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Urdunama: Dehshat gardi

Much has been written about on the recent episode where India Today and the Times of India published alerts from the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) on five Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operatives having infiltrated their way into Mumbai.  That same day, Pakistan’s TV channels and news media revealed, with barely-concealed delight, that these individuals were in fact in Lahore, not India, and that they were ordinary tradesmen, and not Lashkar terrorists.  On the face of it, our intelligence agencies goofed up.  Over at Acorn, my colleague Nitin Pai examines possible explanations in this excellent blogpost.

During a daily customary review of Pakistan’s Urdu media, I came across this article in Roznama Ummat that I found intriguing.  An excerpt from the Ummat’s interview of Mehtab Butt, Atif Butt and Babar Shabbir — three of the five who had allegedly entered Mumbai — follows:

The most concerning aspect of India labeling the three Pakistanis as terrorists is, how India came to be in the possession of their photographs in the first place.  In conversation with Ummat, Mehtab Butt indicated that he was perplexed as to how his photographs came to be in the hands of the Indians.  In response to a question about whether he had uploaded his photo onto Facebook, Twitter or similar social networking websites, Mr. Butt said that he had never operated a computer.  Mr. Butt said that the shirt that he was wearing as displayed in the photo on the Indian channel (sic) India Today was purchased last year.

Atif Butt said that while he had opened a Facebook account for himself, he had stopped using the account after his engagement;  however, he recollects having never uploaded the photo shown on the Indian channels to Facebook.  He remembers though, that the half-sleeved shirt displayed in the photo had been purchased last summer.

All three victims are of the opinion that a powerful camera was used to zoom in and take photos of them at Hafiz Center.  Both Atif and Mehtab were working at their shops at Hafiz Center when a mutual friend of theirs arrived at about 8:00pm on Wednesday with his laptop.  He showed Atif and Mehtab photos of themselves appearing on the India Today website.  At first, they dismissed the photos as a prank, but the grim reality of the situation ultimately dawned on them.

The three then promptly approached local police and advised them of the situation.  According to Mehtab and Atif, they took this step to ensure that they didn’t get apprehended on false charges.  Mehtab Butt informed Ummat that both he and Atif were under considerable stress.  Atif was of the opinion that had he and Mehtab not approached the police, there would be no doubt that the three victims would have been declared terrorists, similar to the “so-called” Mumbai terror attacks.

The three victims told Ummat that not only is India insulting our country, they have now turned their attention towards harming the Pakistani trading community.  Their question to Pakistan’s leaders is, why are we expanding our trade relations with India?  They appeal to the government to get to the bottom of this and respond to India’s imprudent actions. [روزنامہ امّت]

That this was an IO exercise against India is pretty apparent by the narrative.  Two innocent traders and an honest security guard in Lahore being ensnared by the Serpent Next Door triggers the imagination.  But why traders, why not anyone else?  The last paragraph appears to offer some clues.

There is disquiet in parts of Pakistan’s trading community over liberalizing trade with India.  Though many remain skeptical, most are not opposed to it, given the obvious benefits from trade with India.  But the one group that has remained steadfastly opposed to engagement with India on trade and the MFN status has been Difa-e-Pakistan, a rag-tag collection of ex-army officers and jihadi nutjobs supported by Rawalpindi, that boasts within its ranks a who’s who of the military-jihadi complex, including God’s Servant Hafiz Saeed, and the always-humble Hamid Gul.

Hard-line elements in Pakistan certainly have motive, by both impressing upon the Pakistani trading community that thy neighbor is deceitful, and embarrassing India and its intelligence agencies. But the elaborate plot does not appear to be commensurate with the benefits of getting Pakistan to abrogate from bilateral trade commitments with India. The juice wouldn’t be worth the squeeze.  This may very well be part of the plot, but is there a larger game afoot?

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Urdunama: Hafiz Mian

Roznama Ummat carried this uniquely interesting narration by Jamaat ud-Dawwa’s amir, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed on the birth of his organization, its association with the Lashkar-e-Taiba and his thoughts on Kashmir.  Excerpts follow (اردو):

Jamaat ud-Dawwa (JuD) was formed in 1985 by five or six of us friends.  The initial group included the likes of Zafar Iqbal, who was at university with me, and Yahya Mujahid.  Our goal was to write “tableeghi” literature and circulate it to the public.  Later, we founded a magazine called the “ud-Dawwa,” which eventually gained popularity.  When a ban on the magazine was enforced during the Musharraf regime, our circulation was about 150,000 per month.

