Playing in the hands of India

Khalid Khokhar

While a flurry of senior US officials started visiting Pakistan in an attempt to reduce the tension between the two countries that have been created after the assassination of Osama Bin Laden in a covert US operation in Pakistan, Washington is making new demands to prosecute the founder of banned Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed by announcing a $10 million reward for information on him.
The political gurus and experts interpret this new US move as a motivated campaign against Pakistan at the behest and prodding of India. The US announcement of bounty on Hafiz Saeed also meant to pressurize the on-going parliamentary review committee that is rewriting ‘terms of engagement’ (including suspension of the NATO supplies) for the future cooperation with NATO troops in the US-led war on terror.
On November 26-29, 2008, Mumbai was rocked by more than 10 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks, killing at least 166 people and wounding at least 308. Eight of the attacks occurred in South Mumbai: at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the Oberoi Trident, the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, Leopold Cafe, Cama Hospital (a women and children’s hospital), Nariman House, the Metro Cinema, and a lane behind the Times of India building and St. Xavier’s College. The Indian government said that the attackers came from Pakistan, and their controllers/handlers were in Pakistan. Later, New Delhi set a pre-condition of Pakistan taking action against the perpetrators, including prosecution of Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the founder of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant group that India claims is the mastermind of the Mumbai attacks. The 69-page Indian Dossier titled “Mumbai Terrorist Attacks (November 26-29, 2008)” posted to Pakistan as evidences, lacked credible evidence to stand in the court of law to bring the perpetrators to justice. Nevertheless, Pakistan has acknowledged that some part of the conspiracy was hatched in Pakistan by non-state actors, acting upon their own wish. Pakistan raided militant organisations and arrested Zakiur Rehman Lakhavi and Hafiz Saeed (founder of the LeT and head of JuD) along with 124 activists throughout Pakistan. Hafiz Mohammad Saeed was arrested in Pakistan in December 2008.
However, Lahore High Court released him in June, 2009, due to the absence of ‘concrete evidence’ against him.  While expressing dismay over Hafiz Saeed’s release, India’s Federal Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram termed Lahore High Court’s verdict of “insufficient grounds to detain Saeed” to a “charade”.
Ever since, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed became bone of contention between the two countries. It is very interesting that instead of appreciating Pakistan’s efforts against Mumbai suspects, India has hinged everything on the prosecution of Hafiz Saeed. How can Pakistan take action against Hafiz Saeed on the basis of “hearsay & conjectures”? So much so, Indian interior minister has continuously been urging the US to intervene in the issue and press Pakistan to act against Hafiz Muhammad Saeed. Becoming wary of India’s frequent prodding, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik invited his Indian counterpart for a “public debate” on the issue of Mumbai attacks in 2010. Undoubtedly, Pakistan has done more than India as far as investigations into the Mumbai attack are concerned. Pakistan started the trial of 26/11 incidents in a transparent manner on the information provided by India. What India provided so far in the case of Hafiz Muhammad Saeed was not sufficient for any legal action.
Under immense Indian pressure, Interpol had issued a Red Corner Notice against Hafiz Saeed based on the confession statement of Ajmal Qasab – the lone survivor of Mumbai attackers. In the wake of on-going thorny US-Pakistan relations, the recent statement of US State Department spokesperson Mark Toner that it wanted the founder of banned Lashkar-e-Taiba to be prosecuted and jailed, is totally uncalled for development. Nevertheless, seeking to clarify the US reward for Saeed, Washington has said that the bounty was not for his capture but for information that would allow his prosecution in a court in the United States or elsewhere.
