commitment to duty. Equally poignant were the heroic tales of the staff at the Taj and other hotels, who showed tremendous courage and spontaneously put their own lives in danger to help guests.


Then the TV channels began. After the constantly screaming captions of breaking news, the discussions began. Channel after channel aired discussions where speakers abused the politicians. One panellist actually said that the politicians should have been killed instead, and during 2001 Parliament attack, the terrorists should have gone in and killed the MPs. Another said that we should carpet bomb Pakistan, and yet another said that people were sick of being resilient and it was time for politicians to feel the pain. A particularly bitter panellist recommended that politicians had better not be seen in the streets — hinting thereby that if they were, they would be lynched.


In those first few programmes, politicians were not invited to join. When I myself went on TV debates, I was horrified by the hostility that was being exhibited and fostered against the political class. Anger and rage, that should have been directed towards the terrorist and the attackers, were being directed towards the political establishment.


Citizens have every right to demand accountability from politicians. We need to understand if it was a systemic failure, and whether our response could have been more swift and efficient.


Whether our police and our armed forces have been provided with the right equipment. We need to know what happened to the intelligence reports. It is the political establishment, which in our parliamentary system is the face of the government, and, therefore, it is indeed the politicians who have to provide the answers. In view of the larger question I seek to address, I will not go into the role played by earlier governments, or other political parties, except to observe that it would have been far more productive if they had showed solidarity with the government.


However, it is difficult for me to digest or accept the rage and hostility against politicians. Having extensively and comprehensively accepted the responsibility of the political class, I need to point out that the system consists of far more than the political class.


Systemic failure means that there has been failure at all levels. And this means all of us have to unite as a nation to fight and root out the forces of destruction.


Fuelling anger against each other will be the first victory of the terrorist. Having created fear and havoc, the aim of the terrorist is to divide India. Ranting against politicians will only help the forces that seek to divide us. I repeat, politicians should be accountable, and they should be voted out if they fail to protect the citizens, but it would be self-defeating to tar all politicians with the same brush.


Even more disturbing than the ranting against politicians was the oft-repeated phrase that "enough is enough," and "we will not be resilient any more."


Of course enough is enough. Even one terror attack, is one too many, and we should strain every nerve to prevent it. But being resilient? It is wrong and defeatist to keep repeating a refusal to be resilient. It is absolutely vital for us to be tough and resilient and fight back.


Every story of courage and heroism, every act of selfless heroism or kindness — whether it was a gentleman who thought he could help by serving tea to the officers, and relatives who were keeping vigil outside the Taj and Oberoi hotels, or the young man who saved another couple’s son without even knowing his name — is an inspiration to all of us. They show that the spirit of India will never die.


Every TV programme and every panelist who advocated giving up resilience is guilty of being defeatist. We need to stand up and tell those who attack us, that we will never be cowed down by these threats, and our country and spirit will remain stronger than ever.


The suggestion, which according to me was the most destructive was one which presumed that the Indian state has failed. This is not true. The Indian state cannot and will not fail. We are not a Banana Republic. We have remained a proud and vibrant democracy despite terrorist and other attacks, and will continue to remain a proud democracy. Systems may fail. Politicians and bureaucrats may fail, but the Indian state will not, cannot fail.


In conclusion, politicians are not the enemy. The terrorist is. Anger against the politician can be fuelled into the next vote. But the terrorist can only be defeated if the entire nation stands together, united and unflinching. My plea is for every citizen to understand this.


Jayanthi Natarajan is a Congress MP in the Rajya Sabha and AICC spokesperson. The views expressed in this column are her own.,-it%E2%80%99s-vital-to-be-resilient.aspx


Zardari's Case


10 Dec 2008, 0000 hrs IST

 That both the Kargil war and 26/11 happened unexpectedly and caught Indian intelligence napping, may not be the only thing in common between

them. Both incidents took place after unprecedented peace initiatives from Pakistan's civilian leaders and may have been intended to sabotage them. Three months before the Kargil war broke out in May 1999, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee signed the path-breaking Lahore declaration with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Soon after Kargil, Sharif was deposed and the military took power. Likewise, President Asif Ali Zardari has gone a long distance on the road to a good dialogue with India and there was imminent danger of peace breaking out. Came the assault on Mumbai, with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) handprints all over it.


