New Age Islam Edit Bureau
27 November 2017
26/11 and Its Unlearned Lessons
By Tavleen Singh
Lest 26/11 Come
By Prakash Singh
Hafiz Saeed Is a Metaphor For Pakistan Dysfunctionality
By T.C.A. Raghavan
Pakistan’s Misuse of Faith
By Zubeida Mustafa
Civilian Control: A Means to Stability, Sanity
By Abbas Nasir
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
November 26, 2017
Today marks another anniversary of one of the most evil acts of violence ever committed on Indian soil. Almost a decade has passed since 26/11, and we have come no closer to punishing Pakistan for this. So it thumbs its nose at India and the world. Last week Hafiz Saeed was released by the Lahore High Court despite being designated a terrorist by the United States, and despite having a $10 million reward on his head. A Pakistani official said the court released him because of ‘the failure of the government to produce verifiable evidence’ to prove that he plotted the murder of 166 innocent people in Mumbai nine years ago.
The military men who control Pakistan need only to listen to this monster’s venomous speeches to find verifiable evidence. Or to the regular interviews General Pervez Musharraf gives from his safe haven in Dubai, if they want to verify that men like Saeed were trained by the Pakistani army as ‘assets’ to be used against India and Afghanistan. Musharraf ruled Pakistan at the time of 26/11 and he has admitted more than once that men like Saeed and even Osama bin Laden were ‘our heroes’. So if anyone in India still hopes that Pakistan will one day mend its ways and start bringing men like Saeed to justice, they should abandon this hope. Pakistan is a rogue nuclear state and not us, not the United States, or any other country knows what to do about this.
What should concern us as Indians is that in the nine years since 26/11 so little has been done to improve our defences against this rogue Islamic Republic. If another Indian city is attacked the way Mumbai was, will it be better prepared to defend itself? Will commandos trained in counter-terrorism arrive sooner than they did last time? For those of you who may have forgotten, may I remind you that it took more than 24 hours for them to get to Mumbai from their base in Manesar. In this time at least a hundred people were killed by Ajmal Kasab and his comrades. If a Mumbai policeman, Tukaram Omble, had not given his life to capture Kasab we would have no evidence (verifiable or otherwise) that Pakistan was behind the attack.
The criminal delay in transporting commandos to Mumbai was not the only failure of the Indian government. There were nothing but failures at every level, and the awful truth is that very little has been done to rectify them in the past nine years. Policemen in our cities, who are inevitably the first responders, remain untrained in counter-terrorism, and as for expertise in intelligence gathering, the less said about it the better. India remains as vulnerable to a similar attack as it was in November 2008. As someone who knows Mumbai well, I can report that this city’s hotels, cafes, railway stations and bazaars continue to have no more than cosmetic security. Even more frightening is that India’s coastline remains as vulnerable as it was then. Ferry services from Mumbai are closed when a foreign dignitary happens to visit but for ordinary citizens there is not even minimal security.
At the crux of what is wrong is our obsession with protecting our wretched VIPs and VVIPs. After Indira Gandhi’s assassination her son ordered the creation of special forces (Black Cat commandos, et al) but the sad truth is that to this day they are employed mostly to protect political leaders and their progeny. When foreign VVIPs come to Mumbai and Delhi, whole areas are closed off to protect them, but it is as if our lives matter not one bit.
One of the saddest stories I heard after the 26/11 attack was from a man who had spent two terrified nights barricaded in his room in the Taj Hotel. Every other moment he heard the killers banging down doors to hunt for new victims and was in a state of total trauma when he was rescued. What bothered him most was that outside the hotel there was not a single official or policeman to take him home or even offer him a cup of tea.
The people who put their lives on the line in the Oberoi and Taj were hotel staff and they did this without minimum help from those paid by Indian taxpayers to protect us. Meanwhile, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has continued to make it clear that no matter what measures the international community takes, it will continue to pursue the path of violent jihad. So on this anniversary of 26/11 all we can hope for is that by the 10th anniversary next year, the government of Narendra Modi will have done more to strengthen our defences against evil than the government of Sonia-Manmohan did in its second tenure, that began the year after 26/11.
