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Islamic World News ( 10 Dec 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Some reflections on Mumbai Terror and the Indian Muslims


On Eid, bands against terror


A sombre Eid, an editorial in The Indian Express


Muslims in India Put Aside Grievances to Repudiate Terrorism



Time magazine’s take on Mumbai Terror: Behind the Mumbai Massacre - India's Muslims in Crisis by Aryn Baker


Mumbai attacks and the Muslim question by Hasan Suroor


Despite Batla, Muslims stick with Congress


It’s about terror, not Sachar by Seema Chishti


Pakistan and the Lashkar’s jihad in India by Praveen Swami


Muslims to wear black ribbons on Bakr-Eid: Imams

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau



On Eid, bands against terror

10 Dec 2008, 0242 hrs IST, TNN


NEW DELHI: They wore black ribbons, carried placards of peace, sent out emails and SMSes reiterating harmony, and put up banners saluting those who died in the 26/11 terrorist attack. From Chennai's Thousand Lights Mosque to Delhi's Jama Masjid, from Khwaza Banda Nawaz dargah in Gulbarga, to the mosques of Mumbai — Bakr-Eid celebrations were subdued, in a symbolic declaration of Muslim protest against terrorism.


"At every dargah, prayers were said for the grieving families in Mumbai. In Ajmer Sharief, Kaliyar Sharief (Uttarakhand) and Barabanki's Deva Sharief, the community came together burying their differences to focus on one thing: communal harmony. By showing our unity, we have spoilt the terrorists' Bakr-Eid," said Qari Mohd Miya Mazhari, editor, Secular Qayadat.


The festival of sacrifice also became a platform of protest both for celebrities as well as ordinary citizens.


In Mumbai, cerebral star Aamir Khan wore a black band on his arm. So did 'Jab We Met' director Imtiaz Ali, lyricist Javed Akhtar and his actor-director son, Farhan Akhtar. A news agency reported that other Bollywood biggies such as Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan too preferred to stay away from the festivities.


Some Muslims even avoided festival purchases such as new clothes. The trustee of Mumbai's Khar Jama Masjid, Zafar Iqbal, sent 500 emails and 250 SMSes reaffirming Islam's peaceful tenets.


In Delhi, theatre personality Aamir Raza Husain said the toned down festivities and black-ribbon protests were a message to the terrorists.


"They tried to divide our hearts and minds. This is to tell the terrorists they have failed. Muslims must be the first line of defence. Because if the society gets polarized, the ordinary Muslim will face the brunt," said theatre personality from Delhi Aamir Raza Husain.


In Chennai, chief Shia Qazi Ghulam Mohammed Mehdi Khan said, "I request each and every Indian regardless of their caste, community, state, religion or race to stand united against such inhuman groups because our sustenance and survival lies in our unity as Indians. No religion promotes terrorism and terrorism has no religion." Trader Navaz Currimbhoy described it as a landmark day. "This is the first time I have heard a Qazi categorically condemn an act of terror."


Taxi driver Ashfaq Hussain said, "Forget about celebrations, it just doesn't feel like Eid. There is no excitement in the neighbourhood and I just don't feel like feasting." Actor Shabana Azmi, though, pointed out the faint silver lining. Speaking to TOI, she said, "I have been flooded with messages this Bakr-Eid, many of them from people who never greeted me before. I think the terrorists failed to divide us. Indians have seen through their game."






Muslims in India Put Aside Grievances to Repudiate Terrorism


Published: December 7, 2008


MUMBAI, India — Throngs of Indian Muslims, ranging from Bollywood actors to skullcap-wearing seminary students, marched through the heart of Mumbai and several other cities on Sunday, holding up banners proclaiming their condemnation of terrorism and loyalty to the Indian state.

Muslims took part in a candlelight march last week toward the Oberoi hotel in Mumbai.

The protests, though relatively small, were the latest in a series of striking public gestures by Muslims — who have often come under suspicion after past attacks — to defensively dissociate their own grievances as a minority here from any sort of sympathy for terrorism or radical politics in the wake of the deadly assault here that ended Nov. 29.


Muslim leaders have refused to allow the bodies of the nine militants killed in the attacks to be buried in Islamic cemeteries, saying the men were not true Muslims. They also suspended the annual Dec. 6 commemoration of a 1992 riot in which Hindus destroyed a mosque, in an effort to avert communal tension. Muslim religious scholars and public figures have issued strongly worded condemnations of the attacks.


So far, their approach appears to have worked: the response has been remarkably unified, with little of the suspicion and fear that followed some previous attacks.


Hindu right-wing groups have been noticeably absent from the streets. Although leaders of the opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party have criticized the government’s handling of the crisis, they have not stirred anti-Muslim sentiment. The fact that some 40 Muslims were among the victims of the attackers may well have helped dispel any strife.


Still, many Muslims seem anxious, fearing that some of the anger unleashed by the attacks may be directed into the Hindu-Muslim violence that has often marred India’s modern history.


“It’s a pity we have to prove ourselves as Indians,” said Mohammed Siddique, a young accountant who was marching in the protest here on Sunday afternoon with his wife and mother. “But the fact is, we need to speak louder than others, to make clear that those people do not speak for our religion — and that we are not Pakistanis.”


The cluster of banners all around him, held aloft by marchers, seemed to bear out his point. Some read “Our Country’s Enemies are Our Enemies,” others, “Killers of Innocents are Enemies of Islam.” A few declared, in uncertain grammar, “Pakistan Be Declared Terrorist State.”


There were also slogans defending against the charge often made by right-wing Hindus that Muslims constitute a fifth column, easily exploited by terrorists. “Communalist and Terrorist are Cousins,” one sign read. Some of the marchers held up a sign with lines drawn through the names of various terrorist or extremist groups, including, notably, the acronym S.I.M.I.


That stands for the Students’ Islamic Movement of India, a radical group, now banned, that has come under suspicion after recent attacks. One of the men arrested earlier this year in what appears to have been a similar plot against Mumbai landmarks used to belong to the group. Unlike the most recent attackers, who are all believed to be Pakistani, four of six members of the earlier plot were Indian.