Very soon, the JuD was being supported by leading scholars in the land, including my uncle Hafiz Abdullah Bahawalpuri.  Other early supporters included Sheikh Badiuddin Rashidi, Hafiz Abdul Mannan Noorpuri, and Hafiz Abdul Islam bin Muhammad.

We have always supported the rights of the Kashmiris to self-determination, and have labeled India an occupying force.  1990-91 saw the birth of organized “armed resistance” against India’s occupation.  Among the organizations fighting India’s occupation was a group called Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).  This organization and its setup was based exclusively in Kashmir.  There was never any relationship between the JuD and the LeT, nor was any leader of the JuD ever the head of the LeT.  But a section of India’s media has consistently spread propaganda alleging that I am the leader of the LeT.

When Musharraf banned the LeT, it was alleged that the Jamaat ud-Dawwa was created as a cover organization for the LeT. However, the JuD was created decades ago in 1985.  There is no doubt that the JuD, like the LeT, supports the achievement of “azaadi” in Kashmir via jihad; but we are not associated with the LeT. [روزنامہ امّت]

Hafiz Saeed is back in the news, leading a rag-tag outfit of far-right groups and former heads the ISI, under the banner of Difa-e-Pakistan Council (Defense of Pakistan Council).  News reports also suggest that Mr. Saeed is considering joining mainstream politics and transforming the identity of the JuD from being a “charitable organization” to a political party.  Mr. Saeed also recently shared a dais with SM Qureshi, former Pakistani foreign minister and now a member of Imran Khan’s Tehrik-e-Insaf party, which has a conveniently vague association with the Difa-e-Pakistan Council.

Renouncing the LeT, which many in India, the U.S. and perhaps even in Pakistan, associate with the horrors of 26/11, may be the first of many steps in the transformation of a mass murderer into mainstream politician.  Or perhaps it is meant to disassociate himself from any future acts of terror imposed on the people of India.  Clearly, for all its demagoguery,  the Difa-e-Pakistan Council is yet to demonstrate proof of concept.  None of this augurs very well for India.

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Waqt-i-Leaks

Nawa-i-waqt and its ilk must be called out.

The Nawa-i-Waqt Group launched an insidious campaign to malign India, all the while purporting its source to be classified comments made by U.S. officials, now made public through the Wikileaks exposé.  The trouble for the Nawa-i-waqt Group is that The Guardian, which does have full access to the all of the undisclosed Wikileaks content, confirmed that nothing akin to what was being claimed existed in the leaked cables.  In other words, Nawa-i-waqt was making stuff up and passing it off as fact.  And anyone familiar with Nawa-i-Waqt’s body of work will know that the media group has a long and storied tradition in fabricating news.

Until very recently, its English-language newspaper, The Nation, was edited by Dr. Shireen Mazari, a former Director, Institute of Strategic Studies (Islamabad) and columnist for the Jang Group‘s The News, from where she was summarily dismissed, (for allegedly) having pushed propaganda pieces once too often for the U.S.’s liking.  Dr. Mazari was subsequently hired as editor of The Nation, where she ran an editorial accusing a Wall Street Journal Pakistan correspondent Matthew Rosenberg of being a chief operative for the CIA, Blackwater and Mossad, putting his life at risk in the country.  Her editorial campaigns against India are well known to those who have followed Pakistan’s media over the years.  She recently parted ways with the Nawa-i-Waqt group, allegedly over editorial differences.

The Nawa-i-Waqt group’s status as an anti-India propaganda machine is well-documented.  It is chaired by (Spin) Doctor Majid Nizami, who routinely calls for a nuclear confrontation with India, offers vocal support to LeT’s Hafiz Saeed, and hopes one day to see the reunification of Pakistan with Bangladesh.  Dr. Nizami is also chairman of the Nazaria-i-Pakistan Trust, whose Advisory Council includes, among others, former DG-ISI Hamid Gul, who openly declares his solidarity with the Taliban and al-Qaeda (he refers to Osama bin Laden as a “great Muslim warrior”).

