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On Pakistan’s Osama bin Laden report

Nolnah’s Razor: Ascribing incompetence to that which can be adequately explained by malice.

The report of the Abbottabad Commission, which was set up to investigate the May 2011 raid by U.S. special forces that eventually led to the killing of Osama bin Laden and his couriers, was “obtained” and published online by al-Jazeera today.  News reports tell us that the 337-page report makes “scathing reading.”

It attributes “culpable negligence and incompetence at almost all levels of government” in Pakistan’s apparent inability to identify that bin Laden was living in a villa located less than a mile away from the Kakul military academy for at least five years and its inability to detect the special forces contingent that traveled from Jalalabad, Afghanistan to Abbottabad to execute the mission to kill or capture bin Laden.

There are a few ways to look at the content and timing of the “leaked” report.  First, the report may be scathing in its criticism of government incompetence, but it barely entertains the possibility that official connivance played a role in bin Laden’s ability to evade U.S. pursuit for ten years.  Official denials don’t really mean much under the circumstances.  For years, Pakistani leaders claimed that bin Laden wasn’t in their country.  Gen. Musharraf claimed bin Laden was dead in 2002.

Pakistan has also, for years, denied that Mullah Omar was living in Pakistan.  Yet, multiple reports suggest that he is living in Quetta and under the protection of the ISI.  The truth will most likely be revealed once the U.S. and its allies leave Afghanistan in 2014, following which Mullah Omar will emerge triumphantly from parts unknown.

Of course, most people in India are accustomed to hearing how persons of interest to them — Dawood Ibrahim, for example — are most certainly not living in Pakistan.  For those of us on this side of the barbed-wire fence, the incompetence defense stretches credulity.

There are other interesting parts to the report.  On page 337, it concludes (emphasis added):

But finally, no honest assessment of the situation can escape the conclusion that those individuals who wielded primary authority and influence in national decision making bear the primary responsibility for creating the national circumstances and environment in which the May 2, 2011 incident occurred.  It is unnecessary to specifically name them because it is obvious who they are.  It may be politically unrealistic to suggest “punishments” from them.  But as honourable men, they ought to do honourable thing, including submitting a formal apology to the nation for their dereliction of duty.  It will be for the people of Pakistan in the forthcoming elections to pass collective political judgement on them. [al-Jazeera]

The last sentence of the concluding paragraph of the report is curious.  It apportions blame to those who “wielded primary authority and influence in national decision making,” but concludes by saying that it was for the people of Pakistan to pass a collective judgement on them in the elections.  Great, but Pakistanis don’t get to vote for their COAS or DG-ISI.  But they do cast votes on their civilian leadership.  From where this blogger is standing, the blame being apportioned here almost certainly targets Asif Ali Zardari and the PPP, rather than the Pakistani military establishment.

The other items for consideration pertaining to the release of the report are the timing and source of the alleged leak.  The leak occurs at a time when the U.S. is trying to negotiate an honorable exit from Afghanistan with the Pakistan-backed Taliban in Qatar. That the report was leaked by al-Jazeera, a news agency fully owned by the al-Thani family, which, as it happens, also rules Qatar may not be a coincidence.

This “leak” could effectively mean two things.  If the U.S. is sufficiently encouraged by the momentum and direction of the talks, it may be well-disposed towards bailing out the Pakistani military establishment from the embarrassment it has had to endure since 2011.  The discrete leak of a document via a news agency owned by a U.S. ally, which blames incompetence rather than connivance (the lesser of  two evils) while also criticizing a now mostly-irrelevant and ousted political party works well under such circumstances.

If, on the other hand, things aren’t going so well in Doha, the release of a classified report may have been viewed as necessary by some to coax Pakistan into action.  It will, of course, embarrass and anger the Pakistani military establishment.  More importantly, it will also most certainly complicate relations between Pakistan and Qatar.

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U.S. hearings on the Lashkar-e-Taiba

Convergence of perceptions augurs well for Indo-US counter-terrorism cooperation.

