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Tag Archives | Terrorism

Urdunama: Amriki Pabandi

The U.S. Department of Treasury added 8 members of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Harkat ul-Jihad al-Islami (HuJI) to its list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists on August 30, 2012.  Those added to the list include Sajid Mir (who played an integral role in 26/11), Abdullah Mujahid (LeT commander responsible for Afghanistan operations), Abdullah Muntazir and Talha Saeed (son of Hafiz Saeed).  In April 2012, the U.S. Department of State also issued a $10 million  reward for information leading to the capture of Hafiz Saeed himself.

But Hafiz Saeed, who now apparently harbors political aspirations in Pakistan, has gone to great lengths (as this blog has previously pointed out) in painting himself as the leader of the Jamaat ud-Dawa (JuD), a self-proclaimed charitable organization, and having no connection with the LeT. But the fact that the LeT, JuD and the Difa-e-Pakistan Council are all inexorably linked is a known to both India and the U.S.

In response to the U.S. Department of Treasury’s decision, Hafiz Saeed yet again attempted to distance himself from the LeT and claimed that U.S. actions were motivated by the JuD’s opposition to the forthcoming operations in North Waziristan.  Excerpts from Hafiz Saeed’s interview with the far-right newspaper, Ummat follow:

The U.S. has designated many of my colleagues as terrorists affiliated to an organization called Lashkar-e-Taiba.  But the JuD has nothing to do with the LeT.  I previously articulated that the Lashkar-e-Taiba is one of the many organizations that operates in India’s Occupied Kashmir, whose members are all residents of Kashmir.  We, on the other hand, are based only in Pakistan.  In attempting to conflate the LeT and JuD, America’s intelligence agencies are fooling not only the rest of the world, but also the people of Pakistan.

At this point in time the JuD is in the process of garnering popular support against the U.S.’s policies on Pakistan, as well as the re-opening of NATO supply lines and the resumption of drone strikes.  The U.S. has been displeased with our activities, and hence the attempt to malign our leadership.

These latest U.S. actions are meaningless, because those who have been designated terrorists have neither any assets or bank accounts in the U.S., nor have they ever traveled to the U.S.   This is just an attempt to malign our organization and fool the American people into believing that their government is trying to combat terrorism.

I have already communicated to the UN our views on being targeted by the U.S., and will write again, in response to the destinations by the U.S.  We are also in the process of organizing a protest, with the aid of other religious and political organizations in Pakistan, against U.S. policies in Pakistan.  The protest will take place on September 11.

We have previously invited the U.S. to visit with us and to verify for themselves the charitable work being carried out by the JuD.  However, we have not received any response.  Regardless of what the U.S. does, we will be urging the Pakistani government to pursue its own national interests and not buckle under U.S. pressure. [روزنامہ امّت]

 

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Talkistan ka matlab kya?

The politics of talking to our neighbor.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has invited Pakistan’s prime minister Gilani and president Zardari to attend the cricket World Cup semi-final match between India and Pakistan in Mohali.  Mr. Gilani has accepted the invitation while we’re waiting to hear from Mr. Zardari.  In the past, cricket diplomacy has been afforded to the likes of Gen. Zia-ul-haq and Gen. Musharraf.  This time around, the extension of invitations will result in two tickets being granted gratis to  individuals who neither craft nor implement Pakistan’s foreign policy, instead of our own VVIPs, who are accustomed to not paying for anything anyway.

They say there is momentum towards a resumption of talks between India and Pakistan.  Mr. Singh and Mr. Gilani met on the sidelines of the NAM summits in Bhutan and (infamously) at Sharm el-Sheikh.  Talks between India and Pakistan have also taken place in Lahore and New Delhi in the recent past.  Times of India’s diplomatic editor, Indrani Bagchi informs in her column that New Delhi was also keen to open channels of communication with the Pakistan army and its ISI (recall that DG-ISI Lt. Gen. Pasha had a tete-a-tete with India’s envoy to Pakistan Sharat Sabharwal at an iftaar dinner in 2009).

Not talking to someone is more a momentary tactic and less a strategy. If the Government of India has decided to seriously engage not just the civilian administration in Pakistan, but also its military overlords in talks, then fine, but what is the end game?  In India, our leaders have repeatedly articulated that they are “not willing to give up on Pakistan.”  As if not giving up on Pakistan is a virtue!