There is little doubt that jihadists — including Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistani militant group believed to be responsible for the Nov. 26-29 attacks — are seeking Indian recruits. Although such groups are rooted in the ideology of global jihad, many people fear that the Indians who join them may be motivated in part by essentially Indian grievances, like the 2002 mass killings of Muslims in the state of Gujarat that left 1,100 dead.


One of the gunmen in last month’s attacks referred to the Gujarat riots before he shot and killed a hostage at the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel, apparently in an effort to identify his own cause with that of Indian Muslims.


He seems to have failed. The brutality of the attacks and the fact that many Muslims died have strengthened a sense of outrage among ordinary Muslims here, and even some sense of communal harmony, however precarious.


“After this attack, everything has changed; people now see the realities,” said Saeed Ahmed, 45, as he stood outside his stationery shop on Muhammad Ali Road, a working-class Muslim area. “This is something different from what we had before, it’s like your American 9/11. It is not about Hindus and Muslims; it is about the nation being attacked.”


Certainly, the violence has prompted many Muslims, including religious scholars, Bollywood figures and politicians, to speak out more urgently than they had in the past.


“Indian Muslims have often suffered twice: first from the terror, and then from the accusations afterward,” said Javed Akhtar, a Muslim poet and lyricist. “Perhaps because of that, they have been much more articulate and more unconditionally clear about condemning this attack.”


But many remain anxious that foreign jihadists could take advantage of the divisions in Indian society to wreak more havoc here. India’s 140 million Muslims are generally much poorer and less educated than Hindus. Although some of the very rich and many Bollywood stars are Muslim, the faith is far less well represented in the professions and the middle class. Many have bitter memories of communal riots and violence, from the 2002 killings in Gujarat all the way back to the bloodletting that accompanied the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947.


“There is a very deep divide,” said Mahesh Bhatt, a well-known film producer and director who is half Muslim, half Hindu, as he sat on a plastic chair on the set of his latest film on Sunday morning, with actors strolling nearby. “And if the foreign element is using the indigenous clay, how can justice be done?”


Mr. Bhatt, who has the baroque manner of an old-fashioned Hollywood eminence, added that he saw in the crisis a chance for India to heal the religious and social fractures that make it vulnerable.


“In every danger there is an opportunity, a chance to look at the evil within,” he said. “If you’re going to do this fight against terror, you’d better start by fortifying your own house.”


A sombre Eid

The Indian Express

Posted: Dec 06, 2008 at 0046 hrs IST

Signalling their sorrow and solidarity with the victims of the Mumbai terrorist attacks, Muslim clergy have announced a “Black Eid” on December 9. It is not merely a mark of mourning, but an active protest against the use of Islamic terms for acts of Terror and the “attempt to polarise communities”, according to the All India Organisation of Imams of Mosques.

The fact that they even have to make such a visible statement testifies to their bind. Certainly, the boast that Indian Muslims are untouched by the global call to arms has been busted. But the easy conflation of Islam and terrorism has been most damaging to a community already victimised by stereotype, and to the Indian state struggling to assert its secularism amidst fringe extremism of different sorts. Thirty-three out of the 172 dead in Mumbai were Muslims. And yet, in the fallout of the attacks, Indian Muslims have most to worry about the repercussions of ramped-up counter-terror action. Stronger interrogation and detention laws could end up targeting Muslims as they historically have.


International coverage of the Mumbai tragedy decried the widespread alienation and oppression of Muslims, trotting out the Gujarat death count and the Sachar report which detailed the extent to which they are left out by public institutions and governance structures. They wondered aloud about the terrible reprisals awaiting Indian Muslims if domestic support for the Mumbai terrorists was indeed demonstrated. “All mosques, religious scholars and madrasas should announce in the Friday prayers this week that they are against any type of terrorism and deeply aggrieved by the loss of human lives, especially the brutal killing of Jews,” said the clergy’s statement, exhorting all Indians to rise above destructive identity politics in this hour of national emergency.


In this fraught atmosphere, the Muslim clergy presents a countervailing force, one that carries some amount of moral weight in the community and can articulate the particular burdens of being an Indian Muslim. In a time when progressive politics had ceded the language of faith and morality, it is important to have a platform that operates within a religious discourse and manages to reformat it. The importance of this goes beyond the immediate aftermath of 26/11.



Time magazine’s take on Mumbai Terror


Behind the Mumbai Massacre: India's Muslims in Crisis

By Aryn Baker

Thursday, Nov. 27, 2008


The disembodied voice was chilling in its rage. A gunman, holed up in Mumbai's Oberoi Trident hotel where some <40 people had been taken hostage, told an Indian news channel that the attacks were revenge for the persecution of Muslims in India. "We love this as our country but when our mothers and sisters were being killed, where was everybody?" he asked via telephone. No answer came. But then he probably wasn't expecting one.


The roots of <Muslim rage run deep in India, nourished by a long-held sense of injustice over what many Indian Muslims believe is institutionalized discrimination against the country's largest minority group. The disparities between Muslims, which make up 13.4% of the population, and India's Hindu population, which hovers around 80%, are striking. There are exceptions, of course, but generally speaking Muslim Indians have shorter life spans, worse health, lower literacy levels, and lower-paying jobs. Add to that toxic brew the lingering resentment over 2002's anti-Muslim riots in the state of Gujarat. The riots, instigated by Hindu nationalists, killed some 2000 people, most of them Muslim. To this day, few of the perpetrators have been convicted.


The huge gap between Muslims and Hindus will continue to haunt India's, and neighbouring Pakistan's, progress towards peace and prosperity. But before inter-communal relations can improve there is an even bigger problem that must first be worked out: the schism in sub-continental Islam, and the religion's place and role in modern India and Pakistan. It is a crisis 150 years in the making.


The Beginning of the Problem

On the afternoon of March 29, 1857, Mangal Pandey, a handsome, moustachioed soldier in the East India Company's native regiment, attacked his British lieutenant. His hanging a week later sparked a sub continental revolt known to Indians as the first war of independence and to the British as the Sepoy Mutiny. Retribution was swift, and though Pandey was a Hindu, it was the subcontinent's Muslims, whose Mughal King nominally held power in Delhi, who bore the brunt of British rage. The remnants of the Mughal Empire were dismantled, and five hundred years of Muslim supremacy on the subcontinent was brought to a halt.


