Category Archives: Pakistan

A challenge for Gilani

Pakistan has been nominated as one of the 10 worst humanitarian crises in the world by MSF. There are several wars and crisis situations going on in the country, and the new civilian government has been able to maintain control during the growing instability. The situation in NWFP, where civilians have been targeted in the war between the government and militants, is the main reason quoted by MSF. But also the lack of response to the earthquake in Balochistan, the unrest in the border to Afghanistan and a general problem of not being able to ensure secure working conditions for its staff, are other circumstances that have made MSF to voice his harsh critique to the government.

Understandably, it has not been an easy task for PM Yousaf Raza Gilani to take control after Pakistan had been misruled by the Chief of the Army Pervez Musharraf for almost 10 year. Few people show trust in the establishment, poverty is widespread and there have been a constant debate between Islamic fundamentalists and more secular parties.

But also the current President of Pakistan is a problem. Asif Ali Zardari, late Benazir Bhutto’s husband, has been charged for corruption several times and can prove to be a big burden for Pakistan, as well as for himself. Sten Widmalm at Uppsala University claims that a change in the constitution, wherein the power of the president to dissolve the parliament needs to be eliminated, is required to take place, in order to secure democracy in the country. President Zardari, however, will most likely not impose any strategies that will reduce his own power. He has also been widely criticised for not reinstating the judges who were discharged under Musharraf last year.

Since the death of Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi, today exactly one year ago, Pakistan has undergone a massive political change. The fact that an elected government is leading the country proves that we are walking the right way. Nevertheless, as the problems highlighted by MSF shows, a considerable amount of work is needed before we can reach the end of our journey.

Peace process frozen?

Last week, in a draft for a research funding application, I wrote about the small steps forward in Indo-Pakistani peace dialogue: In October this year trade links between Srinagar (in Indian Jammu and Kashmir, IJK) and Muzaffarabad (in Pakistan-administered ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’, AJK). Last Wednesday the Foreign Ministers of the two states were to meet in New Delhi and discuss what the next step would be. Instead we have seen accusations thrown back and forth, and fears are voiced that the peace process has gone down the drain.

It seems to me, however, that India so far has been the actor with the hardest words. This is probably pretty obvious as the attack took place on Indian soil and was aimed at Indian citizens, but also foreigners of course. But, I also think that the Pakistani government is really scared of an Indian or multilateral attack. The civilian government that came into power in September this year has no control on what’s going on inside its borders, whether it’s guerilla training in AJK, ethnic violence in Karachi, Taliban fighters in the North West or earthquake survivors in Balochistan. In a case of a military involvement, the country would fall into pieces.

India has demanded extradition of Hafiz Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, Maulana Masood Azhar, chief of the Jaish-e-Mohammad, and Dawood Ibrahim, an underworld don alleged to have planned the serial bombings in Mumbai in 1993 that killed around 300 people. Pakistan has refused, as they claim there is a lack of proof. Instead they have offered a ‘joint investigation team’ to be sent to India.

The real reason for Pakistan’s refusal is probably that they don’t know where these people are.

But, what is more important, instead of stalling the peace process, the Pakistani links could actually be yet another step towards friendship on the subcontinent. A successful joint investigation team could find the perpetrators, charge them for their crimes, and source and stop their funding to avoid future attacks. An idealistic thought maybe, but it’s the only way if India and Pakistan want to continue to present themselves as democracies and enemies of terrorism, as well as to preserve peace in their front- and backyards.

India’s 9/11, Oklahoma City or Columbine?

During the last couple of days I have read several journalists and bloggers referring to the attacks in Mumbai last week as “India’s 9/11” (a quick Google search received 34,300 results, among at least the first 10 referred to Mumbai), or asking “Is Mumbai like Oklahoma City?” or stating “This is India’s Columbine”.

All these events were extremely tragic and obviously there are cross-cutting similarities, such as Islamic fundamentalism in the Twin Tower-case or young disillusioned nationals as in the other two cases. But even when I tried to make this brief generalisation here, we can see that it doesn’t work.

Islamic fundamentalism with connections to Pakistan and Lashkar-e-Taiba, yes, but the targets were not only “Western”, but also Indian local such as the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.

Young, yes. But nationals? Hm. There are still uncertainties, rumours and guesses. But there seem to have been at least one Pakistani, a couple of British nationals of Pakistani background and a Maldivian.

Obviously it was a well-coordinated attack in style with September 11, but that doesn’t justifying the simplification of the motivations behind Mumbai. And whilst acknowledging the complexity of 9/11 for its own reasons, Mumbai is complex in itself.

My point is that we need to look at each case separately, to avoid simplifications that reduce our thinking to totalities such as “All terrorists are Muslims”, or “All Christians are fanatics”. Instead we must highlight the socio-economic structures and intersectional injustices that excludes individuals and groups from participating as equal individuals in our societies. We must never justify terrorism, but we must also never reduce it to only violence. It’s much more complex than that.

Only questions and concerns after Mumbai attacks

There’s too much going on – at the same time as I have to finish a draft for a funding application, the Taj hotel is still on fire and a hostage situation is still going on at Nariman. 142 reported dead so far. It puts things into perspective.

Some concerns:

1, Media has reported that at least one of the gunmen is a member of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani-based Jihadi group fighting in Kashmir. Among the other captured, it is alleged that there were 3 British nationals of Pakistani background, 1 Indian and 1 Mauritian. A pretty international group then.

But who are they representing? A representative from the International Centre for the Study Terrorism (I think) thought the Deccan Mujahideen was a subgroup of the Indian Mujahideen, which is the fighting part of Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), the largest Pan-Islamic movement in India.

What do they want? The immediate demand was the release of all incarcerated mujahideens in India. However. Would anybody go about with so much trouble, as the years of training, the amount of money invested, and the risks involved to “Only” demand the release of a couple of hundred prisoners? The extent of the attacks, the singling-out of foreigners and the choice of high-profile targets clearly show that the mastermind behind the ongoing terror wanted, no demanded, international media attention. Why?

2, The Indian PM, Dr. Manmohan Singh, was quick to point finger to India’s “neighbours” (read Pakistan) and their involvement in the attack. Pakistan quickly replied that it was too early to put blame somewhere and stated that the Pakistani government did everything to stop the terrorism in its own country. Now it is proved (or at least alleged) that at least some of the gunmen had direct links with Pakistan. The blame-game has started. How will this effect the ongoing CDP (the bilateral peace process that partly deals with Kashmir, but also nuclear prolifiration and other issues)? Was the purpose of the attacks to disturb this slow but forward moving process? Hardly anyone has noted that the attack happened on Wednesday, the same day as the Pakistani Foreign Minister went to New Delhi to continue the peace talks.

3, What effects will this have on Kashmir? What are the links with Kashmir?

4, Despite its secular constitution and agenda, and its aim to allow all religions in the public sphere, India has seen too much communal violence since its birth in 1947. What will happen after this? The Hindu rightwing party BJP quickly sided with the Indian government to help out solving the crisis. In a recent past, BJP has been directly and indirectly instigating violence against Muslims as well as imposing Hindu-related names on cities and monuments around India. The question is how the propaganda will develop from now on.

So, there seem to be only questions and concerns, but very little knowledge after the attacks on Mumbai this week.