The U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Homeland Security held a hearing on June 12 on “Protecting the Homeland Against Mumbai-Style Attacks and the Threat from Lashkar-e-Taiba.”  As a precursor to the hearing, Peter King, chairman of the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, remarked that “The LeT is a terror proxy of Pakistan’s [ISI], which provides LeT with a safe haven and funding to train and prepare for terrorist attacks…”  Elected representatives of the U.S. would have hesitated in making such admissions even a decade ago, for fear of embarrassing Pakistan.

The LeT ceased to be an India-specific terror outfit after 26/11; its deliberate targeting of U.S., Western and Israeli citizens during the attacks in Mumbai meant that its orientation was now beyond targets only in India.  Thus, the convergence of common threat perceptions augurs well for Indo-U.S. cooperation on counter-terrorism and on the threats posed by the Lashkar-e-Taiba.  Salient excerpts from the USHOR testimonials follow.

Stephen Tankel on the LeT training Westerners:

LeT has long had a policy of training Westerners. The majority of them are members of the Pakistani and Kashmir diasporas in the U.K., but the group has been training Americans since 2000.

The first Americans known to have trained with LeT were from Virginia and were part of a coterie of would-be jihadists that ultimately became known as the Virginia Jihad Network. Sajid Mir, the commander in charge of overseas operatives, arranged for several of them to provide assistance to a British LeT operative who traveled to the U.S. on multiple occasions from 2002-2003 to procure military gear for the group.

Precisely what LeT or elements within it planned to do with this information is unknown, though they clearly were interested in both surveillance and expanding the group’s networks in the U.S. In 2005, two men from Atlanta Georgia with ties to the ‘Toronto 18’ as well as to a British Pakistani
who acted as a talent spotter for LeT identified possible targets for a terrorist attack in the U.S.

LeT has trained others living in America since then, none more famous than Daood Gilani, who took the name David Coleman Headley in 2006 to help facilitate his reconnaissance trips in Mumbai and elsewhere for the group. He joined LeT in February 2002, participating in the Daura-e-Suffa that month. In August 2002 he went through the Daura-e-Aama and then in April 2003 the Daura-e-Khasa, LeT’s three-month guerrilla warfare training program….

Given the benefits Headley provided to the group, it is reasonable to assume LeT may have increased its efforts to recruit and train other Westerners or to find ways for Pakistani members to acquire citizenship or residency in Western countries. [USHOR]

Christine Fair on the re-branding of the LeT as a charitable organization, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), and continued support from the Pakistani MJC:

To facilitate LeT’s pro-state message countering that of the various Deobandi organizations operating in Pakistan and against Pakistanis (e.g. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Pakistani Taliban), Pakistan’s Ministry of Information and the armed force’s Interservices Public Relations appear to direct Pakistani and international media to cover the ostensible relief efforts of JuD and its other alias, Falah Insaniat Foundation (e.g. during Pakistan’s 2005 earthquake and the 2010 monsoon-related flood). The media coverage of this humanitarian work seemed far in excess of the actual relief activities conducted. Subsequent research has shown that the organization did not provide the relief that the various media proclaimed. In essence, this media coverage handed the organization a public relations boon they did not deserve.

In survey work that my colleagues and I have conducted in Pakistan, we have found that the various state and non-state efforts to rebrand LeT as JuD in Pakistan have been successful. During survey pretesting in Pakistan in 2011, we found that Pakistani respondents viewed the two organizations as being quite distinct and engaging in different activities with the latter being seen more often as providing public services.

As I argued in 2011, this strategy is important. By fostering public support for the organization at home, the Pakistani state can resist pressure from the United States and others to work against the organization. Under these varied guises, LeT/JuD can continue to recruit, raise funds and support its message of jihad against the “external kuffar” such as the Indians, Americans, Israelis and so forth. The continued official investment in the organization and expanding public presence suggests that the Pakistani state is ever more dependent upon this proxy for both domestic and foreign policy requirements. [USHOR]

And finally, Jonah Blank:

On the issue of dealing with a Mumbai-style attack, one thing we can do is take a lesson from the citizens of both Mumbai and Boston. The reason the attacks in these cities were so jarring was that they stripped away the illusion of safety. A few weeks ago, however, the citizens of Boston confronted an unspeakable evil– not with panic but with quiet, rock-solid resolve. That’s what the citizens of Mumbai did in 2008– indeed, at leas t half a dozen times in recent years. Unfortunately, that is what other citizens, in the U.S. as well as elsewhere, will be called on to do in the future.