November 25, 2017
Terrorism continues to pose the greatest threat to the internal security of the country. According to the US Country Reports on Terrorism 2016, India is the third most affected country after Iraq and Afghanistan in the number of attacks perpetrated on its soil. It is estimated that a total of 52 terrorist groups are active in different parts of India, which is higher than in any other country.
Fortunately, there has been no major terrorist attack in the country after 26/11 (2008). Was it because we are much better prepared now and our law enforcement agencies have been able to prevent such an onslaught? It would be difficult to give an affirmative answer.
Ever since the last attack in Mumbai, Pakistan has been under increasing international pressure to rein in its terrorist formations. The US Secretary of State has sternly warned Pakistan to act on terror or else they will adjust their strategy and tactics to achieve the objective in a “different way”. The presence of a strong government in Delhi, which showed the courage to launch a surgical strike across the border, could also have been a deterrent factor.
Looking at our counter-terrorism capabilities, the fact is that there has been no substantial accretion after the slew of measures taken in the wake of 26/11, when National Security Guard units were decentralised, an elaborate coastal security scheme was drawn up and the National Investigation Agency established. Complacency seems to have set in. It is a sad commentary on the republic that we wake up to the seriousness of a situation and take measures to deal with it only after a setback. Are we waiting for another catastrophe to overwhelm us?
There are chinks in our armour. The police, who are the first responders to any terrorist crime, continue to be in a shambles. The states have done precious little to reform, rejuvenate or reinforce the capabilities of the police forces. The Supreme Court’s directions of 2006 have been treated with contempt. The modernisation of police, in fact, suffered a setback when, following the 14th Finance Commission’s recommendations and increase in the share of states’ revenues, the Centre delegated the responsibility to the state governments. Fortunately, the Government of India recently approved a Rs 25,000 crore scheme to strengthen the law and order apparatus. It will have to be ensured that money is utilised for the purpose for which it has been sanctioned.
The Central armed police forces are not in the best health. There are rumblings of discontent, particularly in the BSF and CRPF, over the quality of leadership at different levels, promotional opportunities, irrational deployments, inadequate infrastructure in insurgency-affected states and aspects of service conditions. Intelligence at the state level is generally in doldrums. Implementation of the coastal security scheme has been tardy. The National Counter Terrorism Centre has been conveniently forgotten.
The Government of India’s performance in several areas has been commendable. Internal security has, however, for inexplicable reasons, remained a grey area. The “SMART” police conceptualised by the prime minister is nowhere to be seen, thanks to the indifference of the state governments. The Centre must initiate measures to move “police” to the Concurrent List of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, as suggested by the reputed constitutional jurist, Fali Nariman. The anti-terror law would also need to be given more teeth. Meanwhile, the threat from terrorism continues to escalate. There is a concerted move to see that Assam is engulfed in turbulence in the same way as it happened in Kashmir in 1989. The ISI is working on this plan and is said to be coordinating strategies with radical elements among the Rohingyas and illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in Assam. Al Qaeda had declared its plans to intensify its activities in Assam as far back as 2014. The Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh has been steadily setting up units in Assam as well as West Bengal. Syed Arshad Madani, chief of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, recently said that Assam will burn if 50 lakh Muslims were left out of the National Register of Citizens.
In two other states — West Bengal and Kerala — the ruling establishment has been following policies which have emboldened the fundamentalists. In J&K, the Pakistan-sponsored terrorist groups, particularly Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Toiba, are determined to keep the pot boiling. The release of Lashkar chief, Hafiz Saeed, on the eve of 26/11 is ominous and betrays Pakistan’s continued support to cross-border terrorism.
The Islamic State has been losing territories in Iraq and Syria but its ideology has caught on and lone wolf attacks continue to take place in different parts of the world. A recent report shows that there may be such attacks on Hindu religious congregations such as the Kumbh Mela and Thrissur Pooram. The ministry of home affairs has been complimenting itself over the small number of Muslims who have joined the Islamic State but, as pointed out by several experts, even a small percentage of Muslims in India gravitating to the ideology would be a formidable number and pose a serious challenge to the security of the state.
The overall scenario is, thus, quite grim. It is high time that the security architecture is revamped. India has repeatedly given a call at international fora for united efforts to combat terrorism. However, first we must set our own house in order. Even otherwise, the future of democracy and our capacity to sustain the momentum of economic progress would depend in no small measure on our ability to reinforce and strengthen internal security.
