view: A case of unchecked terrorists —Ishtiaq Ahmed
For several months now Mr Malik had been insisting on his having conclusive and incontrovertible proof of Indian involvement in terrorism as well as secessionism in Balochistan. He challenged India’s Defence Minister, AK Antony, to come to Pakistan to see for himself the evidence he had. Mr Antony ignored his standing invitation and rejected his accusations
Interior Minister Rehman Malik has ruled out the presence of any US terrorists in Pakistan. “There is no presence of Blackwater in Pakistan...Unfortunately, all the terrorists in the country are Pakistani nationals.” He further informed that so far 74 terrorists had been apprehended (Daily Times, December 11, 2009). Now, if there is no US terrorist in Pakistan and all the terrorists in the country are Pakistani nationals, it does not mean that there is no Blackwater presence in Pakistan. I am not sure if the honourable minister was quoted fully and properly.
However, the reference to Blackwater is a bit of a diversion from the real object of writing this essay. For several months now Mr Malik had been insisting on his having conclusive and incontrovertible proof of Indian involvement in terrorism as well as secessionism in Balochistan. He challenged India’s Defence Minister, AK Antony, to come to Pakistan to see for himself the evidence he had. Mr Antony ignored his standing invitation and rejected his accusations. Apparently the proof was sent by the Interior Ministry to the Pakistan Foreign Ministry. Initially the Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi expressed his doubts about the material he had received. He presented his position with diplomatic finesse: “The possibility that there are elements who want to destabilise the country cannot be ruled out. But information received by us in this regard is insufficient. We need more information and material to plausibly argue our case” (Daily Times, December 10, 2009). A few days later, Mr Qureshi changed his position and said that there was solid proof linking India to terrorism in Pakistan (Daily Times, December 14, 2009).
To concerned observers and analysts, such vacillation does not convey the impression that the Pakistan government has a coherent stand on this matter. In sharp contrast, soon after the terrorist attacks in Mumbai on November 26, 2008, India quickly produced Ajmal Kasab on television and showed footage of the attack in Mumbai. His family was also seen on television screens and his father owned his son. Some such dramatic steps are needed if the accusations against India are to be considered serious. It makes me wonder if the problem with the evidence, if not wholly but significantly, is its controversial nature; in other words, is it a case of unchecked terrorists?
Farrukh Khan Pitafi in his article ‘The Taliban apologists’ (Daily Times, December 10, 2009), took up the problem of a peculiar type of ‘evidence’ of an Indian hand in terrorism, which has for quite some time been making rounds on the Internet. It comprises disturbing snapshots of naked, dead, uncircumcised men. I began receiving such material some months ago, followed by comments by apparently educated individuals; all convinced that the men in the pictures were Hindus. The argument was that Indian Hindus had been fighting on the side of the Tehrik-e-Taliban of the late Baitullah Mehsud. Some went further and opined that since the dead men had high cheekbones, they must be Nepalese Gurkhas who are also Hindus. Such an observation suggested that the commentators must have a military background and that too of some seniority, otherwise who remembers the Gurkhas anymore in Pakistan.
I wonder if Saadat Hasan Manto (died Lahore, 1955) were to return from his eternal sleep how he would handle such evidence. He would surely be confused if he had not moved back in time to 1947 instead of forward into 2009.
To display naked men and their private parts on the Internet constitutes a flagrant disregard of human decency, but in Pakistan even educated people are oblivious to that. For some strange reason I got greatly intrigued by such allegations that I tried with the help of a magnifying glass to make out if the dead men were really uncircumcised, even brought fluorescent light lamps to my aid but it was impossible to make out with certainty. I consulted some better-informed people to check if it is true that all Pakistani Muslim men were circumcised. My own assumption was that it was not a self-evident truth. We all know that not all Pakistani Muslim men eat three meals a day all their lives and vast numbers have no proper home or shelter to return to. Under these circumstances the assumption that their parents would have the means to pay the barber and make offerings to the maulvi to consummate the circumcision ritual, seemed flawed.
Mr Shuja Nawaz, the celebrated author of Crossed Swords, a virtual compendium on the history of the Pakistan Army, told me that in the mountainous areas live many people who have never been integrated into society and among such people compliance with Islamic practises and rituals was quite lax. I believe this is true even of the people of the plains of the Punjab that I know pretty well. There are nomadic tribes, pauperised peasants and artisans, and hundreds of thousands of nondescript wretches who live on the margins of societies. I would not be surprised that many such people are in the ranks of the Taliban for no other reason except that they have been coerced and did not resist, because there is nothing in their lives to attract them to normal existence.
Therefore one can very sincerely hope that our Interior Ministry gathers such evidence against promoters of terrorism that is admissible in a court of law both domestically as well as at the international level. It is better to accuse India of what it does in Pakistan’s internal affairs on the basis of hard facts rather than employ overkill tactics with material that would not hold water in a court of law. The best antidote, of course, to Baloch secessionism is to address the genuine grievances of the Baloch and win their loyalty to Pakistan on a voluntary basis. I believe something is on the way and that is a very welcome development.
Ishtiaq Ahmed is a Visiting Research Professor at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) and the South Asian Studies Programme at the National University of Singapore. He is also a Professor of Political Science at Stockholm University. He has published extensively on South Asian politics. At ISAS, he is currently working on a book, Is Pakistan a Garrison State? He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org