Muslim society in India collapsed. The British imposed English as the official language. The impact was cataclysmic. Muslims went from near 100% literacy to 20% within a half-century. The country's educated Muslim élite was effectively blocked from administrative jobs in the government. Between 1858 and 1878, only 57 out of 3,100 graduates of Calcutta University — then the centre of South Asian education — were Muslim. While discrimination by both Hindus and the British played a role, it was as if the whole of Muslim society had retreated to lick its collective wounds.


From this period of introspection two rival movements emerged to foster an Islamic ascendancy. Revivalist groups blamed the collapse of their empire on a society that had strayed too far from the teachings of the Koran. They promoted a return to a more pure form of Islam, modelled on the life of the Prophet Muhammad. Others embraced the modern ways of their new rulers, seeking Muslim advancement through the pursuit of Western sciences, culture and law. From these movements two great Islamic institutions were born: Darul Uloom Deoband in northern India, rivalled only by al-Azhar University in Cairo for its teaching of Islam, and Aligarh Muslim University, a secular institution that promoted Muslim culture, philosophy and languages, but left religion to the mosque. These two schools embody the fundamental split that continues to divide Islam in the subcontinent today. "You could say that Deoband and Aligarh are husband and wife, born from the same historical events," says Adil Siddiqui, information coordinator for Deoband. "But they live at daggers drawn."


The campus at Deoband is only a three-hour drive from New Delhi through the modern megasuburb of Noida. Strip malls and monster shopping complexes have consumed many of the mango groves that once framed the road to Deoband, but the contemporary world stops at the gate. The courtyards are packed with bearded young men wearing long, collared shirts and white caps. The air thrums with the voices of hundreds of students reciting the Koran from open-door classrooms.


 Founded in 1866, the Deoband School quickly set itself apart from other traditional madrasahs, which were usually based in the home of the village mosque's prayer leader. Deoband's founders, a group of Muslim scholars from New Delhi, instituted a regimented system of classrooms, coursework, texts and exams. Instruction is in Urdu, Persian and Arabic, and the curriculum closely follows the teachings of the 18th century Indian Islamic scholar Mullah Nizamuddin Sehalvi. Graduates go on to study at Cairo's al-Azhar and Islamic University of Medina in Saudi Arabia, or found their own Deobandi institutions.


Today, more than 9,000 Deobandi madrasahs are scattered throughout India, Afghanistan and Pakistan, most infamously the Dara-ul-Uloom Haqaniya Akora Khattak, near Peshawar, where Mullah Mohammed Omar, and several other leaders of Afghanistan's Taliban first tasted a life lived in accordance with Shari'a. Siddiqui visibly stiffens when those names are brought up. They have become synonymous with Islamic radicalism, and Siddiqui is careful to disassociate his institution from those that carry on its traditions, without actually condemning their actions. "Our books are being taught there," he says. "They have the same system and rules. But if someone is following the path of terrorism, it is because of local compulsions and local politics."


Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, founder of the Anglo-Mohammedan Oriental College at Aligarh in 1877, studied under the same teachers as the founders of Deoband. But he believed that the downfall of India's Muslims was due to their unwillingness to embrace modern ways. He decoupled religion from education, and in his school sought to emulate the culture and training of India's new colonial masters. Islamic culture was part of the curriculum, but so were the latest advances in sciences, medicine and Western philosophy. The medium was English, the better to prepare students for civil-service jobs. He called his school the Oxford of the East. In architecture alone, the campus lives up to that name. A euphoric blend of clock towers, crenelated battlements, Mughal arches, domes and the staid red brick of Victorian institutions that only India's enthusiastic embrace of all things European could produce, the central campus of Aligarh today is haven to a diverse crowd of male, female, Hindu and Muslim students. Its law and medicine schools are among the top-ranked in India, but so are its arts faculty and Quranic Studies Centre. "With all this diversity, language, culture, secularism was the only way to go forward as a nation," says Aligarh's vice-chancellor, P.K. Abdul Azis. "It was the new religion."


This fracture in religious doctrine — whether Islam should embrace the modern or revert to its fundamental origins — between two schools less than a day's donkey ride apart when they were founded, was barely remarked upon at the time. But over the course of the next 100 years, that tiny crack would split Islam into two warring ideologies with repercussions that reverberate around the world to this day. Before the split manifested into crisis, however, the founders of both the Deoband and Aligarh universities shared the common goal of an independent India. Pedagogical leanings were overlooked as students and staff of both institutions joined with Hindus across the subcontinent to remove the yoke of colonial rule in the early decades of the 20th century.


Two Faiths, Two Nations

But nationalistic trends were pulling at the fragile alliance, and India began to splinter along ethnic and religious lines. Following World War I, a populist Muslim poet-philosopher by the name of Muhammad Iqbal framed the Islamic zeitgeist when he questioned the position of minority Muslims in a future, independent India. The solution, Iqbal proposed, was an independent state for Muslim-majority provinces in north-western India, a separate country where Muslims would rule themselves. The idea of Pakistan was born.


Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the Savile Row-suited lawyer who midwifed Pakistan into existence on Aug. 14, 1947, was notoriously ambiguous about how he envisioned the country once it became an independent state. Both he and Iqbal, who were friends until the poet's death in 1938, had repeatedly stated their dream for a "modern, moderate and very enlightened Pakistan," says Sharifuddin Pirzada, Jinnah's personal secretary. Jinnah's own wish was that the Pakistani people, as members of a new, modern and democratic nation, would decide the country's direction.


But rarely in Pakistan's history have its people lived Jinnah's vision for a modern Muslim democracy. Only three times in its 62-year history has Pakistan seen a peaceful, democratic transition of power. With four disparate provinces, over a dozen languages and dialects, and powerful neighbours, leaders — be they Presidents, Prime Ministers or army chiefs — have been forced to knit the nation together with the only thing Pakistanis have in common: religion.


Following the 1971 civil war, when East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, broke away, the populist Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto embarked on a Muslim identity program to prevent the country from fracturing further. General Mohammed Zia ul-Haq continued the Islamization campaign when he overthrew Bhutto in 1977, hoping to garner favor with the religious parties, the only constituency available to a military dictator. He instituted Shari'a courts, made blasphemy illegal, and established laws that punished fornicators with lashes and held that rape victims could be convicted of adultery. When the Soviet Union invaded neighbouring Afghanistan in December 1979, Pakistan was already poised for its own Islamic revolution.