Many Western experts feel that such precision planning and execution in the Mumbai attacks would not have been possible without the involvement of some local dissatisfied and underprivileged community. Initially, Indian authorities generally dismissed the importance of home-grown Islamist militant groups and focused instead upon the Pakistan-based groups. Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram, while admitting Indian involvement in the Mumbai terrorist attacks on 26/11, blamed Indian Muslims for fomenting troubles in India supported by Pakistan-based groups LeT & JeM. It is very worrisome that marginalization of Indian Muslims is directly proportional to the increase in radicalism leading to the incident such as Mumbai attacks. Apart from the rise of Muslim radicalism in India, Hindu extremist organisations and its leaders are proliferating hatred propaganda against Pakistan, Islam or Muslims.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Shiv Sena (SS) are the Xenophobic and fundamentalist party that implicated “official Pakistan” in the macabre Mumbai attacks of Nov 26, and then stalled the composite dialogues process featuring Pakistan. Indian media disclosed that serving Indian Lt Col Purohit along with other army officers have accepted the responsibility of destroying Samjhota Express that took the toll of 300 innocent Pakistani lives. India did not share any information in Samjhota Express case; despite we need it and consider it very important. India should cooperate with Pakistan in this regard. Pakistan has the right to demand for handing over of Lt Col Purohit involved in the blast of Samjhota Express. Pakistani people also wanted the culprits involved in Samjhota Express tragedy to be booked on justice.
Pakistan-India relations remained hostage to mutual distrust, bigotry and inimical past. To come out of this blind alley, it is time to learn a lesson from our common cognition and set our house in order by realigning our priorities and bringing a pragmatic change to safeguard the future of our budding generations.
There is a dire need that good sense should prevail and India and Pakistan should redefine their relations.  The composite dialogue process that was stalled by India is the only framework that has shown any promise for improving Pakistan-India relations. In order to find “practical, pragmatic” solutions to a “number of issues” affecting the bilateral relationship, President Asif Ali Zardari paid a private visit to India and discussed the Kashmir issue and terrorism-related challenges with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on April 8, 2012. Both the leaders agreed that it is imperative to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack to justice and the issue of Hafiz Saeed needs to be discussed at length.
Pakistan has shown its seriousness in Mumbai terror attacks completing the probe in record time after the information was provided to Pakistani investigation team. India should appreciate and accept what Pakistan has done so far in the Mumbai case, if it really wants Pakistan to cooperate. The judiciary in Pakistan is independent and if US/India has evidence against Hafiz Saeed, it should be provided to Pakistan.
In this connection, fielding a joint Indo-Pak team to probe Mumbai terror attack is a good suggestion, coupled with a Joint Anti-Terrorism Mechanism by including intelligence agencies from both sides to reduce mistrust accentuated by the 26/11 strike.

While a flurry of senior US officials started visiting Pakistan in an attempt to reduce the tension between the two countries that have been created after the assassination of Osama Bin Laden in a covert US operation in Pakistan, Washington is making new demands to prosecute the founder of banned Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed by announcing a $10 million reward for information on him. The political gurus and experts interpret this new US move as a motivated campaign against Pakistan at the behest and prodding of India. The US announcement of bounty on Hafiz Saeed also meant to pressurize the on-going parliamentary review committee that is rewriting ‘terms of engagement’ (including suspension of the NATO supplies) for the future cooperation with NATO troops in the US-led war on terror.On November 26-29, 2008, Mumbai was rocked by more than 10 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks, killing at least 166 people and wounding at least 308. Eight of the attacks occurred in South Mumbai: at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the Oberoi Trident, the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, Leopold Cafe, Cama Hospital (a women and children’s hospital), Nariman House, the Metro Cinema, and a lane behind the Times of India building and St. Xavier’s College. The Indian government said that the attackers came from Pakistan, and their controllers/handlers were in Pakistan. Later, New Delhi set a pre-condition of Pakistan taking action against the perpetrators, including prosecution of Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the founder of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant group that India claims is the mastermind of the Mumbai attacks. The 69-page Indian Dossier titled “Mumbai Terrorist Attacks (November 26-29, 2008)” posted to Pakistan as evidences, lacked credible evidence to stand in the court of law to bring the perpetrators to justice. Nevertheless, Pakistan has acknowledged that some part of the conspiracy was hatched in Pakistan by non-state actors, acting upon their own wish. Pakistan raided militant organisations and arrested Zakiur Rehman Lakhavi and Hafiz Saeed (founder of the LeT and head of JuD) along with 124 activists throughout Pakistan. Hafiz Mohammad Saeed was arrested in Pakistan in December 2008. However, Lahore High Court released him in June, 2009, due to the absence of ‘concrete evidence’ against him.  