The Pakistan Connection

Evidence is still sketchy, but tensions are already rising between India and its nuclear-armed neighbor.

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Around 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, a band of 10 young armed militants zoomed up to a fishermen's colony in Colaba, on the Mumbai waterfront, in inflatable Zodiac speedboats. Locals confronted them: unlike the dark-skinned Mumbai fishermen, who speak only Marathi, the regional dialect, the intruders were young, tall and fair-skinned and spoke Urdu with a northern accent. According to local press, the gunmen reportedly told them to mind their business, then gave a raised-thumb gesture, and splitting into small groups, walked off into two different directions. The fishermen reported the suspicious men to a police post nearby, but the tip-off failed to rouse the cops to action.

An hour later, the carnage began. Those gunmen and others, armed with automatic rifles and hand grenades, spread out across southern Mumbai and started shooting into crowds at several city landmarks. By midnight more than 100 people lay dead, including three of Mumbai's top cops, one of them the head of the anti-terrorist squad. The series of well-coordinated and bloodthirsty attacks hit two of Mumbai's flagship hotels, its main Victorian-era railway station, and several other soft targets in the city. Gunmen in both hotels took scores of hostages. The dead senior policemen were inexplicably standing exposed outside the spots where terrorists were holding hostages.

Even as Indian commandos worked to free hostages holed up in the hotels and elsewhere, attention quickly turned to who might have planned and staged the brazen attacks. Beyond those killed and wounded, one victim certainly looks to be the gradually improving peace process between India and Pakistan, nuclear-armed rivals who have fought three major wars between them. While no conclusive links between the Mumbai terrorists and Pakistan have yet been proved, initial reports are pointing to some level of Pakistani involvement. Police have arrested nine suspects, including one from the Oberoi hotel. They claim that preliminary interrogation reports reveal that some of gunmen were of Pakistani origin, and were well-trained in handling guns and explosives. They also carried photo credit cards.

A previously unknown jihadi group called the Deccan Mujahedeen quickly claimed responsibility. (Deccan refers to the great plains of central and southern India.) But security experts think the militants simply floated this name in order to confuse investigators. One of the alleged gunmen spoke to an Indian TV reporter by cell phone; the man did not have a south Indian accent, and in fact spoke Urdu with a Punjabi inflection. The caller told the TV station that he didn't even know what the group's demands were. During the conversation, he asked the TV anchor to wait and then could be heard asking a companion in the background: "Tell me, what are our demands?" Finally the man answered that they demanded that all "mujahedeen" in Indian jails should be freed and that "persecution" of Muslims should stop. The caller disconnected the phone when pressed for further information about their numbers and goals.

Despite the rather flimsy evidence pointing to Pakistan's involvement, Islamabad is expected to come under extremely heavy Indian and international pressure once again to get tough with the extremist organizations that still operate rather openly inside the country. After past terrorist attacks Indian authorities have been quick to blame Pakistan and its shadowy Inter Services Intelligence agency (ISI). This time, too, while the hotels still smoldered, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced in a nationally televised address that the assailants had "external linkages," clearly a reference to neighboring Pakistan. He added that he would tell India's "neighbors" that the use of their territory to attack India would not be tolerated. Many Indians were pointing a finger at the Pakistani jihadi group Lashkar-I-Taiba, which was formed in the early 1980s with the assistance of the ISI to promote an anti-Indian revolt in Muslim-majority, Indian-administered Kashmir.

New Delhi has long accused Lashkar, and by extension Pakistan, of being behind the long-simmering unrest in Indian Kashmir, as well as being instigators of terror attacks inside India. Indian officials, however, conveniently ignore the serious economic, religious, political and social causes of Muslim discontent in Kashmir as well as in much of India, which is home to more than 150 million Muslims, roughly equivalent to the population of Pakistan. There have been five similar attacks, albeit on a smaller scale with fewer casualties, across India in the last eight months. Security agency sources say that the government's response to the attacks has been routine, if not incompetent, and that inter-agency rivalries and non-coordination often result in terrorists having a free hand. In addition, the police are notorious for using crude methods such as rounding up largely innocent Muslim youth and torturing them to extract information, tactics that alienate even moderate Muslim voices.