Almost overnight, thousands of refugees poured over the border into Pakistan. Camps mushroomed, and so did madrasahs. Ostensibly created to educate the refugees, they provided the ideal recruiting ground for a new breed of soldier: mujahedin, or holy warriors, trained to vanquish the infidel invaders in America's proxy war with the Soviet Union. Thousands of Pakistanis joined fellow Muslims from across the world to fight the Soviets. As far away as Karachi, high-school kids started wearing "jihadi jackets," the pocketed vests popular with the mujahedin. Says Hamid Gul, then head of the Pakistan intelligence agency charged with arming and training the mujahedin: "In the 1980s, the world watched the people of Afghanistan stand up to tyranny, oppression and slavery. The spirit of jihad was rekindled, and it gave a new vision to the youth of Pakistan."


But jihad, as it is described in the Koran, does not end merely with political gain. It ends in a perfect Islamic state. The West's, and Pakistan's, cynical resurrection of something so profoundly powerful and complex unleashed a force whose roots can be found in al-Qaeda's rage, the Taliban's dream of an Islamic utopia in Afghanistan, and in the dozens of radical Islamic groups rapidly replicating themselves in India and around the world today. "The promise of jihad was never fulfilled," says Gul. "Is it any wonder the fighting continues to this day?" Religion may have been used to unite Pakistan, but it is also tearing it apart.


India Today

In India, Islam is, in contrast, the other — purged by the British, denigrated by the Hindu right, mistrusted by the majority, marginalized by society. India has nearly as many Muslims as all of Pakistan, but in a nation of more than a billion, they are still a minority, with all the burdens that minorities anywhere carry. Government surveys show that Muslims live shorter, poorer and unhealthier lives than Hindus and are often excluded from the better jobs. To be sure, there are Muslim success stories in the booming economy. Azim Premji, the founder of the outsourcing giant Wipro, is one of the richest individuals in India. But, for many Muslims, the inequality of the boom has reinforced their exclusion.


Kashmir, a Muslim-dominated state whose fate had been left undecided in the chaos that led up to partition, remains a suppurating wound in India's Muslim psyche. As the cause of three wars between India and Pakistan — one of which nearly went nuclear in 1999 — Kashmir has become a symbol of profound injustice to Indian Muslims who believe that their government cares little for Kashmir's claim of independence, which is based upon a 1948 U.N. resolution promising a plebiscite to determine the Kashmiri people's future. That frustration has spilled into the rest of India in the form of several devastating terrorist attacks that have made Indian Muslims both perpetrators and victims.


A mounting sense of persecution, fueled by the government's seeming reluctance to address the brutal anti-Muslim riots that killed more than 2,000 in the state of Gujarat in 2002, has aided the cause of home-grown militant groups. They include the banned Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), which was accused of detonating nine bombs in Bombay during the course of 2003, killing close to 80. The 2006 terrorist attacks on the Bombay commuter rail system that killed 183 people were also blamed on SIMI, as well as the pro-Kashmir Pakistani terrorist group Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). Those incidents exposed the all-too-common Hindu belief that Muslims aren't really Indian. "LeT, SIMI, it doesn't matter who was behind these attacks. They are all children of [Pervez] Musharraf," sneered Manish Shah, a Mumbai resident who lost his best friend in the explosions, referring to the then president of Pakistan. In India, unlike Pakistan, Islam does not unify, but divide.


Still, many South Asian Muslims insist Islam is the one and only force that can bring the subcontinent together and return it to pre-eminence as a single whole. "We [Muslims] were the legal rulers of India, and in 1857 the British took that away from us," says Tarik Jan, a gentle-mannered scholar at Islamabad's Institute of Policy Studies. "In 1947 they should have given that back to the Muslims." Jan is no militant, but he pines for the golden era of the Mughal period in the 1700s, and has a fervent desire to see India, Pakistan and Bangladesh reunited under Islamic rule.


That sense of injustice is at the root of Muslim identity today. It has permeated every aspect of society, and forms the basis of rising Islamic radicalism on the subcontinent. "People are hungry for justice," says Ahmed Rashid, Pakistani journalist and author of the new book Descent Into Chaos. "It is perceived to be the fundamental promise of the Koran." These twin phenomena — the longing many Muslims have to see their religion restored as the subcontinent's core, and the marks of both piety and extremism Islam bears — reflect the lack of strong political and civic institutions in the region for people to have faith in. If the subcontinent's governments can't provide those institutions, then terrorists such as the Trident's mysterious caller, will continue asking questions. And providing their own answers.


With reporting by Jyoti Thottam / Mumbai and Ershad Mahmud / Islamabad




Muslims to wear black ribbons on Bakr-Eid: Imams

Thu, Dec 4 11:15 AM

New Delhi, Dec 4 (ANI): Coming down heavily upon the recent terror attacks in Mumbai, a group of imams in Mumbai have asked the Muslims to wear black ribbons on Bakr-Eid to show solidarity with the victims.


Under the banner of All India Organisation of Imams of Mosques, they called for subdued Bakr-Eid festivities across the country, which is scheduled to be held on December 9.


Describing Mumbai carnage as an 'attack on the nation', they asked all the mosques, muftis and madrasas to repeat that Islam forbids the killing of innocent people and is against any form of terrorism.


On Wednesday, cleric from Shia and Sunni sects asked for critical action against Pakistan. A joint communique also demanded rigid action against terrorist. It was signed by Maulana Khalid Rasheed

Firangimahali, the naib Imam of Idgah, Maulana Mohammad Mushtaq, president of All India Sunni Board and Maulana Naimurrehman, president of the Ulema Council of India. (ANI)


Muslim body calls for subdued Bakr-Eid

Express news service

Posted: Dec 05, 2008 at 0036 hrs IST


New Delhi: A conglomeration of prominent Muslim organisations on Thursday asked Imams across the country to condemn the Mumbai Terror attacks in their Friday prayers and Eid sermons.

The Coordination Committee of Indian Muslims also gave a call for scaling down Eid festivities and asked Muslims to wear black ribbons on Bakr-Eid to express solidarity with those killed in the attacks. The call by the Coordination Committee comes a day after the All India Organisation of Imams of Mosques came out strongly against the 26/11 attacks and urged for subdued Eid celebrations.