Even so, the Nawa-i-Waqt Group’s own Wikileaks — the Waqt-i-Leaks — are perfidious and vulgar.  Some statements, purportedly made by U.S. officials about India and senior officers (past and present) of the Indian Army are listed below:

The U.S. has said that India’s Hindu extremist groups are far more dangerous to global and regional peace than al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The Indian Army is involved in supporting Hindu extremist groups, whose objective is to portray their terrorists acts as having been conducted by India’s Muslims, the Pakistani Army and intelligence agencies.  Another U.S. cable indicated that the ISI was not involved in any terrorist acts in India.  [نواےوقت]

Yet another cable suggested that the current Army Chief of Indian General VK Singh was having an aggressive approach and believes that “offense is the best defence”. General Singh has also been described as “Pakistan, China centric”, with an added aggression towards China. The cable mentioned General Singh as an egotist, self-obsessed, petulant and idiosyncratic General, a braggadocio and a show-off, who has been disliked (and barely tolerated) by all his subordinates. An earlier cable described Indian Army in gross Human rights violations in Indian Held part of Jammu and Kashmir while some Lt. Gen HS Panag, the then GOC-in-Chief of the Northern Command of the Indian Army was equated with General Milosevic of Bosnia with regard to butchering Muslims through war crimes. [The Nation]


An earlier cable did rule out any direct or indirect involvement of ISI in 26/11 under Pasha’s command while Mumbai’s dossier, based on prime accused Ajmal Kasab’s confessional statement was termed funny and “shockingly immature”. Another cable confirmed the interception of radio communication by Pakistani and NATO forces in regional Indian languages in the Waziristan agencies [The Nation]

Of course, these could all be rated somewhere along the mildly amusing — hysterically funny continuum, were one not to account for the fact that the Nawa-i-Waqt Group is one of Pakistan’s largest media groups (in terms of circulation) and that half a million people in Pakistan read this propaganda peace, believing most of it. The Guardian coming out to highlight these cooked-up stories is important, but it is equally important for condemnation to come from the Indian media as well.

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Peace process, redux

What will Manmohan Singh’s legacy be?

In the U.S., the President spends his second term contemplating his legacy and how history and America will remember  him.  In India, it appears that our Prime Minister, who may or may not bow out before the next general elections, wants to leave behind a legacy of peace between India and Pakistan.

It is a noble vision, and one that has preoccupied many a past Indian Prime Minister. But it is also unsustainable given that Pakistan’s Military Jihadi Complex (MJC) remains structurally adversarial towards India.  This is a reality that India has had to live with for over sixty years, which no amount of cricket, Bollywood, mangoes or poetry has been able to obscure.

Even as Nirupama Rao prepares to travel to Pakistan next week as a precursor to S.M. Krishna’s July trip, there are several indications that Pakistan’s MJC plans to step up attacks in India.  Prior to the Pune attacks, the JuD held public rallies (اردو) in Lahore and Muzzafarabad, which were attended by the whos-who of the jihadi umbrella, including Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul, Syed Salahuddin and Abdul Rehman Makki.  JuD held another public rally on June 14 in Lahore, where Indian, Israeli and American flags were uniquely treated to a “chappal ki pooja.”

At the rally, Hafiz Saeed accused Israel of trying to convert Pakistan into a “barren land by constructing dams on its rivers.”  What is or isn’t part of madaaris curriculum may be debatable, but it should be pretty apparent now that  elementary geography doesn’t feature in any meaningful way. The absurdity of Hafiz Saeed’s accusation however, illustrates how symptomatic Kashmir was (and the “issue” of water now is) to the root cause of Pakistan’s unwillingness to live in peace with India.

And Matt Waldman’s report ( PDF) , while doing a decent job in highlighting the ISI’s relationship with terror groups, is found wanting in its policy recommendation, at least where India is concerned.  Mr. Waldman falls for the same tired argument of a “regional peace process,” and U.S. involvement in resolving Kashmir.  As The Filter Coffee has blogged before, the argument is fallacious.

The UPA’s vision for peace with Pakistan can last only as long as the lull before the next terror attack in India.  Pakistan’s unwillingness to abjure terror combined with the fact that civilian government neither crafts nor implements foreign policy in Pakistan essentially means that nothing has changed.  When will the Indian government realize that merely talking to Pakistan can’t be a  tenable solution for peace in the subcontinent?  If the UPA hopes to secure India, then its efforts are best directed towards strengthening the country’s internal security, while ensuring a capacity to challenge terror infrastructure where it stands.

You cannot seek peace with an entity when that entity’s idea of peace involves your dismemberment.  Instead of suffering grandiose visions of Indo-Pakistan peace, Mr. Manmohan Singh would do well to focus on leaving behind an India that is capable of defending itself at home and deterring the designs of those plotting to hurt India from abroad.  Indeed, it will be a legacy worthy of a man who, as a Cabinet Minister, laid the foundation for India’s meteoric economic rise.

http://chellaney.spaces.live.com/Blog/cns!4913C7C8A2EA4A30!1057.entry
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