Lest we forget, there is the more immediate matter of Pakistan prosecuting its citizens involved in the heinous terrorist attacks against India on 26/11.  It has been 2 ½ years since 200 innocent Indian citizens were killed in a state-sponsored project executed by the Lashkar-e-Taiba and members of Pakistan’s military-jihadi complex.  Not only has LeT’s leader gone unpunished, he is also being invited to give speeches at that venerable bastion of justice, the Lahore High Court!

To be sure, the pursuit of  peace between India and Pakistan (or indeed between any two nations) is always desirable.  However, in India we are victims of our own unattainable quest for morality in international relations above all else.  Our leadership has always taken pride in suggesting that if Pakistan takes minor, but tangible steps in addressing our concerns, that we would be “willing to go more than half the distance” in resolving our disputes with our neighbor.  But why?

In the anarchic world of international relations, abstract terms such as morality have no place.  States promote their national interests by exercising their relative power, both in times of war and peace. If it is in India’s interests to talk to Pakistan, then negotiations must be dictated from positions of relative power.  Magnanimity has no place in international relations.  As the greater power, India must expect settlements to be more favorable to its interests, not the other way around.  To quote India’s former intelligence chief and senior fellow at Takshashila, Vikram Sood, “magnanimity is a function of victory; otherwise it is appeasement.”

Prime Minister Singh is right in pursuing talks with Pakistan, but he would be wrong to believe that India’s growth and prosperity were contingent on making peace with that country. If India and Pakistan can, by some remote possibility, reconcile their differences and live in peace with one another, then fine.  If they can’t, that should also be okay for us as well.  Prime Minister Singh will always be favorably remembered in India’s history books for loosening the shackles of our License Raj.  He should remain invested in bringing 400 million of our citizens out of poverty.  India’s growth and development cannot be held hostage to anyone’s grand visions of orchestrating peace with countries that seek nothing but our dismemberment.

 

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Filtered Café

The government’s proposed legislation on cyber cafés is misplaced.

At the outset, thanks to both @PRSLegislative and @_R_Srikanth for alerting me to a draft legislation put forward by the Department of Information Technology (DIT) on governing the workings of cyber cafés in India.  The government has published the draft legislation and sought feedback from citizens, by February 28, 2011.  A copy of the draft legislation is available here.

PRSLegislative summarizes the legislation thus:

The draft regulations requires every cyber café to have a license and give internet access to people after they prove their identity to the satisfaction of the cyber café.  The cyber cafés are required to maintain the logs of users and of websites accessed by users. Cyber cafés are also required to ensure that their service is not utilised by people for any illegal activity or for viewing pornography.  There are requirements on the physical layout of the cyber café — for example, they need to prominently display a board stating that users may not view pornography. [PRSLegislative]

There are several issues with the government’s proposal, of which some are articulated below (those concerned about the proposed legislation are encouraged to respond to DIT directly via the email address provided in  PRSLegislative’s blog):

The first question that such a proposed legislation raises is one of objectives.  I.e., what does the government hope to achieve by seeing the implementation of the security provisions in the proposed legislation?  If the idea is essentially one pertaining to national security — i.e., denying vulnerable systems or networks to individuals who can use them to aid in plotting against the nation, then some security prescriptions outlined appear incongrous to this objective (more on them later).

Second, while the government’s desire to establish the identity of individuals using the café’s wireless network can certainly be appreciated, the proposed legislation does not account for the fact that individuals visiting cyber cafés may just as easily use their own laptops — either within the premises of the cyber café, or in its vicinity (with or without the permission or knowledge of the owners, depending on how wireless access points are set up).

Third, unless the government is reasonably sure that none of India’s 81 million Internet users access “obscene” material or pornography within the confines of their homes, or that the government fully expects to track, identify and fully prosecute everyone that does, expecting cyber cafés to warn or to otherwise deter accessing whatever the government may consider “obscene” (not defined) is beyond ridiculous.

The question of whether or not a democratic government should have the right to dictate to its citizens, under whose consent it governs, as to what they can or cannot see is another issue (for the record, no it shouldn’t). Again, the question here is about objectives.  If this is about national security, then this particular provision conflicts with the overall objective of the proposed legislation.