The Coordination Committee of Indian Muslims, formed after the recent Delhi blasts, consists of outfits like the All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat, Jamiat Ulama-e Hind, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, Jamiat Ahl-e Hadees and the All India Milli Council and the Muslim Political Council. While condemning the attacks, the committee demanded a “high-level transparent, unbiased and truthful inquiry” into it and further tightening of the law and order system.


“The motive of the terrorists is to destabilise India, hurt its economy and damage national unity,” it said in a statement.


 Despite Batla, Muslims stick with Congress

9 Dec 2008, 0122 hrs IST, Dipak Kumar Dash, TNN


NEW DELHI: Putting paid to apprehensions of Muslims moving away from the 'grand old' party in the wake of the Batla House encounter — an issue


which had caused a lot of unrest — the Congress seems to have retained its base in the community, bagging eight of the 12 seats which have over 20% Muslim vote in the capital.


The final proof of Muslims still keeping their faith with the Congress came when party strongman Parvez Hashmi scored a narrow 541-vote victory in Okhla, the constituency under which the Batla House area falls. According to Congress poll managers, there was almost no visible change in the Muslim support for the party. Apart from Okhla, Congress candidates won in Chandni Chowk, Ballimaran, Vikaspuri, Seemapuri, Seelampur, Mustafabad and Sadar Bazar, all constituencies with sizeable Muslim voters.


Party insiders admitted being unsure of which way the Muslims would vote particularly after Samajwadi Party tried to use the Batla House issue in a bid to open its account in Delhi assembly. "People's unhappiness was obviously a cause of concern. But the community was convinced of the need to stay behind the Congress," said a senior party leader.


At Okhla, Hashmi bagged 29,303 votes and his nearest rival, Asif Mohammed of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), a SP rebel, finished second with 28,762 votes. "Had Asif got the ticket from SP, Hashmi would have been out of the race," said a Congress insider. However, in the other seven Muslim-dominated seats, party won with a comfortable margin.


In fact, a random survey carried out by Times City days after the Batla House encounter had shown that the Muslim voters in east Delhi were not overtly concerned about the episode. They strongly felt for the immediate civic issues instead of terrorism or the "encounter". "Terror or the Jamia Nagar encounter weren't the predominant issues with Muslims. We got good votes from Muslim colonies in east and northeast Delhi," a Congress leader added.


However, there are also some good indicators for BJP as the party's greenhorn nominee, Anil Jha, managed to pull off a win in Kirari which has approximately 30% Muslim votes. Similarly, the party's debut candidate, S C L Gupta, defeated his nearest rival, ex-IPS officer Amod Kanth, from Sangam Vihar, which has about 20% Muslim votes.




Forget differences and unite to fight terrorism’

Express News Service

Posted: Dec 09, 2008 at 0147 hrs IST

The whole world is passing through a fearful phase of possible large-scale wars. In such a time, we should forget all our differences and conflicts. We should maintain love, unity and harmony. We must not allow cruel conspiracies that seek to divide the nation and the society. Many innocents have perished due to such acts of terrorism. Now, when the question of coming together to combat this arises, all nations must unite to assist tackling terrorists’ acts. The war against terrorism could go on for long because these people carry their fight remaining in hiding and not face to face. It’s obvious that it is going to take time and some innocents may also have to suffer. But society has to prepare itself for such sacrifices to put an end to bloodshed of innocents that the extremists carry out everyday. The main objective of saints is to provide guidance to the society and make people useful to the family, nation and the society. Unfortunately, those very saints have lost their way and are entangled in the sparkle of physical world.


Dr Keiki Mehta, honorary ophthalmologist to the police

I’m very proud how our police stood up to the terrorists despite being severely hampered by lack of good firepower, protective devices and communication. They are a great force, only need better equipment to do a better job. The terrorists were a lift-off from the popular movie Universal Soldier. They were emotionless “killing machines”, who killed women and babies. Obviously like in the movie, their brain had been heavily conditioned and had to be on drugs to maintain this conditioning. We need to investigate this angle too.

Vikram Mane, director of Radhakrishna Carriers and Exports Private Limited

I’m not angry with a single politician but I am just upset with the system. For example, on the November 27 when I went to Shatabdi Hospital to donate blood for the victims, I was shocked to hear they had no blood bank. Even more shocking was the fact that when I offered to organise a blood donation drive for them with my society members and friends, they told me that I should go to a private hospital. What is this disastrous management plan of the Government doing, if I can’t even do a blood donation drive? In this country there is no liability for politicians.


Dr. S. Natarajan, Executive Chairman and Managing Director, Aditya Jyot Eye Hospital

When I saw the events unfolding on TV , I was aghast . As a doctor my mind focuses on healing my patients and that gives me the greatest satisfaction. My heart goes out to the relatives of the deceased. I salute the heroes of our country, police, commandos and all the people who have done their bit to rescue the hostages. Let us unite in war against terrorism.


It’s about terror, not Sachar

Seema Chishti

Posted: Dec 08, 2008 at 0123 hrs IST


The report of the prime minister’s high-level committee on the social, educational and economic status of Indian Muslims is a painstakingly documented product, with mint-fresh statistics. It is brutally frank on prejudice, the thwarted hopes of some, replete with analysis of why in some states Muslim women’s literacy rates are higher than Hindu male literacy rates. It is a supreme display of self-confidence from a third-world democracy which has one of the world’s largest Muslim populations. And, though not hardcover, when hurled at people still reeling under the impact of a 60-hour Terror encounter, the Sachar Report can hurt.

Just hours after the shock and horror of the Mumbai terror strikes, the world stood by, and India was reassured. Commiserations and concern flowed in and there was the recognition that it was an attack on the world, with Parsees, Hindus, Muslims, Jews and Christians, all terrorised.

However, soon after, a strange sub-text was slipped into the discourse — the Western and Pakistani media suddenly started discussing the state of the Indian Muslim and how it treats its minorities. What added ammunition to these arguments, were facts lifted from the Sachar Report on inadequate civic facilities, drop-out rates, etc. All facts, all true, all documented, but for the want of a better parliamentary word, all pathetically irrelevant.