As a result, Islamic radicalism now seems to be becoming an increasingly serious threat to India just as it is in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Indeed, there may be enough dissatisfaction among Muslims in India to spawn a cadre of native, would-be jihadists who do not necessarily need external support to carry out terrorist attacks. Even so, the precise planning, stealth and coordination involved in the attacks may point to some external assistance, if not inspiration. Pakistan can certainly be faulted for not having dealt a deathblow to Lashkar and several other similar, ISI-assisted, Kashmir-oriented, jihadist outfits such as Jaish-I-Mohammad, a splinter group that was responsible for American journalist Daniel Pearl's kidnapping and beheading in 2002. Despite several much-ballyhooed crackdowns by former President Pervez Musharraf on Lashkar, Jaish and other such extremist groups, these radical organizations were never dismembered or decapitated. They went underground or kept on functioning under different monikers. Unlike Jaish and other Pakistani jihadi groups, Lashkar wisely did not become involved in military strikes against Pakistani security forces. As a result, the army and police crackdown was less harsh on Lashkar than it was on other extremist groups that were in open revolt against Pakistan after it moved to close the infiltration pipeline into Indian-occupied Kashmir in 2003.

Member Comments
  • Posted By: Sultan Ahmed @ 12/05/2008 11:32:28 PM

    Comment: After marriot hotel bloodshed,
    there happened many such incident,but little,
    no so big as taken place yesterday,
    in Peshawer,
    in which about 20 innocent people died,
    and many more badely injured,
    as reliable and independent sources said.

    before this,
    in the same area,
    ten trucks, carrying food and other supplies,
    moving toward Afghanistan ,
    were cpatured and elighted by millitant,
    killing other two people.
    no doubt it was tradegic incident.

    Who will didregard this fact,
    Pakistan has lost a good number its cityzen ,
    in the insurgencies,committed by terrorists,
    inside the country.

    Newly elected governmen has nothing done ,
    for the welfare of people,it forgotten all promises,
    made with people during election campaign,
    instead fighting with those called terrorista.

    Millitants killed moreinnocent peole in India,
    and indian government is still blaming on pakistan'involvement,
    notwithstanding the fact,Pakistan is no involve in such heinous act,
    in case , American didn'inter faire there were chances ,
    of war between nuclear power,
    which claimed lacks of people from both sides.

    the questin ,
    automatcally created in mindes,
    who is responsible for the bloody incident,
    has been taken placed in Peshawer recently.

    We should admitt the bear fact that
    there is one enemy of both ,India and Pakistan,
    it is right to say,teh enemy has a strong back,
    so we should be carefull and adopted stratigically best tactic,
    there must be unique unity among us otherwise failure ,
    be come our fortune.

    Sultan Ahmed, Fsd.Pakistan.

  • Posted By: karaswart @ 12/05/2008 5:28:00 PM

    Comment: December 3rd to December 14th , 1971 is the time that the Pakistani Army Genocide of the Bangladeshi Muslims came to an end. 3 million Muslims were slaughtered by the Pakistani Army in 1971, historically the biggest genocide of Muslims.

  • Posted By: khasroo29 @ 12/04/2008 12:35:36 AM

    Comment: Democracy was never allowed to take its root right from the time Pakistan was created. Autocrats ruled the country for 38 years out 51 years. These autocrats always patronized the terrorists in the name of serving the religion. These autocrats were also being backed by most of the world powers in the name countering Russia and or China. These jealots were trained and armed with modern equipments to fight the Russians in Afganistan. Today we find them becoming frankestine and terrorising the nations and countries. Its high time theGovernments of India, Pakistan and others are serious to handle these renegades. India fighting Pakistan will not bring any good result. The world powers should united and help both the countries to weed out the infrastructure of terrorism. Only that can help.

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