Pakistan Makes Quick Arrests In NYC Bomb Attempt

Pakistan makes arrests connected to NYC bomb attempt

Zeeshan Haider


A NYPD officer in an bomb suit examines a Nissan Pathfinder sport utility vehicle parked in New York's Times Square May 1, 2010. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

(Reuters) – Pakistan on Tuesday made several arrests in connection with the failed Times Square car bomb attack in New York, security sources said.

"We have picked up a few family members" related to Faisal Shahzad, the chief suspect in the attempted attack, a security official in Karachi said. A friend of Shahzad was also arrested.

Shahzad, a 30-year-old Pakistani-American, was arrested late on Monday at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York after being removed from a plane as it was about take off for Dubai, American officials said.

Another intelligence official in Pakistan said Shahzad received militant training in northwest Pakistan near the garrison town of Kohat. The area around Kohat is a stronghold of Tariq Afridi, the main Pakistani Taliban commander in the region.

Pakistan, which could come under renewed U.S. pressure to crack down harder on militants after the Times Square incident, vowed on Tuesday to help the United States bring Shahzad to justice

Shahzad will appear in Manhattan federal court later on Tuesday to face charges "for allegedly driving a car bomb into Times Square on the evening of May 1," according to a statement by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, FBI agent George Venizelos and New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

"We will cooperate with the United States in identifying this individual and bringing him to justice," Interior Minister Rehman Malik told Reuters.

U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W. Patterson met Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Malik and talked about the issue, Pakistani government officials and the U.S. Embassy said.

"We have an ongoing cooperation with the United States on anti-terrorism efforts. If required by the United States, we will extend full cooperation to them in this regard," Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said.


Malik said Faisal’s family came from northwestern Pakistan which is mainly inhabited by Pashtuns and where Islamic militants are active.

"He belongs to Pabbi," he said, referring to a small town near the main northwestern city of Peshawar about an hour’s drive from Islamabad.

"He has Pakistani identification documents. We are making further checks."

He added there had been no arrests in Pakistan so far.

A source familiar with the investigation in the United States said Faisal was of Kashmiri descent.

Pakistan is a key ally of the United States and has arrested hundreds of al Qaeda operatives and handed over many of them to the United States after it signed up to the U.S.-led war on terrorism after the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001.

The Taliban in Pakistan said on Sunday it planted the bomb in Times Square to avenge the killing in April of al Qaeda’s two top leaders in Iraq as well as U.S. interference in Muslim countries.

Some officials voiced scepticism about the claim. But former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel, who last year oversaw an Obama administration strategy review on Afghanistan and Pakistan, cautioned against dismissing a possible role by the Taliban.

(Editing by Chris Allbritton)

Antony C. Sutton, Documented Wall St. Backing of Communism and Nazism

[Professor Sutton led the way in exposing the treacherous duplicity of America’s financial and political leaders.  Never before in history has mankind produced national leadership in any country which allowed the financial powers to manufacture and strengthen enemies, to wage war against their own countrymen.  Sutton documented this, producing detailed research which implicated the international bankers, especially those with American citizenship, even though he endured public charges of “anti-Semitism” for daring to expose powerful Jewish interests.

Further investigations by Dr. Sutton into American secret societies like the Skull & Bones, and shadowy organizations like the Trilateralists shone light where none had been before, from his insider positions in academia.  His work showed us that America’s secret leaders have been sowing subversion and creating America’s own enemies long before today’s “Islamists” came along.  We need more insiders like him to dig through the real records of the infinite crimes committed in their quest for a global empire.]

Antony C. Sutton

— Feb. 14, 1925 – June 17, 2002

Antony Sutton has been persecuted but never prosecuted for his research and subsequent publishing of his findings. His mainstream career was shattered by his devotion towards uncovering the truth. In 1968, his Western Technology and Soviet Economic Development was published by The Hoover Institute at Stanford University. Sutton showed how the Soviet state’s technological and manufacturing base, which was then engaged in supplying the North Vietnamese the armaments and supplies to kill and wound American soldiers, was built by US firms and mostly paid for by the US taxpayers. From their largest steel and iron plant, to automobile manufacturing equipment, to precision ball-bearings and computers, basically the majority of the Soviet’s large industrial enterprises had been built with the United States help or technical assistance.

Professor Richard Pipes of Harvard said in his book, Survival Is Not Enough: Soviet Realities and America’s Future (Simon & Schuster;1984): “In his three-volume detailed account of Soviet Purchases of Western Equipment and Technology . . . [Antony] Sutton comes to conclusions that are uncomfortable for many businessmen and economists. For this reason his work tends to be either dismissed out of hand as ‘extreme’ or, more often, simply ignored.”

The report was too much and Sutton’s career as a well-paid member of the academic establishment was under attack and he was told that he “would not survive”.