As the “gunmen” (to use the BBC’s term) were in the process of tearing Mumbai’s hotels down, the innuendo was that India was somehow being “got back at” by members of a “disgruntled” minority — a minority getting back for Babri Masjid, Godhra, high drop-out rates amongst young Muslim boys in UP and Bihar, and perhaps even their graduation rate being lower than “others” in the arts stream.


Lo and behold, there was also an email, written in bizarre Hindi — that all Hindi and Urdu speakers would know in a second could have only originated outside of India, in a place where the Hindu-Muslim binary discourse has frozen since 1947, discussing the accession of states, characterising the Hindu as a bania — all sentences from a lost time, arguments simply never accepted by millions of robust Indian Muslims. But no, the whisper of Sachar was in the air, and discussions, particularly in the Western media, continued to allude to this revolutionary framework which hinted at the “gunmen” as virtually the mother of all revolts. Of 150 crore agriculturists, weavers, school teachers, film stars, cricketers, unemployed, beedi-rollers, carpet makers, scientists and lyricists having decided that Enough is Enough — to quote the very provocative and odd slogan picked by NDTV 24x7, but that’s another story — and striking out at India.


The Indian Mujahideen was also alluded to, and how (in the words of a former ISI chief) India has had its “Tamils, angry Christians and Leftists, opposed to capitalist development”, so why blame anyone else?


The first problem was the allusion that somehow Indian Muslims had participated in this heinous act of butchery — an extremely callous statement, untrue, given the evidence at hand so far, and, more importantly, diversionary.


When 9/11 or 7/7 happened, the world was expected to stand back and see it as “pure evil”. The history professors were locked up in their libraries: the world (read mainstream international press) never said it was the descendants of Hiroshima who did it, or the Viet Cong children settling an old score. No one spoke after 7/7 of how it could have been any of the old colonies, divided and pillaged for centuries who may have casually lobbed a bomb at the District Line. It’s odd that India getting hit somehow does get historians and sociologists active, so fast and rather sloppily.


Of course, we have our million and one mutinies, our sorrows, our tales of discrimination, injustice, tears, and assassinations. Clearly, all is far from Kodak-perfect in the Indian family. Like all old civilisations or families, we have our secrets and our dark dungeons where old battles are being waged and the knives are out. But India is also a third-world democracy, which has dared to come up with what was 60 years ago seen as an audaciously hopeful plot, and managed to take the story forward.


The final statements on our imminent Balkanisation have been pencilled several times, but a poor, third world country somehow still manages to get there. An emerging economy, one that retains its political freedoms unlike most of its neighbours, has produced Nobel laureates, missions to the moon, Booker winners, song and dance sequences in the middle of staid tales — seriously unparalleled in the world. For the sheer number of software and science graduates, spelling-bee winners and grit, we have been the source of so much surprise. But surprise at a multi-cultural democracy dissolves into envy and, soon, disdain for dirty railway platforms, hungry children, the Naxal insurgency, incidents of Dalit suppression, all sub-plots that of course exist alongside.


India, on the other hand, has not even argued that what it is suffering now is another manifestation (if one was needed) of a unilateral and irresponsible War on Terror gone so hopelessly wrong that it has left virulent hate laboratories in its neighbourhood. India is not even going to go out and try and “smoke out” anyone. If anything, the noises (if you can somehow take out the crackle and the bluster on TV) being made are cold, but not cowboy-like. India is looking for its own solutions, which like its bustling bazaars and democracy will be unique and are bound to be blessed with a long shelf-life.


And for all those who think the idea of India is bound to go bust, they should think again. For the “world” to have a future, this experience of India Being, for all our edges, inequalities, rages and whinges, living together, irrespective of the shape of your nose, colour, or which book you say your prayers from, may have the blueprint for the survival of the Blue Planet. So please, don’t throw the Sachar Report at us, not now. It’s only a chapter in the India Story, and the wrong one to go on about at the moment.


Mumbai attacks and the Muslim question

Hasan Suroor


Muslims in Ahmedabad holding a demonstration against terrorist attacks in Mumbai. There is now a growing, educated, and politically aware Muslim middle class.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the Mumbai terror attacks is the perception that Indian Muslims who had, so far, appeared to have escaped the virus of global jihadi fanaticism have finally succumbed to it. Over the past week, British commentators have repeatedly recalled Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s proud ``boast” to visiting foreign leaders that it was a tribute to the country’s secular ethos that ``although we have 150 million Muslims in India, not one has been found to have joined the ranks of al-Qaeda” .


This, it is believed, may no longer be true; and — as The Times put it — if “fanaticism” has indeed taken root among Indian Muslims then “the future for a country built on tolerance , secularism and multi-ethnic balance looks grim.” This has been the dominant theme of much of the analysis of the Mumbai outrage in the British media with fears being expressed that a possible Hindu “backlash” could further undermine the already fragile Hindu-Muslim relations.


But before the Hindu Right gets into the self-congratulatory we-told-you-so mode, here’s the sting in the tail. The same analysis that suggests that home-grown jihadi-ism has arrived in India also holds that Muslim extremism is a reaction to the way the community feels it has been treated over the years — exploited as a vote bank, suspected as fifth columnists, discriminated against, and intimidated by Hindu militants. The communalisation of Indian Muslims, it is stated, is a result of the failure of the Indian state to confront the “fault-lines in the system” (an euphemism for anti-Muslim bias, and Hindu communalism) that Al Qaeda-inspired groups are now exploiting.


There is almost a sense that Muslim extremism and other violent campaigns going on in India — a simmering “insurgency” in the north-east and Naxalite violence in central India — are a “comeuppance” for a state that has tended to neglect its minorities and the poor. There is also a view that thanks to its image as a “thriving democracy” India has, largely, escaped international scrutiny whereas other countries are routinely censured for lesser crimes.


Mohsin Hamid, an expatriate Pakistani writer, thinks that the West is often soft on India over its handling of ethnic tensions.


“Had recent protests in Indian Kashmir occurred in a former Soviet Republic, they would have been hailed by the world as a new Orange Revolution and had they occurred in Tibet they would have resulted in calls for international pressure on Beijing. Similarly, the tensions in India’s north-east, the armed Naxalite movement, and the slaughter of Muslims in Gujarat all run counter to the half truth of ‘India-shining’,” he wrote in The Guardian.