November 27, 2017
Individuals and particular situations often dramatically illustrate processes in the India Pakistan terrain. The cases of Dawood Ibrahim and Masood Azhar chronicle the troubled 1990s and the early years of this century. Since the Mumbai attack of 2008 Hafiz Saeed has become a metaphor for all the lows in India-Pakistan relations. His release from preventive custody just two days before the ninth anniversary of those fateful days of November 2008 symbolizes the structural limits within which the India- Pakistan interface operates.
A small measure of guilt and a huge one of denial summarize Pakistani attitudes towards the Mumbai attack, the Lashkar e Taiba and Hafiz Saeed. These sentiments have been there from the start as the extent of the conspiracy and the plan that launched the attack of 26/11 became clear. In the flurry of condemnation that accompanied the attack, the Pakistan Foreign Office announced that the DG, ISI would visit India for investigation. Within hours it was clear that the move was a nonstarter. The subsequent acknowledgement in Pakistan that the attackers were indeed Pakistanis led to the summary removal of its National Security Advisor for this admission.
Some in Pakistan were appalled at the gruesome violence perpetuated on Mumbai. They saw this through their own experience of terrorist violence — a daily trauma that had markedly increased from mid-2007 onwards. Yet even larger numbers sympathized with conspiracy theories being injected into public narratives that the attack was an Indian operation to defame Pakistan. The outrage in India at the scale of the massacre was thus projected in Pakistan as aggression. The attack and the international outcry that accompanied it became the cause of a virulently defensive reaction. As anxieties and paranoia about India asserted themselves it was a short step thereafter to resist action against the attack’s mentors and planners. Assuring ‘due process’ to them became the defence of Pakistan’s sovereignty.
Thus, it has remained. The Mumbai case trial in an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi has dragged on inconclusively. An ‘absence of evidence’ from India is an all-encompassing explanation on its lack of progress. Other actors — most notably, Zaki-ur Rahman Lakhvi have been released on bail for want of ‘evidence’. Even periods of relative upswings in bilateral relations have not been able to rescue the case from oblivion into which it has sunk.
Lakhvi’s release on bail in March 2015 was days after the Indian Foreign Secretary visited Pakistan in an attempt to reignite that moment when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had attended in New Delhi the swearing in of the new government in India in May 2014. This timing of the court decision itself prompted questions about whether the Mumbai trial itself now provides a convenient instrument to deflect any incipient India-Pakistan process off course.
In hindsight perhaps, it was also an instrument to measure the temperature of the civil-military balance in Pakistan. Other factors also contributed to strengthening the narrative of denial in Pakistan. Among these is a sense of entitlement about Kashmir, the lack of progress in the case of the terrorist attack on the Samjhauta Express in 2006, etc.
Hafiz Saeed currently underlines much of what plagues India Pakistan relations. Notwithstanding identification as a global terrorist by the UNSC his public profile as also the scope of his activities has only expanded. The Falah-i-Insaniyat, a front of the Lashkar-e-Taiba that masquerades as a charity, has grown into one of Pakistan’s largest charitable organizations in the past six-seven years even while facing UN-mandated sanctions against fund raising.
Many in Pakistan feel aggrieved at what they feel is a lack of strategic empathy as their country endeavours to address issues of terrorism — the problem of evidence to satisfy the requirements of the criminal justice system, the difficulties of tracing fund flows in a largely cash dominated economy. etc.
This sense of victimhood is largely self-referential. It is unable to comprehend how feeble these protestations appear to those outside: A political and moral consensus in Pakistan has accepted that military courts will handle terrorists with summary procedures and some hundreds have been awarded the death penalty and many executed on evidence that would have been thrown out of the regular courts; the Pakistan military has on occasion taken action against terrorists with collateral damage of a scale that has staggered the outside world. Invoking sovereignty in the guise of legal technicalities to resist action against terrorists attacking others is acting in bad faith or creating a cover of deniability for state policy.
However much Pakistan tries to reduce terrorism to an India-Pakistan or an intra-Afghan issue, this tack is not working. The China factor does provide a measure of support, but this tactical gain comes as an overall strategic loss. US pressures — the stridency of the White House statement on the Hafiz Saeed release is noteworthy — Pakistan’s poor external image, the recent Saudi announcement about seeking moderation within, are among the many examples that point to this.