For peace to have a chance, Islamabad will have to do all it can to distance itself from LeT and terrorist organisations like it. But the civilian government's space for manoeuvre may be limited, with the fear of an army coup hanging over it. Following Mumbai, Pakistani security forces carried out a raid on the Muzaffarabad offices of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a front for the LeT. Zakiur Rehman Lakhwi, a high-ranking LeT commander and the mastermind of 26/11, is reportedly under arrest. Jaish-e-Mohammed founder Maulana Masood Azhar is also reportedly confined to his home. But sceptics in this country and abroad are waiting to see whether these are token moves. Past experience with similar moves justifies such scepticism. House arrest could well mean the sort of treatment meted out to A Q Khan, the nuclear smuggler comfortably ensconsed at home with no outside agency allowed to interrogate him or demand accountability from the Pakistani military establishment.


Zardari has said, in an article printed in the `New York Times' yesterday, that the terrorists want to destroy Pakistan too. As we have argued on this page, he could well be right when he says that the Mumbai attacks were directed at Pakistan's new democratic government as well as India. But that makes it all the more incumbent on the government in Islamabad to act responsibly and root out all terror camps from its territory. Can it? Probably not, unless Zardari can find a way to tame his own military commanders, particularly those handling the ISI.


New Delhi must prepare for all eventualities while tracking carefully Pakistan's crackdown on terror. And it is a responsibility of the international community to strengthen Pakistan's fledgling democracy by supporting the civilian government firmly while enabling the army and ISI to become genuinely professional forces willing to take on terror groups that threaten Pakistan, India and global peace.


ISI provided protection to LeT in Mumbai terror attacks: report

Press Trust Of India

New York, December 08, 2008

Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, the Pakistan-based militant group, had the backing of the Islamic nation's spy agency ISI, which shared intelligence with Lashkar and provided protection to it in the Mumbai terror attacks, a media report said on Monday.


American intelligence and counterterrorism officials were quoted by the New York Times as saying that LeT has quietly gained strength in recent years with the assistance of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which has allowed the group to train and raise money while other militants have been under siege.


Officials said though there is no hard evidence yet to link the spy agency to the Mumbai attacks, ISI shared intelligence with Lashkar and provided protection for it.


The ISI has shared intelligence with Lashkar and provided protection for it, the officials told the paper, and investigators are focusing on one Lashkar leader they believe is a main liaison with the spy service and a mastermind of the attacks.


"People are having to go back and relook at all the connections," one American counterterrorism official, who was among several officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to the paper, was quoted as saying.


American and Indian officials believe that one senior Lashkar commander in particular, Zarrar Shah, is one of the group's primary liaisons to the ISI. "He's a central character in this plot," one American official said.


As a result of the assault India's financial hub, American counterterrorism and military officials say they are reassessing their view of Lashkar and believe it to be more capable and a greater threat than they had previously recognized.


Pakistani officials have denied any government connection to the siege on November 26-29, in which nearly 200 people were killed in Mumbai.


As American, European and Middle Eastern governments crack down on al-Qaeda's finances, Lashkar still has a flourishing fund-raising organization in South Asia and the Persian Gulf region, including Saudi Arabia, the Times quoted counterterrorism officials as saying. The group primarily uses its charity wing, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, to raise money, ostensibly for causes in Pakistan.


Lashkar, the Times noted, also has a history of using local extremist groups for knowledge and tactics in its operations. Investigators in Mumbai are following leads suggesting that Lashkar used the Students' Islamic Movement of India, a fundamentalist group that advocates establishing an Islamic state in India, for early reconnaissance and logistical help.


Hoffman told the paper that Lashkar had developed particularly sophisticated Internet operations, and that intelligence officials believed the group had forged ties with regional terrorist organizations like Jemaah Islamiyah in Indonesia by assisting them with their own Internet strategies.


Pakistan is under intense international pressure, including from the US, to take action against the LeT for its involvement in the Mumbai attacks. The Let was founded by militant ideologue Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, who formed the Jamaat soon after the Lashker was banned in 2001.


Mumbai attacks: Perils in parallels

Shakeel Syed |


Calling Mumbai tragedy “India’s 9/11” is parallel to the chatter of Texan cowboy. Indian Babus, I believe, ought to be smarter than that. The 9/11 lexicon is now proven to be perilous.


The ashes in Mumbai raise more questions than the number of dead from several countries. It was an international tragedy. The Indian government was partly responsible for its sorrowful state of intelligence and law enforcement.


A reading of the Western press gives the impression that India is about to bomb Pakistan, home to the “Islamic bomb.” While reading the Indian press, one finds that there are many sane Indians who are questioning the lethargy of Indian government and challenging the fundamentalist Hindutva leadership. The former is still trying to figure out who to blame and the latter wants to rush and unleash the “Hindu Bomb.”


