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A Pakistani red herring

A Pakistani red herring

Author: MN Buch
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: March 17, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/162922/A-Pakistani-red-herring.html

It is curious that just as the world had cornered Pakistan over the 26/11 Mumbai attack, Islamabad began to play the Taliban card. Obviously, the purpose is to divert attention from the core issue of Pakistan-sponsored cross-border terrorism. This diversionary tactic should be ignored by all

On November 26, 2008, a group of terrorists originating in Pakistan created absolute havoc in Mumbai, during the course of which at least 177 people died, many were injured and the was city held to ransom for almost three days. We had to deploy the local police, Army, Navy and NSG commandos before all the terrorists were accounted for and normalcy restored. Fourteen policemen and two commandos were killed. One terrorist was arrested because a heroic member of the Maharashtra Police caught hold of him despite himself being fatally wounded.

Pakistan, of course, as usual, denied any knowledge of participation in the attack, even going to the extent of saying that the arrested terrorist was not a Pakistani. However, sustained interrogation of the terrorist by the Indian authorities, the FBI, British and Israeli intelligence agencies unravelled the conspiracy and eventually Islamabad had to acknowledge that the attack originated in Pakistan and the conspiracy was hatched in that country. FIRs have been registered in Pakistan and some sort of investigation is under way.

However, the country has steadfastly refused to extradite to India the persons who are suspected of participating in the 26/11 attack or are masterminds of such terrorist activity on a consistent basis. Of course, the US has been pressuring Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice, but it is obvious that Pakistan is dragging its feet.

Pakistan's state agencies, such as the ISI and the Army, have actively encouraged and, in fact, have set up organisations whose sole objective is to destabilise neighbouring countries, particularly India and Afghanistan. These organisations are supported by various groups such as LeT, JuD, HuJI, etc, and many of them have been banned by the US. The overt involvement of the Pakistani Government and its covert approval of terrorist operations against India are well documented.

Neither Washington nor London has ever positively responded to our complaints that Pakistan has been subjecting us to a low intensity conflict, the objective of which is to destabilise the Indian state. It took the death of 46 foreigners, including British and American citizens, to convince these countries that India is a victim of Pakistan-conspired terrorism and that Pakistan must be forced to bring the terrorists to book. It is under the sustained pressure from the Western countries that Pakistan had to admit that Ajmal Amir Kasab is a Pakistani national and that the conspiracy against India was planned in Pakistan.

Almost coinciding with Pakistan's admission three events occurred. The first was a statement by the Pakistani President, Mr Asif Ali Zardari, that Pakistan was in grave danger of being over-run by the Taliban. The second was a statement by Gen Pervez Musharraf that there was a conspiracy to run down and blame the Pakistan Army and the ISI as the fountainheads of terrorism. He said that these institutions and instruments of the state would result in the Taliban and Al Qaeda taking over the country. The third event was a statement by Mr Richard Holbrooke, the American special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan. Speaking in New Delhi, he said that the Taliban was a threat equally to India, Pakistan and the US and must be faced jointly.

How does one interpret these statements? The Pakistanis have been crying themselves hoarse that they are a victim of terrorism and that India instead of pressurising Pakistan after the 26/11 attack should extend cooperation in tackling the Taliban. As proof they pointed out that in the Swat Valley the Pakistani Government has had to make a compromise with the Taliban, which is virtually surrendering to extremism. The red herring drawn by the Pakistanis across the terrorist trail is that if India insists on action by Pakistan against the perpetrators of 26/11, then the Pakistani Government will become weak, the Taliban will take over Pakistan and India will have to face an implacable enemy.

Let us take the specific case of the Swat Valley. This is a part of the Provincially-Administered Tribal Area of NWFP, watered by the Swat river, which joins the Kabul River near Charsadda and the Indus at Attock. The easternmost part of northern NWFP consists of Buner, the western portion is Swat and the central portion of which goes up to the Afghanistan border is Mohmand, Bajawar and Jandol. The eastern part of this region is the Mahabun Hills, which became the stronghold of the extreme Wahabi Hindustani Fanatics whose origin lay in Patna. The British mounted a number of expeditions to eliminate the fanatics and in this process came into open conflict with people of Swat and Buner. 1858, 1871,1881, 1888 and 1891 were crucial years and in 1897 Mullah Sadullah raised the banner of revolt in the Swat Valley. The British raised the Malakand Field Force in order to restore peace in this region. Simultaneously, the Tirah Expeditionary Force was launched into the southern part of NWFP bordering the Safed Koh Mountains in Afghanistan. This was the first force to fully penetrate into and dominate Tirah. Almost every year, especially in 1919, this entire region, including Swat, was in turmoil and the British had to intervene from time to time with force. Unrest in this region, therefore, is not a new phenomenon, nor do compromises there indicate that Pakistan has surrendered to the extremists and that the Taliban is about to take over the whole country.

India and its friends must firmly reject any suggestion of Pakistan that 26/11 should be linked with events in Swat and Waziristan. Pakistan cannot be let off the hook under the excuse that this would encourage the Taliban. If it does, so what? It matters little to us whether Mr Zardari rules Pakistan, or Gen Musharraf, or the Taliban. Every Pakistani regime has encouraged anti-Indian activities and we have been able to neutralise most of them. If the Taliban comes to power we can neutralise them also, so why should we help Pakistan to keep them at bay? Our message to Pakistan has to be loud and clear: Keep your extremist elements under control, ensure that they do not launch attacks against India from Pakistan territory and bring to book to the perpetrators of 26/11. As for the rest, that is internal affair of Pakistan and if it weakens that country and its Government, that is no skin off our nose.


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