Instruments fashioned for a previous century will no longer work and need to be discarded. Pakistan’s inability and unwillingness to do so only underline its dysfunctionality. The fact that that this is not recognized as a dysfunction makes the problem a structural one. Hafiz Saeed is a metaphor of that dysfunction.
A recently launched collection of Hamza Alavi’s papers and speeches should be a timely reminder to us about the role that faith has come to play in Pakistan’s politics. Translated into Urdu by Dr Riaz Ahmad Shaikh (dean of Social Sciences, Szabist), Tashkeel-i-Pakistan: Mazhab aur Secularism leaves no one in doubt about the misuse of religion by our leaders to gain advantages in public life at the expense of the people’s well-being and the national interest.
Hamza Alavi, who was a Marxist scholar recognised in world academia, firmly believed that the founder of this country never sought to set up a theocratic state. Yet that is the direction in which Pakistan appears to be heading.
Much has been written and said about the exploitation of religion in the country to marginalise the minority communities and the non-mainstream Muslim sects. Religion has also been misused to try and suppress the freedom of expression and to unleash violence and extremism in order to concentrate influence — and ultimately power —in the hands of a right-wing, religious oligarchy.
Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of this phenomenon has been the use of faith in foreign, defence and strategic policies. Religious symbolism was employed from the start in the security establishment. Initially, it was more to mobilise the soldiers, so no one thought twice about the use of religious slogans such as ‘Allah-o-Akbar’ and titles such as Nishan-i-Haider. But then Pakistan went much further. The word ‘jihad’ was also used by the security establishment to justify action that may not be universally acceptable in the eyes of modern-day international law.
The rise of Islamist extremism that has spawned myriads of militant groups in the Middle East and South Asia was initially facilitated by the introduction of rigid interpretations of faith in public life. With extremism opening a Pandora’s box, it is difficult to see how such misuse will ever be checked.
What is worrying is that this approach was not only used to try and gain Pakistan’s own strategic goals and foreign policy objectives. Successive governments also allowed outsiders to use religion on our behalf. Remember how we fought Charlie Wilson’s war in Afghanistan as proxies for the US dubbing the guerrillas as “freedom fighters” engaged in jihad. Now we know better — as has been recounted by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s security adviser — that the ‘godless’ Russians were lured into Afghanistan by the Carter administration. Gulbadin Hekmatyar and colleagues were mobilised in Afghanistan in July 1979. The use of the religion card was evident to evoke a military response from the Soviets in December 1979. That was to trap the Russians in their Afghan ‘Vietnam’.
This approach was also formerly seen in Kashmir. The various lashkars that roamed freely in this region were said to be the creation of Pakistan’s security establishment, and held up as our ‘strategic assets’. The aura of faith that surrounded them gave them extraordinary protection especially in the public perception. So powerful had they become that our foreign policy was seen as being held hostage to their wishes.
Against this backdrop, the situation has now taken a serious turn with the entry of Donald Trump in the White House and his announcement of a new South Asian strategy in August. A key feature of this new policy was spelt out by Trump as, “Pakistan will have to stop providing safe-haven for terrorists… That must change immediately.”
We have not been told about the tactic the US plans to employ to achieve this end. Given Mr Trump’s performance, it would be unwise to believe that it will be business as usual. No official announcement has been made about the outcome of the American secretary of state’s visit to Pakistan apart from the outpouring of scorn from our leaders.
It is time we were told about what Mr Rex Tillerson had to say apart from his ‘expectation’ that the 75 ‘terrorists’ whose names were given to Pakistan should be handed over to the US or information about their whereabouts be provided. How will the security establishment react to this demand?
In this context the New York Time’s report of Oct 17 carries certain implications. According to the NYT the US had planned to send in SEALs to rescue the American/Canadian couple kidnapped by the Haqqani network four years ago. The family had been sighted by US drones. Reportedly, Pakistan went into action to recover the hostages when Washington gave the message, “Resolve this or the United States will.”
Is this report to be believed? One cannot help but recall the US helicopter operation of 2011 that saw SEALs entering Pakistan territory to kill Osama bin Laden? Are similar incursions to be expected to destroy the alleged safe havens set up in the name of religion?
