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The Pakistan Link to the Mumbai Terror Attacks

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  • December 05, 2008

    Investigations into the attacks in Mumbai and subsequent developments point to the role of the Pakistan based Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) as the key player that orchestrated the well coordinated attacks. The lone arrested terrorist is a Pakistani national and he has provided minute details of the events leading up to the attacks. Indian claims about elements within Pakistan being responsible for the attack have also been endorsed by the United States. The Pakistani link to terrorist attacks around the world and the tolerance the country shows towards terrorist groups within its territory is becoming a phenomenon far less tolerable to the civilised world.

    The arrested terrorist, Mohammad Ajmal Amir Iman alias Kasab, told investigators that the group of ten LeT terrorists who participated in the attack operated without any local help or assistance from ‘home-grown terrorists’. This group of LeT terrorists trained for a year and half in at least four camps in Pakistan and on one occasion met with the LeT leader Mohammad Hafeez Saeed. American intelligence analysts suspect that former officers of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and of the Pakistan Army also helped train the Mumbai attackers. It has also been found out that another Lashkar leader, Yusuf Muzammil, whom Kasab named as the plot’s organizer, fielded phone calls in Lahore from the attackers during the siege in Mumbai. In addition are telephone intercepts, the journey details of the terrorists from Karachi to Mumbai, and several other details.

    It is natural that in the view of such damning evidence as well as given the long history of Pakistan’s covert wars in India’s territory, India seeks Pakistan’s accountability and action against terrorist elements operating from within its own territory. The existing India-Pakistan joint anti-terror mechanism also puts the onus on Pakistan to cooperate and act against these elements, especially given that its nationals have been found involved in this terrorist attack. So far, however, such expectations have been belied.

    Pakistan back-pedalled on India’s request to send the ISI chief, after initially agreeing to it. The civilian government is believed to have come under pressure from the Army and the ISI, which continue to be the most influential power centres in Pakistan. There are also obvious attempts to play to the gallery which is dominated by the jihadis for whom India and the United States are among the greatest enemies of Islam.

    While the civilian government’s predicament can still be understood and its reaction expected, what has defied logic is its outright rejection of the pile of emerging evidence against people whom President Zardari described as “stateless actors”. Zardari rejected that the arrested terrorist is a Pakistani. This is at best a poor attempt at seeking a clean chit for a country which is said to be involved in every terror attack that has taken place around the world in the post 9/11 period.

    Pakistan continues to maintain that it is a victim of terrorism just like India, forgetting to realise that its beleaguered condition is primarily a result of its own policy of creating these jihadi monsters and subsequently losing the capacity to control them. Moreover, there is a clear distinction between the terrorist attacks within Pakistan, which are led mostly by the al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban that are annoyed with the country’s alliance with the United States, and the terrorist targeting of India by jihadi outfits like the LeT and the Jaish-e-Mohammad. The latter continue to enjoy patronage of the Pakistan Army and the ISI and their operations have never been disrupted either during Pervez Musharraf’s reign or under the present civilian government. The LeT’s reincarnation Jama’at-ud-Dawa is no less a lethal terrorist formation in spite of its professed engagement in welfare activities. These outfits remain the tactical arm of Pakistan’s India policy and at no point of time have they ever targeted the Pakistani establishment.

    The Pakistan government has rejected India’s demands to deport a host of terrorist leaders, including underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and Maulana Masood Azhar, chief of Jaish-e-Mohammad. Forgetting to restate its routine denial that Dawood Ibrahim, declared as a global terrorist by the US State Department, resides in its territory, the Pakistan government has argued that these persons, if found involved in the Mumbai attacks, would be tried according to Pakistani law. It needs mention here that the demand for their deportation to India is a long-standing one and Pakistan has not paid any heed to such requests in spite of the series of confidence building measures between the two countries. In addition, Pakistani strategists, speaking in the same tone as their government, point fingers at the supposed inability of Indian intelligence to prevent the attack on Mumbai. While whether intelligence preparedness could actually have prevented an attack of this nature is being fiercely debated in strategic circles, this in no way absolves Pakistan of its critical role in supporting these terrorists. Some analysts have also spoken about the possible supporting role that could have been played by the “alienated discriminated Indian Muslims” in the Mumbai attacks, ignoring the fact that terrorism in India is yet to crystallise around any central motivating ideology and is by no means uniquely Islamist.

    Pakistan has also threatened to move its forces from its western borders with Afghanistan to its eastern border with India in the event of a military move by India. This as usual has set the US administration in a flurry because of the worry that this would dilute the American War on Terror on the ‘western borders’ of Pakistan. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Admiral Mullen’s visits are being seen as an exercise in conflict prevention between the two nuclear armed rivals. India needs to makes it clear to the US administration that its short sighted counter terrorism policies in South Asia have been counter productive in dealing with terror in Afghanistan and the implosion within Pakistan. It is time that India’s concerns are taken on board in framing American policy towards Pakistan, given that groups from safe havens in that country directly impinge upon India’s territorial integrity, cultural ethos and economic prosperity. India cannot be reactive to American policy towards Pakistan; it has to be proactive. Else, the endless cycle of terror will engulf the entire region.