Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
Pakistan has begun a crackdown on Lashkar-e-Taiba following intense pressure from India and the United States to take action against the militant group blamed by New Delhi for the Mumbai attacks. According to intelligence officials and local residents, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, a leader of Lashkar-e-Taiba, was arrested following a raid on a camp near Muzaffarabad in Pakistani-held Kashmir.
As discussed in an earlier post, India has long complained about what it saw as Pakistan’s failure to crack down on Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, another Pakistan-based militant group, which it says were nurtured by the Pakistan spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI, to attack Indian targets in Kashmir and elsewhere.
So would the raid signal a major change of heart? And would it be enough to satisfy India?
The Economist calls it “a small sop” and much less than India had demanded of Pakistan. India’s Livemint condemns it as a “cheap” action to buy legitimacy. It complains that Pakistan took similar steps in 2002, banning Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) after it was blamed, along with Jaish-e-Mohammed, by New Delhi for a raid on India’s parliament in December 2001 that brought the two countries close to a fourth war. (more…)
In the immediate aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, India’s response has been to look to the United States to lean on Pakistan, which it blames for spawning Islamist militancy across the region, rather than launching any military retaliation of its own. So after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s trip to India and Pakistan last week, have the Americans done enough for now?
According to Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, Rice told Pakistan there was “irrefutable evidence” that elements within the country were involved in the Mumbai attacks. And it quotes unnamed sources as saying that behind-the-scenes she “pushed the Pakistani leaders to take care of the perpetrators, otherwise the U.S. will act”.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has urged Pakistan to cooperate “fully and transparently” in investigations into the Mumbai attacks, while U.S. Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell has pointed a finger at Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistan-based Kashmiri militant group.
That’s probably the kind of language that would go down well in India, which has been frustrated in the past by what it saw as the United States’ failure to acknowledge the threat from Pakistan-based Kashmiri militant groups, instead preferring to rely on Pakistan as a useful ally in the region while focusing its own energies on defeating al Qaeda and the Taliban.
By Robert Birsel and Zeeshan Haider
Pakistan’s Taliban have indignantly criticised what they said were India’s “unfounded” threats against Pakistan in the wake of the Mumbai assault and they vowed to rally to the defence of the country in the event of an Indian attack.
“If they dared to attack Pakistan then, God willing, we will share the happiness and grief with all Pakistanis,” said Pakistani Taliban spokesman Maulvi Omar.
“We will put the animosity and fighting with the Pakistani army behind us and the Taliban will defend their frontiers, their boundaries, their country with their weapons.
“We will defend the Line of Control in the same way as we are defending the Durand Line,” he told Reuters by telephone referring to the frontier with India in disputed Kashmir and the border with Afghanistan.
“We will show Pakistanis whether we are miscreants or defenders of the country.”
The language is deliberate, the signals unmistakable: India is turning up the heat on Pakistan for the Mumbai attacks that have killed at least 195 people, and there is no knowing where this downward spiral in ties between the uneasy neighbours will end.
Beginning with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s warning that a cost will have to be paid by neighbouring nations that allow militants to operate, to Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s direct call to Islamabad to “dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism”, there is a sharp, cold edge to the tone that you can’t miss even factoring in the immediate anger and sense of outrage the attacks have evoked across India.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has blamed a group with “external linkages” for coordinated attacks which killed more than 100 people in Mumbai. The language was reminiscent of the darker days of India-Pakistan relations when India always saw a Pakistan hand in militant attacks, blaming groups it said were set up by Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, to seek revenge for Pakistan’s defeat by India in the 1971 war.
An attack on India’s parliament in December 2001 triggered a mass mobilisation along the two countries’ borders and brought them close to a fourth war. That attack was blamed by India on the Pakistan-based Kashmiri militant groups Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed - hardline Islamist groups with links to al Qaeda. Both have been associated with the kind of “fedayeen” attacks – in which the attackers, while not necessarily suicide bombers, are willing to fight to the death — seen in Mumbai.
In the absence of any claims, and a denial of involvement by the main local separatist group, the Indian media is are starting to point the finger at a Bangladeshi militant Islamist group for Thursday’s multiple bombings that left 65 left dead and more than 300 wounded in Assam state.
If it is indeed the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami (HuJi) Bangladesh that orchestrated one of the most deadly attacks in the far flung northeast state, then it could end up hardening the mood in India against not just Bangladesh, but also once again against Pakistan.
Pakistan has replaced the head of its powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency, following months of questions from the United States about its reliability in the battle against the Taliban and al Qaeda. Lieutenant-General Ahmed Shujaa Pasha, formerly head of military operations, will replace Lieutenant-General Nadeem Taj.
The change was part of a major overhaul of the military leadership by Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani, who also replaced the head of the 10 Corps in Rawalpindi, the most powerful corps in the army.
Just two days after a suicide bomb attack on the Marriott killed 53 people in the heart of Islamabad, there were reports of trouble both on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan and on the Line of Control with India.
On the Afghan border, Pakistani troops fired on two U.S. helicopters that intruded into Pakistani airspace on Sunday night, forcing them to turn back to Afghanistan, according to a senior Pakistani security official. On the Indian side, Pakistani and Indian troops exchanged fire across the Line of Control dividing Kashmir, in the latest breach of a ceasefire agreed in 2003. And as if that was not enough, Afghanistan’s top diplomat was kidnapped in Peshawar.
One of the questions that repeatedly came up during Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s rather eventful trip to the U.S. last month was who was in charge of the Inter-Services Intelligence , especially after the botched attempt to bring the powerful spy agency - that critics see as a state within a state – under the interior ministry.
But at home, Pakistanis are asking an even more fundamental question: Who really is in control of their country ? A very rough poll conducted by All Things Pakistan among people who visit the blog found that nearly 40 percent thought nobody was in control of the nuclear-armed Muslim nation of 160 million and from where at least the Americans are convinced the next major militant attack is coming.