Meanwhile, portents for the future don’t look good. There is concern that after the Mumbai attacks, the BJP could be tempted to revert to its “default” Hindutva programme in the run-up to next year’s general elections. Among Britain’s India-watchers, it has not gone unnoticed that the next putative BJP Prime Minister is the same man who led the inflammatory campaign on Ayodhya resulting in the demolition of Babri Masjid and the mayhem that followed. Nor do they find it comforting that the party’s next big star is Narendra Modi, who was the Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2002 when the riots took place.


The “biggest challenge” before the Indian government is to maintain communal peace, says Edna Fernandes, a British-Indian writer and author of Holy Warriors: A Journey into the Heart of Indian Fundamentalism. Journalist-broadcaster Ian Jack, an old India hand and among the more sober interpreters of Indian events, believes it is time to “pray there are no riots.”


Maria Misra, an Oxford historian, has no doubt that Al Qaeda-style extremism has penetrated India’s Muslim community and asserts that “there is evidence of an entirely domestic element at play” behind the Mumbai atrocity. But, she suggests, that it is hardly surprising given the sense of Muslim grievance. Pakistani involvement notwithstanding “the chief recruiting officer” of Muslim terrorists is “often the Indian State.”


“This is especially true at regional and state levels where the police and judiciary are often ‘captured’ by Hindu political interests that have used anti-terrorist laws to pursue political vendettas,” she wrote in The Times.


This was also the burden of an Economist editorial which described India’s Muslim community as a “fertile ground for those sowing hatred” because it felt discriminated and had “occasionally been subject to hideous communal slaughter.” Besides, the perpetrators of the 2002 Gujarat “pogrom” had never been brought to justice. The sense of injustice that this bred among Muslims made them a sitting duck for jihadi propaganda.


Nor was the Left-leaning Observer surprised that Indian Muslims had fallen prey to the “terrorists’ conspiratorial narrative.” The reason was simple: the “vast majority” of Muslims had been excluded from the economic boom and though this was a fate they shared with “millions of poor Hindus” there were additional factors that militated against Muslims such as the fact that “they have also been subject to terror at the hands of ultra-nationalist Hindus and have had little or no state protection.”


It is nobody’s case (and all commentators have been at pains to stress this) that the Muslims’ sense of grievance, genuine though it may be, is a justification for terrorism. But if wounds are left to fester for too long there’s a real risk of the infection spreading.


One point that the British commentators have not made but which an “insider” can see is that Muslim fundamentalism has also been helped by India’s “secular” political establishment which, barring the Left, has not only made no effort to develop a progressive Muslim leadership but actively prevented it from taking root. Instead, it has relied on a class of Muslim “leaders” whose own political interest lies in keeping the community backward-looking.


By mobilising Muslims around issues that have nothing to do with their daily lives they have landed the community in a situation where it finds itself a target of Hindu fundamentalists, on the one hand, and susceptible to faith-based militant Islamist elements on the other.


While the Congress is the chief culprit in this respect, it is not alone in propping up self-serving Muslim leaders. The fact is that it is hard to name any progressive Muslim leader in any of the secular parties. Over the years, the only change that has been noticed is that instead of “mullahs” with long beards we now have suave English-speaking Muslim leaders to match the “modern” face of Hindutva. Their language and worldview, however, remain unashamedly sectarian.


But what about the ordinary Muslims themselves? The idea of an amorphous — uneducated, poor Muslim mass as hapless victims of either their own leaders, or Hindu communal groups or jihadis has become part of the secular/liberal mythology. It is a view that is not only patronising but also misleading. There is now a growing educated and politically aware Muslim middle class which does not fit this description.


Only if they could divest themselves of their “victimhood” mindset they could be a huge force for good for the community.


Pakistan and the Lashkar’s jihad in India

Praveen Swami

Were the terrorists who stormed Mumbai non-state actors?

“Whoever they are,” Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari said last week of the terrorists who attacked Mumbai, “they are stateless actors who are holding hostage the whole world.” “I very much doubt,” he continued, asked about the arrested terrorist Mohammad Ajmal Amir, “that he’s a Pakistani.”


President Zardari’s claims have disintegrated with media reports from Pakistan confirming that Amir is indeed a Pakistani national linked to the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba. Pakistan, under intense pressure, has since begun a crackdown on Lashkar offices in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, although its seriousness of purpose is still far from clear. How events develop from here will settle the question of whether the Lashkar is, in fact, a non-state actor—or a covert instrument of the Pakistani state. In 1987, Osama bin-Laden’s ideological mentor and a professor of religious studies together founded the Markaz Dawat-ul-Irshad — the Centre for the Propagation of the Faith and its Teachings. It was to grow into an empire. Today, the Pakistan-based Jamaat-ud-Dawa runs a web of educational, medical charitable — and military — institutions on a sprawling campus at Muridke near Lahore.


Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian national who had taught Islamic studies in Amman and Riyadh, came to Pakistan in 1979 to set up the Maktab al-Khidmat (Office of Service), which helped funnel Arab jihadists arriving in Pakistan to mujahideen groups. Pakistani scholar Hassan Abbas has recorded in his seminal work Pakistan’s Drift Into Extremism that Azzam wished to revive the “lost art and science of the jihad.”


Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, born in a conservative, Punjabi family which lost 36 of its members during its Partition journey from Shimla to Lahore, was Azzam’s partner in the founding of the MDI. Like Azzam, he followed the Salafist tradition of Islam. Saeed was appointed by General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq to the state-run Council on Islamic Ideology, and was later given a position at Lahore’s University of Engineering and Technology. In 1989, Azzam was assassinated in a bombing attributed to Israel’s secret service, the Mossad. Saeed turned his attention to the emerging jihad in Jammu and Kashmir, and founded the Lashkar in 1990. Hussain Haqqani, now Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States, candidly admitted in a 2005 article that the Lashkar had been “backed by Saudi money and protected by Pakistani intelligence services.”


