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Keep the heat on till Pakistan begs

Keep the heat on till Pakistan begs

Author: Kanchan Gupta
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: February 15, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/156440/Keep-the-heat-on-till-Pakistan-begs.html

Even before the full horror of the fidayeen attack on Mumbai, which was launched late in the evening on November 26 and lasted for the next 62 hours, had begun to sink in, Islamabad sought to distance itself from the terrible bloodbath. "Pakistan has played no role in the attacks," declared Pakistani Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar. That was before radio intercepts made it abundantly clear that the terrorists were of Pakistani origin and were receiving minute-to-minute instructions from their handlers in that country.

Sensing the mounting hostility, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who, ironically, was in Delhi at the time of the attack, snarled on camera, "Let us not jump to conclusions, let us not go in for knee-jerk reactions." On December 3, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari came to his own conclusion that flew in the face of indisputable evidence. "These terrorists are stateless actors who have been operating throughout the region," he said in between writing opeditorials for The New York Times and The Washington Post, projecting Pakistan as the 'innocent victim' of India's 'evil machinations'. Disowning Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the Pakistani terrorist who had been caught alive in the early stages of the Mumbai attack, he added, "We have not been given any tangible proof to say that he is definitely a Pakistani." An official later pointed out that Kasab's name does not feature in the National Citizenship Register; what he did not mention was that the names of nearly one-third Pakistanis do not figure in the register which by Pakistani standards is a dubious and fraudulent document.

On January 10, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani accused the international community of practising "double standards" in dealing with the Mumbai attack. There was no need, he said, for the world to make "so much noise" over 26/11. After receiving the dossier containing evidence collated by the Government of India, he rubbished it, saying, "All that has been received formally from India is some information. I say information because these are not the evidence."

Meanwhile, an obliging Pakistani media was used for putting out weird stories that became increasingly comical. Austria is surely not amused that it should have been accused of hosting the terrorists and facilitating the execution of a diabolical plot. Nor, we can be sure, has the PPP Government done itself a favour by slyly suggesting that India should hold Bangladesh responsible.

All this and more is now reduced to no more than a matter of detail. Pakistan has had to admit that not only was "some part of the conspiracy" hatched on its soil, the terrorists were Pakistani citizens, they embarked on their grim mission from Pakistani shores, and their handlers directed the Mumbai attack from Pakistan. Islamabad claims to have filed cases against nine 'suspects', of whom it says six have been arrested. But this is at best a partial confession. The Mumbai attack could not have been planned and executed without more than an approving nod by the Pakistani establishment, especially the ISI. The 10 fidayeen who raided Victoria Terminus, Leopold's Café, Taj Mahal Palace, Oberoi-Trident and Nariman House (also known as Chabad House) were highly skilled, motivated and sufficiently trained to take on the Navy's commandos, Special Forces of the Army and the National Security Guards, engaging them in a fearsome battle for nearly three days. Such training and logistical support could have been provided only by the ISI. The Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, which has been made to carry the can for 26/11, is an ISI creation. And this is not the first instance of ISI involvement in unleashing terror on India, nor was the bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul just another example of Pakistani perfidy. What has happened is that the world has got wiser and Pakistani 'double standards' and 'double speak' has convinced the international community that unless something is done right now, the 'most dangerous place' on Earth is going to become more than what former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright famously described as an "international migraine" in the immediate aftermath of 26/11.

Yet, effective diplomacy driven by enlightened self-interest demands that India must make the most of Pakistan's partial admission of the truth. We should now exert to ensure that the pressure on Pakistan is not eased - neither by us, nor by the US. Little or no purpose will be served by banking on either Europe or China. By adopting the line of least resistance, Britain has shown that the lion in its monarch's crest is not only defanged but also castrated. Germany does not have the stomach for prolonged engagement in the war on terror. France continues to be crafty and unreliable. China is more interested in securing its energy needs via Gwadar Port and propping up Pakistan as a countervailing force to checkmate India's emergence as a regional power than in waging war on terror or keeping the Taliban and Al Qaeda at bay. Russia is a far better bet, especially now that it is willing to provide an alternative route to ferry US and NATO troops and military hardware to Afghanistan which will vastly reduce American dependence on Pakistan. In the final analysis, we must strengthen our strategic alliance with the US, without cutting corners with our national interests. After all, had it not been for relentless American pressure, Pakistan would not have even partially admitted to the involvement of Pakistanis in the slaughter of innocent people between November 26 and 28 in Mumbai last year.

Interestingly, Pakistan's Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik, while officially responding to the Indian dossier last Thursday, said one of the suspects on Islamabad's list was possibly involved in the bombing of Samjhauta Express on February 18, 2007. He added that Pakistan had sought India's assistance to further investigate this aspect of Islamabad's findings. We should, of course, pursue this lead and make public the findings of our own agencies which investigated that act of terrorism. This may not lead to prosecution and punishment of the guilty - Pakistan is unlikely to serve the Mumbai accused their just desserts - but it will at least shut up loudmouths in India who have been darkly hinting at the involvement of 'Hindu terrorists' in the Samjhauta Express bombing. Hopefully, it will also dissuade police officials eager to suck up to the ruling party of the day from spreading canards and indulging in casuistry. For evidence, recall the sly innuendos of the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad about 'Hindu terrorists' using RDX to bomb Samjhauta Express; innuendos which were gleefully reproduced on the front page by 'secular' newspapers and prominently featured on prime time news bulletins by 24x7 channels, although investigations had already established that RDX had not been used in that attack. Being disingenuous is a trait our secularists share with Pakistani Islamists.

- kanchangupta@rocketmail.com

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