We must not forget that a recent train bombing being assigned to “Pakistani agents” was indeed the work of a serving Indian Army officer and his comrades.


Bomb talk is dumb. Bombing Afghanistan was dumb. Bombing Iraq was dumber. The Mumbai tragedy merits a thorough investigation followed by a thoughtful analysis, in that order.


The people in India and around the world have learned much since the bomb talk of Cheney & Bush, also in that order.


As an Indian by birth and having watched the “investigations” of all sorts while growing up, I say that the current Mumbai “investigation” is a farce at its best. And as an American now, I am equally comfortable to say that I do not trust America, the state.


The sane Indians and Pakistanis must urgently and immediately demand the following:


1. The Pakistanis must demand of their government to ask the United Nations to set up an Investigation Task Force comprising of its member states but excluding Israel, Britain and the United States — parties with direct interest in India and the region.


2. The Indians must demand of their government to give unfettered access to the United Nations Investigation Task Force to conduct a full, independent and impartial investigation of the tragedy.


3. The Indians, Pakistanis, Americans and all the people of good conscience should call upon United Nations to play a role instead of remaining a spectator.


It is time to act for all people, not just Indians or Pakistanis. Allowing the Indian discourse of 9/11 parallels is perilous for all people, especially US interests.


Shakeel Syed is the executive director of the Islamic Shoura Council and a social justice activist based in California.


Pakistan's Dilemma


TEL AVIV, Israel -- Pakistan may well be the single largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world, possibly beyond even Iran, yet it has never been listed by the U.S. State Department as such, even in the wake of the 9/11 Commission Report and the recommendation of the State Department's counter-terrorism director.

That is because the prevailing attitude within past U.S. administrations has been that such a designation would destroy U.S. influence in Islamabad.

That attitude, however, seems to be changing. In August 2007, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama issued a pointed warning to then-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf saying that as president, he would be prepared to order U.S. troops into that country unilaterally if it failed to act on its own against Islamic extremists. The 11/26 Mumbai attacks have now brought Pakistan's dilemma onto center stage.

On Dec. 6, security forces in New Delhi disclosed that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had actively trained the Mumbai terrorists and selected their targets including two major hotels and the Chabad Center.

The problem for the Pakistani government is real. Power in Pakistan has traditionally flowed through Rawalpindi (the headquarters of the Pakistani military) not the civilian government in Islamabad. As a consequence, there are forces operating throughout the country that act independently of the central government – forces intent on sabotaging any effort at achieving Indian-Pakistani reconciliation. Based on this reality, the Pakistani government long ago relinquished large sections of its country to the Taliban, the Pakistani military and ISI. This has led to the growth of radical Islamic madrassas and terrorist training camps in Pakistani Kashmir, the Punjab area in Eastern Pakistan (on the border of north India), and Pakistan's southern coast (from Karachi to Gwadar close to the Iranian border).

In fact, the terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) that perpetrated the Mumbai attacks was founded by the ISI to prosecute its low-level war against India in the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir, just as the ISI founded the Taliban to insure the government in Afghanistan would be sympathetic to Pakistani interests. As a result, for years, LeT, despite being declared illegal by the Pakistani government, operated openly, running its terrorist training camps in plain view of Pakistani authorities. Today, the ISI not only continues to provide the outlawed terrorist organization with shelter, training, logistics and supplies, but coordinates LeT's movements giving it the space necessary to plan its terrorist activities … all of which has now brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war.

Unfortunately, there is no political force within Pakistan today that is capable of reining in the ISI and its many jihadist allies with the result that jihadist forces have become deeply entrenched within Pakistani society. Indeed, the extent of Islamic radicalization is troubling. According to the Weekly Standard: "There were only 200 madrassas [religious schools] on Pakistani soil at the time of the India-Pakistan partition in 1947. By 1972, this figure had grown to 893. Of these Pakistani madrassas, 354 (40%) openly espoused Deobandism (the South Asian version of Wahhabism)."

By 1992, the total number of madrassas in Pakistan rose to an estimated 10,000. This proliferation of jihadist training schools led directly to the birth of the Taliban which follows Deobandi Islam and continues to find new Islamic recruits primarily from the impoverished areas of northwest Pakistan, Afghanistan and Pakistani Kashmir. Today, these radical Islamic madrassas instruct more than 1 million students each year and provide a comfortable environment for terrorists to plan attacks.