The Mumbai attack had special meaning for me: I used to live in Mumbai, just a few blocks from the site of most of the attacks. I used to buy American newspapers from the Taj bookshop, stop by the Leopold Cafe for a cold beer, watch a movie at the Metro Cinema, take trains from the terminal that locals still call by its colonial-era initials of “VT.”

One of the victims of the Mumbai attack was a friend of mine. He was man without whom I wouldn’t have been able to conduct my ethnographic fieldwork. He was an elderly Muslim cleric, easily identifiable as such by his white beard and skullcap– but the gunmen still shot him at close range. [USHOR]

These admissions in earnest would have been unthinkable even a decade ago in a Congressional hearing.  The U.S. may be withdrawing from Afghanistan in 2014, but its threat perceptions are rapidly converging with India’s.  This is important at a time when the Pakistani establishment appears to be pitting its frankensteins against each other.

 

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Blood on the rooftops

India and the West must reevaluate their positions on the continued persecution of minorities in Pakistan.

The attack on 150 Christian homes in Lahore’s Joseph Colony is the most recent in a series of attacks against minorities in Pakistan.  A mob of nearly 3,000 protestors pillaged through the community over alleged blasphemous remarks made by a Christian “sanitation worker” and set fire to homes and shops. Punjab police stood by and watched as the situation unfolded.  That no one died from this marauding rampage is less a consolation and more a miracle.  This image tells us a story of the anarchy that prevailed that day.

Two weeks ago in Karachi, a bomb ripped through a mainly-Shia community in Abbas Town. At least 45 people were killed and 150 wounded.  In the first two months of 2013, nearly 200 Shia were killed in Quetta in two separate bombings.  But the response from Pakistan’s leaders has been predictable.  The attacks in Quetta were a conspiracy.  The attack against the Christian community was also a conspiracy. There are no realities in Pakistan anymore; just conspiracies.

It is very likely that this disciplined and motivated assault on the minorities of Pakistan will continue.  There has been a deliberate attempt to portray this violence as a “sectarian conflict.”  But those who do so fail to recognize that a conflict requires two willing participants.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi — the terrorist outfit of the Ahl-e-Sunnat-wa-al-Jamaat (ASWJ) —  which claimed responsibility for the attacks in Quetta is based in the badlands of south Punjab, where the writ of the PML(N), rather than that of the PPP, holds sway.  The LeJ has very recently made it clear (اردو) that its mission is “the abolition of this impure sect and people, the Shia and the Shia-Hazaras from every city, every town, every village and every nook and cranny of Pakistan.”  And yet, the Pakistani state can (will) do nothing about the violence carried out against its citizens in its own sovereign territory.

Article upon article has been written arguing that Pakistan is a failed state.  But Pakistan today is not a failed state as much as it is a failed idea.  Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s vision is invalidated with each mounting attack on sectarian and religious minorities in Pakistan.  It remains invalidated by the preservation of legal cover though the likes of the Hudood and XX Ordinances which allow for the perpetuation of the “cleansing operation” currently under way in the Land of the Pure.

Jinnah’s Pakistan has ceased to exist.  What we have now instead is a different project, whose odious objectives should be amply clear to everyone.  Under this new project, anyone who is not of a particular identity favored by the state will be systematically eradicated.  The Hindus that remained in Pakistan after Partition have always had to endure the agony of a state-mandated program of intimidation, subjugation and extermination.  However, the implementation of this new project means that the Shia and Ahmedis are also wajib ul-qatal (fit to be killed).

What is left of this failed experiment is a state in our immediate neighborhood with a population of 180 million having no capacity or willingness to protect its minorities.  But how does one provide for the security of those persecuted?  If the state has decided that it is unable and/or unwilling to do so, it presents an ethical dilemma to India and the West.  But more importantly, it also presents a security dilemma to India.  India cannot afford to have a Bangladesh-like scenario on both its eastern and western boundaries.