Nov 26, 2017
So many left-leaning and liberal political commentators have believed for long that the civil-military imbalance lies at the root of most of the country’s ills.
With Nawaz Sharif taking up the cudgels for civilian supremacy and blaming his ouster from office on it as well, many conservative and right-of-centre commentators and opinion writers/anchors have also joined the ranks of those who believe in civilian supremacy as a means to stability and sanity.
Agreed that many major policy areas such as national security and foreign affairs and the direction that the country follows in each must be decided and set by the constitutionally-empowered civilian leadership, with input from all key institutions. It is and should always be a civilian prerogative.
The ground reality tells a very different story. Civilians can try, and have tried, to assert themselves. In the end, however, their stance, even as it is in line with constitutional provisions, represents no more than token defiance.
Just rewind to where the government started on coming to office in 2013 when the then Prime Minister spelt out and tried to execute his own foreign policy. Whether on India or Afghanistan, he increasingly found no elbow room to manoeuvre.
Some four years later, the once-robust politician, who could hold his own on the issue of Constitution and civilian supremacy, and now the foreign minister, does little better than to parrot with near relish the military’s views in key policy areas.
One can understand the frustration of Rawalpindi-Islamabad residents who are justified in attacking the government and its interior minister for their apparent inertia in dealing with protesters blocking a major artery connecting the two cities and also the capital with the airport.
But one must also be mindful of unsaid government concerns that if administrative action sparks wider protest whether forces other than police would follow its orders. After all, the interior minister will recall what happened when he demanded action against a paramilitary Rangers soldier.
The soldier had blocked the minister’s path to an accountability court where he was headed to witness Sharif’s trial. When the interior minister reacted angrily and demanded action, the Army’s chief spokesman advised him to give Shabaash (pat on the back) to the soldier for doing his job.
Then there was the unprecedented “seminar” co-hosted by the ISPR on the economy where not a single civilian government voice was represented. Among the speakers were a couple of harsh critics of government economic policy with one known to embellish his facts with non-facts.
When sections of the media criticised that the Army had been open with its reservations on the government’s economic policy, the military spokesman remained unapologetic and robustly defended his institution’s right to formulate and express an opinion in this area too.
These examples represent the tip of the iceberg. Should this civil-military tussle where (some allege) the judiciary also weighs in on one side or the other prevent the civilian setups at the centre and provinces from delivering good governance in areas where they do indeed have the authority?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer. We’ll leave the performance of the other provincial governments for another time but a recent, quick visit to Karachi painted a tragic picture of neglect at the hands of the only political party I’d vote for in the past.
There are no doubt big capital expenditure projects being executed perhaps because of the associated economic opportunities they represent to those authorising them. I must have counted several new underpasses and flyovers compared with a visit last year.
But side by side, it was shocking to see a large number of tall buildings mushrooming across the Clifton area where clearly land-use change had been authorised after only who knows what considerations, with no accompanying mandated upgrade of the utilities.
I bet untreated sewage from many of these projects will find its way to the sea which, in some cases, is merely a few hundred metres away.
The country’s most avowedly Democratic Party, the PPP, agreed to hand over local bodies to the elected representative after much-delayed elections — which too followed Supreme Court intervention. But not before emasculating their powers through amendments to the law.
The result: one of the biggest urban conurbations in the world looks to the provincial and not its city government to provide as basic a service as garbage removal. Garbage removal does not seem to sit anywhere in the list of priorities of the Sindh government.
Wherever one drives in Karachi and this includes the so-called “upmarket, posh” areas piles of rotting rubbish are never out of sight.
At least the one blame the PPP won’t have to shoulder is elitism. Crumbling roads, piles of rubbish and not a semblance of civic services is common to all rich, middle-class and poor neighbourhoods alike in Karachi.
uldn’t one way to civilian supremacy be through enhancing one’s credentials through exceptional governance delivered transparently and cleanly? Of course, the civilians can argue what credentials or track record does the military high command have enabling it to claim primacy?
My only response would be not to compare chalk and cheese. In a recent interview, Gen. Musharraf conceded he lacked legitimacy during his years in power. Those whose claim to power is legitimate must not dilute it with poor governance.