All this has dangerous implications not only for India, Pakistan and South Asia, but for the United States and Europe. The ISI's long-term strategy is not simply to provide sanctuary and aid to the enemies of India and the West, but to seize power throughout South and Central Asia by sponsoring jihadist proxies much as Iran has done through Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Middle East.

Bill Roggio, managing editor of the website Long War Journal writes: "Given the ISI's deep roots within Pakistan's culture and its capacity to determine policy even against the wishes of the elected officials, curtailing its power will be difficult at best. It is now one of the principal backers of radical Islam in the world" and its LeT proxy has openly talked of conquering large swaths of India in the name of Islam for its future Islamic Caliphate. For these reasons, significant elements within Pakistan's military and intelligence establishment have chosen to make common cause with the Islamic extremists in their midst.

From the Indian perspective, inaction in the face of the Mumbai attacks is probably not a feasible option. While India is not interested in a full-scale war with Pakistan or the collapse of the moderate civilian Pakistani government, it does recognize that the attacks in Mumbai were only the most recent manifestation of the ISI's willingness to sponsor its quest for power in the subcontinent and beyond.

As a result, short of purging the ISI of its radical elements, dismantling the terrorist training camps and shutting down the Islamist madrassas, there is no obvious path forward for Pakistan's civilian government if it wishes to avoid a confrontation with its neighbour. Pakistan's failing to act against these Islamists will lead to Indian and possibly American strikes at terrorist bases inside its country. In fact, Israeli security forces are already training Indian paramilitary forces for such a contingency since both countries share borders with and have suffered at the hands of radical Islamists.

Since their independence from the British Empire in 1947, India and Pakistan have fought three wars over Kashmir. The issue still continues to adversely affect their bilateral relations. The problems of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh unfortunately are now converging into the perfect storm and only an international approach involving working with the Pakistanis to root out terrorist camps in Kashmir as well as in its tribal areas can work. If the moderate Pakistani government is undermined, then extremist elements will gain in Pakistan which would be counterproductive for India and South Asia. Alternatively, if an Indian military build-up diverts Pakistan's attention to its eastern borders and undermines its embryonic campaign against extremists, it will again be harmful to India because Islamic extremism (shrouded as patriotism) will spread throughout Pakistan, India and eventually the entire region. There is no simple solution here.

The best outcome of the Mumbai attacks would be if they spurred cooperation between India and Pakistan into taking concerted action against the jihadist presence in their respective countries. If not, given that both countries are nuclear powers, the possibility exists that any military conflict could well spill over into a nuclear confrontation with catastrophic consequences. In the end, the Pakistani government must shut down all jihadist operations on its territory which translates into changing the attitude of its own military and intelligence branches. That is the only option short of international military strikes against these camps or war between these two powers, and if the history is any judge, Islamabad has a formidable task ahead of it.

Mark Silverberg is a foreign policy analyst with the Ariel Center for Policy Research (Israel) and the author of "The Quartermasters of Terror: Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamic Jihad."



'Tactics must be changed on war on terror'

December 09, 2008

London: Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan has said it is time to change tactics on the "so-called war on terror" and felt there is "hope" in US President-elect Barack Obama.

A critic of the American and Pakistan army bombing of the tribal areas in his homeland for flushing out al-Qaeda terrorists, Imran Khan told The Daily Telegraph: "This is a civil war in the making."

"One million refugees have been created. Innocent people are being killed; children left without arms and legs. Alls under the magic mantra of fighting Islamic extremism. If people understood what is really happening they would not countenance it," the leader of Tehreek-e-Insaf said.

"It is time to change tactics on the so-called war on terror. There is hope in President-elect Barack 0bama."

In the wake of the September 11 attacks and those on July 7, and now the bombings in Mumbai, Khan is appalled at the way terrorism has been given a religious identity.

"No religion allows terrorism," he said.

"The phrase 'Islamic terrorist' is a smokescreen that diverts attention from the political reasons why people are blowing themselves up. Terrorism is an illness. All terrorism is political," he said.

Once the Pakistan army, at the behest of the US, started bombing a few hundred al-Qaeda supporters in the tribal areas into submission, and killed countless tribesmen, it created a million armed men opposed to America, Khan said.

"The war on terror, which many Pakistan is seeing as a war on Islam," he argued, "is why there is no shortage of people willing to lay down their lives for religion. It is a war of attrition and it will just go on and on unless there is a political solution."