Next, how does the government plan to monitor cyber cafés to ensure they comply with the required standards?  The Cyber Café Association of India itself has a membership of 180,000 cyber cafés and 40,000 Internet kiosks. It is safe to assume that the entire population of cyber cafés in India is considerably larger.  Unless the government has adequate financial and manpower resources to regularly ensure compliance, the legislation becomes meaningless.

Further, whenever physical or logical security requirements are mandated, there are costs associated with them.  These will have to be borne by the cyber cafés (who will need to invest time and money in installing and monitoring services) and by the government (to ensure that standards are being adhered to).  Additionally, cyber cafés will need to obtain a license (unsure if these are different from the licenses that cyber cafés are already required to obtain), which, no doubt, will have costs associated with it, which eventually will be passed on to their patrons.

The whole point of security, however, is that it must be an enabler, not a deterrent to business.  Some of the provisions articulated in the proposed legislation are indeed laudable (the intent to protect minors, deter terrorists and their collaborators, etc.), however, when taken as a whole, the proposed legilation will have a negative impact on cyber cafés in India.  Especially if the government is unclear about the raison d’être for this legislation and doesn’t really have any desire or ability to enforce the provisions of the legislation.

It will be an example of a clueless GoI chasing its own tail, and unfortunately, not for the first time.

 

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After Salmaan Taseer

Five questions for us to answer on liberalism in Pakistan.

The assassination of Salmaan Taseer has rightly triggered introspection and discourse in Pakistan on identity — social, religious and national.  Of these, articles written by the likes of Raza Rumi, Huma Yusuf, Ayesha Siddiqa, Yaseer Latif Hamdani and Shehryar Taseer deserve special mention and commendation.  There is, however, no dearth for the alternative narrative in Pakistan.  PML-N’s spokesperson claimed (اردو) that Mr. Taseer would have been assassinated by someone else had Mumtaz Qadri not done so. Irfan Siddiqui suggests (اردو) that while Mr. Taseer’s assassination cannot be condoned, it was expected, given the governor’s “liberal extremist” views.

A parallel discourse is also occurring in the West and in India.  Declan Walsh laments on the fate of the liberal Pakistani; Shekhar Gupta qualifies and clarifies; Seema Mustafa foretells of further doom and gloom. An overarching theme in many commentaries is that a liberal Pakistan is in India’s interests; that a “liberal” Pakistani civilian government would (not to say “could”) radically alter its worldview, foreign policy objectives and how it seeks to achieve them.  The trouble with this argument of course, is that a liberal Pakistani civilian government has never existed.   Even so, some commentaries point to Benazir Bhutto and her administrations of the late ’80s and ’90s as  approximate models.

However, liberal though Ms. Bhutto may have been, Pakistan’s worldview did not undergo material change during her leadership. Bilateral relations with India did not improve. If anything, Ms. Bhutto’s reign coincided with the height of the Jammu & Kashmir insurgency fomented by Pakistan, and proliferation of nuclear technology.  Indeed, Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and the motivation to match India to the detriment of all else took shape  under the leadership of her charismatic father, the wine-drinking, UC Berkeley-educated Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (“We will eat grass…”).

It would therefore be a worthy exercise to ponder over these five questions on what a model for a liberal Pakistan would look like, and whether a liberal dispensation in Pakistan is a sufficient condition to alter the trajectory of its relationship with India.  For us in India, would the ascendancy of a liberal narrative in Pakistan’s internal discourse  lessen our own threat perception of our neighbor?

  • Could a liberal government in Islamabad effectively end the hold that the military-jihadi complex has on Pakistan’s formulation and implementation of foreign policy objectives?
  • Would it still maintain that India poses an existential threat to Pakistan?
  • What will its position be towards Kashmir? Specifically, towards the insurgency and state-sponsored sub-conventional warfare?
  • What will its position be on terrorism?  If another Mumbai were to occur, would this liberal regime disavow these groups? Actively confront them? Prosecute them? Extradite them, where permissible, to India? Cooperate with India’s own investigation?
  • Would it continue to maintain, by extension of #2, that Pakistan’s conduct in Afghanistan is just and only expected, given India’s commercial and political ties to Kabul?

Tough questions no doubt, but ones that need to be answered in India, as an internal battle for identity rages on in Pakistan.

UPDATE: My op-ed in The Pioneer has a more complete analysis of liberalism in Pakistan.


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