From the outset, the Lashkar made clear that it was not confined to Jammu and Kashmir. In an undated pamphlet likely issued around 1999, Hum Jihad Kyon Kar Rahe Hein (Why we are fighting a jihad), it argued: “Muslims ruled Andalusia for 800 years but they were finished to the last man. Christians now rule [Spain] and we must wrest it back from them. All of India, including Kashmir, Hyderabad, Assam, Nepal, Burma, Bihar and Junagarh were part of the Muslim empire that was lost because Muslims gave up jihad. Palestine is occupied by the Jews. The Holy Qibla-e-Awwal in Jerusalem is under Jewish control. Several countries such as Bulgaria, Hungary, Cyprus, Sicily, Ethiopia, Russian Turkistan and Chinese Turkistan were Muslim lands and it is our duty to get these back from unbelievers.”


Late in 1992, as communal tension began to rise across India, Saeed assigned to a trusted lieutenant the task of opening a second front — this time against India as a whole. Mohammad Azam Cheema — ‘Baba’ to his recruits, and like Saeed the son of middle class Punjabi family — first came into contact with Saeed while both men were teaching at the engineering university in Lahore.


Hindu chauvinists handed Cheema a gift in December 1992, in the form of the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Lashkar operatives now reached out to Indian Islamist organisations. Indian nationals Abdul Kareem ‘Tunda,’ Mohammad Azam Ghauri and Jalees Ansari executed the first Lashkar-led operation in India on the first anniversary of the demolition, bombing several trains. Later, Indian recruits like Amir Hashim — who used the code-name Kamran — executed attacks in New Delhi, Jalandhar and Rohtak. By 1996, Cheema is believed to have been running over a dozen Pakistani agents across India, operating under fictions — the term intelligence professionals use for cover-identities. Mohammad Ishtiaq, the son of a shopkeeper from Kala Gujran in Pakistan’s Jhelum district, was, for example, dispatched to Hyderabad to build Lashkar cells in the region.


On December 13, 2001, terrorists stormed India’s Parliament. The former Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf, under pressure, proscribed the Lashkar. He also promised an end to cross-border infiltration in Jammu and Kashmir. But the MDI and Lashkar leaders who were arrested were soon released. The MDI renamed itself the Jamaat-ud-Dawa and resumed public fundraising, recruitment and propaganda operations. Moreover, the Lashkar continued to operate freely out of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, where the proscription order did not apply.


Even as Pakistan scaled back infiltration in Kashmir — violence has fallen year-on-year since 2002 — the Lashkar’s all-India offensive escalated. Between 2004 and 2006, Lashkar-linked cells, sometimes operating in affiliation with elements of the Bangladesh-based Harkat ul-Jihad-e-Islami, attacked several Indian cities, a project that reached its climax with the Mumbai train bombings in 2006.


India’s intelligence services have long said the post-2002 offensive was commanded by a battle-hardened Kashmir jihad veteran so far known only by code-names, ‘Muzammil,’ ‘Yusuf’ and ‘Abu Hurrera.’ Muzammil specialised in using the Lashkar’s fidayeen assets in Kashmir to attack targets elsewhere in India. In September 2002, for example, he ordered the south Kashmir-based Lashkar commander, Manzoor Zahid Chaudhuri, to despatch two fidayeen to storm the Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar. Later, he put together a June 2004 plot to use fidayeen to assassinate the then Union Home Minister, L.K. Advani.


After the Mumbai bombings of 2006, Gen. Musharraf once again promised to end terrorism directed at India — but once again failed to act against the Lashkar. No clear answer just what this was has ever emerged: some analysts believe that the General wished to appease the anti-U.S. elements in the ISI by allowing jihad against Pakistan’s eastern adversary to continue, while others insist that the LeT was in a position to initiate a civil war with 20,000-odd men estimated to have passed through its military camps.


Muzammil — if that is indeed the name of the six-foot tall, long-haired and full-bearded Punjabi-speaking terror commander who operates out of Muzaffarabad, Lahore and Rawalpindi — worked hard to put a firewall between the Lashkar in Pakistan and its affiliates in India. The Indian Mujahideen, which executed a string of bombings across India in 2007-2008, was one product of his efforts. Most of the IM’s key operational figures, mainly drawn from the ranks of the Students Islamic Movement of India, had trained at Lashkar camps in Pakistan. However, the Lashkar had no direct role in the IM’s bombing campaign, nor did it commit Pakistani nationals to the attacks.


Even as the Lashkar focussed on its anti-India campaign, though, Pakistan began to descend into chaos. As jihadists battled Pakistani troops along the northwest frontier and Islamabad found itself compelled by the U.S. to take on the terror groups it had long patronised, the language used by the Al-Qaeda and the Lashkar increasingly converged. In April 2006, Osama bin-Laden issued a proclamation that denounced a “Crusader-Zionist-Hindu war against Muslims.”


Saeed’s public speeches began to draw on the same ideas. Just this May, for example, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief asserted “the Crusaders, the Jews, and the Hindus — all have united against the Muslims, and launched the ‘war on terror’ which is in fact a pretext to impose a horrible war to further the nefarious goals of the enemies of Islam.” Less than a month later, on June 12, he called on Islamabad to disassociate “itself from the war on terror and join the mujahideen to fight in Afghanistan and Kashmir.”


By targeting western nationals in Mumbai, the Lashkar has initiated the third phase of its campaign, which first focussed on Kashmir and then all of India. The Al-Qaeda, the language of bin-Laden and Saeed suggests, had an ideological and tactical influence on the decision to open this fresh front.


Did the ISI or elements in the military also play a role? No hard evidence exists to support this claim but Pakistan’s long-standing failure to crack down on the terror group has led more than one analyst to make the obvious inference that the terror group has powerful friends. Although Pakistan continues to insist that the Jamaat-ud-Dawa is a charitable group, the U.S. State department’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2007 insist that it is in fact a “front organisation” for the Lashkar.


It is likely that some in the ISI see the Lashkar as an ally in their campaign against India — a campaign that sustains the hostility which informs the foundation of the Pakistan Army’s political primacy in Pakistan. In August, The New York Times reported that the U.S. had intercepted communications between Pakistani intelligence officers and the terrorists who bombed the Indian Embassy in Kabul. And many commentators have argued that the Mumbai operation could have been backed by pro-Islamist ISI elements who wished to provoke an India-Pakistan clash that would compel the eastward diversion of troops now committed to fighting the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda.


Now, President Zardari has the option of speaking the truth and acting against the Lashkar — or giving weight to charges that the banned terror group is an instrument of the state he governs.