While expressing dismay over Hafiz Saeed’s release, India’s Federal Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram termed Lahore High Court’s verdict of “insufficient grounds to detain Saeed” to a “charade”.Ever since, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed became bone of contention between the two countries. It is very interesting that instead of appreciating Pakistan’s efforts against Mumbai suspects, India has hinged everything on the prosecution of Hafiz Saeed. How can Pakistan take action against Hafiz Saeed on the basis of “hearsay & conjectures”? So much so, Indian interior minister has continuously been urging the US to intervene in the issue and press Pakistan to act against Hafiz Muhammad Saeed. Becoming wary of India’s frequent prodding, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik invited his Indian counterpart for a “public debate” on the issue of Mumbai attacks in 2010. Undoubtedly, Pakistan has done more than India as far as investigations into the Mumbai attack are concerned. Pakistan started the trial of 26/11 incidents in a transparent manner on the information provided by India. What India provided so far in the case of Hafiz Muhammad Saeed was not sufficient for any legal action. Under immense Indian pressure, Interpol had issued a Red Corner Notice against Hafiz Saeed based on the confession statement of Ajmal Qasab – the lone survivor of Mumbai attackers. In the wake of on-going thorny US-Pakistan relations, the recent statement of US State Department spokesperson Mark Toner that it wanted the founder of banned Lashkar-e-Taiba to be prosecuted and jailed, is totally uncalled for development. Nevertheless, seeking to clarify the US reward for Saeed, Washington has said that the bounty was not for his capture but for information that would allow his prosecution in a court in the United States or elsewhere.  Many Western experts feel that such precision planning and execution in the Mumbai attacks would not have been possible without the involvement of some local dissatisfied and underprivileged community. Initially, Indian authorities generally dismissed the importance of home-grown Islamist militant groups and focused instead upon the Pakistan-based groups. Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram, while admitting Indian involvement in the Mumbai terrorist attacks on 26/11, blamed Indian Muslims for fomenting troubles in India supported by Pakistan-based groups LeT & JeM. It is very worrisome that marginalization of Indian Muslims is directly proportional to the increase in radicalism leading to the incident such as Mumbai attacks. Apart from the rise of Muslim radicalism in India, Hindu extremist organisations and its leaders are proliferating hatred propaganda against Pakistan, Islam or Muslims. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Shiv Sena (SS) are the Xenophobic and fundamentalist party that implicated “official Pakistan” in the macabre Mumbai attacks of Nov 26, and then stalled the composite dialogues process featuring Pakistan. Indian media disclosed that serving Indian Lt Col Purohit along with other army officers have accepted the responsibility of destroying Samjhota Express that took the toll of 300 innocent Pakistani lives. India did not share any information in Samjhota Express case; despite we need it and consider it very important. India should cooperate with Pakistan in this regard. Pakistan has the right to demand for handing over of Lt Col Purohit involved in the blast of Samjhota Express. Pakistani people also wanted the culprits involved in Samjhota Express tragedy to be booked on justice.  Pakistan-India relations remained hostage to mutual distrust, bigotry and inimical past. To come out of this blind alley, it is time to learn a lesson from our common cognition and set our house in order by realigning our priorities and bringing a pragmatic change to safeguard the future of our budding generations. There is a dire need that good sense should prevail and India and Pakistan should redefine their relations.  The composite dialogue process that was stalled by India is the only framework that has shown any promise for improving Pakistan-India relations. In order to find “practical, pragmatic” solutions to a “number of issues” affecting the bilateral relationship, President Asif Ali Zardari paid a private visit to India and discussed the Kashmir issue and terrorism-related challenges with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on April 8, 2012. Both the leaders agreed that it is imperative to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack to justice and the issue of Hafiz Saeed needs to be discussed at length. Pakistan has shown its seriousness in Mumbai terror attacks completing the probe in record time after the information was provided to Pakistani investigation team. India should appreciate and accept what Pakistan has done so far in the Mumbai case, if it really wants Pakistan to cooperate. The judiciary in Pakistan is independent and if US/India has evidence against Hafiz Saeed, it should be provided to Pakistan. In this connection, fielding a joint Indo-Pak team to probe Mumbai terror attack is a good suggestion, coupled with a Joint Anti-Terrorism Mechanism by including intelligence agencies from both sides to reduce mistrust accentuated by the 26/11 strike.

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