Members of the Shia and Ahmadiyya communities who are financially capable of seeking better lives in the Gulf or the West will migrate, or have already done so.  Persecuted Hindus will seek refuge in India without going through the rigors of its convoluted immigration process. India will most likely turn a blind eye to their presence in the country if they choose not to return to Pakistan.  But what happens to the vast majority of Pakistan’s minorities, who on account of being systematically persecuted and ostracized, lack the financial means to escape their daily horrors?

It has perhaps been politically judicious thus far for the West to not press Pakistan hard enough on the issue of its treatment of minorities.  An opportunity to correct these wrongs exists after the U.S. and its allies extricate themselves from their entanglements in 2014.  Human rights NGOs and news media from the West and India must be encouraged to increase their coverage of abuses against minorities in Pakistan.  Additionally for India, this presents an opportunity to reevaluate and streamline its immigration policy and to formalize a legal framework to grant asylum to persecuted individuals in its neighborhood.

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Urdunama: Saboot

On December 1, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani-Khar told news channels that while there was “no evidence” to implicate Hafiz Saeed in the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, Pakistan would take action if India were to provide proof of his involvement.  A day later, Pakistan’s far-right Urdu newspaper Ummat interviewed Hafiz Saeed on 26/11, who lashed out against Ms. Khar, India and the United States, while proclaiming his innocence.  Excerpts of the interview follow:

On Ms. Khar’s statements promising action against Hafiz Saeed should India provide proof.

[If any allegations are brought forward,] we will leave the matter to the courts.  We have always opted to resolve issues via the court of law and will continue to do so. We would like to resolve all issues within the provisions of Pakistani law. We do not intend to pursue those actions that will create problems; we’re interested in solving problems, not compounding them.

[However,] it has been 4 years since the attacks in Mumbai. In these 4 years, India has been unable to provide any evidence against me in connection with the case. The documents provided by India as evidence could not stand in court and were dismissed by Lahore High Court as propaganda. A similar case was also made by the Supreme Court. A judicial commission was sent from Pakistan to India on the issue of the Mumbai attacks, and no proof of my involvement was presented to them. Despite this, Ms Khar wants to ask India to provide more evidence against me. She appears to be very eager to help India resolve the Mumbai case, but what has she done with regard to the Samjhauta Express attacks, where many Pakistanis were killed?

If Ms Khar says her government would like to resolve the Kashmir dispute through non-military means, can she tell us how successful her government has been thus far? We have about 2-3 issues with India on Kashmir, and her government has been completely unsuccessful in resolving these through non-military means. There is only one way to resolve the Kashmir dispute — jihad.

On why the U.S. pursues action against him.

U.S. allegations against me are both a conspiracy and evidence of the deepening India-U.S. relationship.  Al-hamdulillah, we have been very successful, through Difa-e-Pakistan Council, in bringing various organizations together and exposing the conspiracies of the U.S. and its ally India to the rest of the people of Pakistan. It is because of this that the U.S. and India want to silence me in any way possible.

On peace with India and the U.S.

The U.S. and India are not pursuing the interests of their people, but the interests of their own politicians. India, to this day, has not accepted Pakistan’s right to exist as an independent state. And yet our leaders go to India and grovel for trade. They want to improve trade ties with India and grant them “Most Favored Nation” status. The U.S. completely supports India in its hatred for Pakistan. The U.S. uses India in the subcontinent the same way it uses Israel in the Middle East. Both India and the U.S. are blinded by their hatred for Islam.

We are now in December. It was in December years ago that the very same India dismembered Pakistan.  Do we now seek to improve economic ties with the same country that divided Pakistan and continues to suppress Kashmiris? Every product that is exported from India to Pakistan will be tainted with the blood of Kashmiri Muslims. Our politicians do not understand that the Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan and the mujahideen in Kashmir are fighting wars for the survival of Pakistan.

India unleashes state-sponsored terrorism in Kashmir, and dams rivers flowing into Pakistan; and yet our government wants to grant them “Most Favored Nation” status. If our leaders are incapable of empathizing with the mujahideen in Kashmir, fine.  But they must, at the very least, not get in their way. [روزنامہ امّت]

 

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