His work led him to more questions than answers. “Why had the US built-up it’s enemy? Why did the US build-up the Soviet Union, while we also transferred technology to Hitler’s Germany? Why does Washington want to conceal these facts?”

Sutton, following his leads, proceeded to research and write his three outstanding books on Wall Street, FDR, the Rise of Hitler, and The Bolshevik Revolution. Then, someone sent Antony a membership list of Skull and Bones and “a picture jumped out”. And what a picture! A multigenerational foreign-based secret society with fingers in all kinds of pies and roots going back to ‘Illuminati’ influences in 1830’s Germany.

Published Works of ANTONY C SUTTON

1998 FTIR . . . . $50.00
1997 FTIR . . . . $50.00

1996 Moscow . . . . Russian

1995 CPA
Get it from Amazon

1995 Moscow . . . . Russian

Two-part documentary on financing Hitler. Detailing Bush/Harriman role.
Commentator Daniel de Wit . . . . Dutch

1995 CPA
Get it from Amazon

1988 Out of print.

1986 Liberty House Press . . . . $20.00
406-652-3326 / 406-652-3329 (fax)

Updated hardcover 2002 edition.
P.O. Box 577
Walterville, OR 97489

1986 Liberty House Press . . . . $12.50
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1979 FTIR . . . . $20.00

1979 Out of print

1977 Arlington House (New York) and Sandton (South Africa) Out of print
You may be able to get it from Amazon

1976 Swiss East Institut, Berne . . . . German

1976 Arlington House
1999 Buccaneer Books

1973 Out of print
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1976 Arlington House.
1999 Buccaneer Books
Get it from Amazon

1974 Arlington House
1999 Buccaneer Books

1973 Out of print.

WARS AND REVOLUTIONSa comprehensive list of conflicts including fatalities
1973 Part One 1820 to 1900 1974
Part Two 1900 to-1972
Out of print.

1968 Volume One 1917-1930
1971 Volume Two 1930-1945
1973 Volume Three 1945-1965
In print available from Hoover Institution Press.
Get it from Amazon

in three volumes.

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Noshki, Balochistan On Edge

[Perhaps Pakistani officials are seeing the logic in the Central Asia News report on the Balochistan trap that they see being laid.

Notice the above map which has the key locations from the report marked.  Draw a line from Noshki, south to Ras Malan, as instructed and you will see the projected eastern border of the International Strategic Corrider, the slice of Balochistan that is deemed necessary to the “pipeline wars.”

“If I were to draw such a border, I would take Nushki as the starting point and draw a north-south line, connecting it with Ras Malan. All the area west of the line up to Iranian border would be the strategic corridor.”

Final Solution’ Frenzy – Part Four: Final Solution for Pakistan]

Pakistani helicopters have been seen flying in a low altitude in Noshki

on 2010/5/4 0:00:00 (27 reads)
ccupied Balochistan: The peaceful atmosphere of Noshki and adjourning areas was disturbed by thunderous sounds of Pakistan’s gunship helicopters on Monday, afternoon. Residents reported that they have seen military helicopters fly above their head in Noshki, and surrounding mountainous regions. There is sense of fear and panic among the people in the concerned areas.

A spokesman of BRP said that the hovering of Pakistani helicopters above Noshki and increasing the number of Para-military forces in the region seemingly gestures the preparation of a massive military operation in Noshki and surrounding hilly areas. He said after the grand operation in Quetta the Pakistani forces apparently wanted to carry out a similar search operation in Noshki and other parts of Balochistan.

The monster in the mirror

The monster in the mirror

The Mumbai attacks have been dubbed ‘India’s 9/11’, and there are calls for a 9/11-style response, including an attack on Pakistan. Instead, the country must fight terrorism with justice, or face civil war

Azam Amir Kasab filmed on CCTV inside the Chhatrapati Shivaji train station in MumbaiAzam Amir Kasab, the face of the Mumbai attacks. Photograph: Reuters

We’ve forfeited the rights to our own tragedies. As the carnage in Mumbai raged on, day after horrible day, our 24-hour news channels informed us that we were watching “India’s 9/11”. Like actors in a Bollywood rip-off of an old Hollywood film, we’re expected to play our parts and say our lines, even though we know it’s all been said and done before.

As tension in the region builds, US Senator John McCain has warned Pakistan that if it didn’t act fast to arrest the “Bad Guys” he had personal information that India would launch air strikes on “terrorist camps” in Pakistan and that Washington could do nothing because Mumbai was India’s 9/11.

But November isn’t September, 2008 isn’t 2001, Pakistan isn’t Afghanistan and India isn’t America. So perhaps we should reclaim our tragedy and pick through the debris with our own brains and our own broken hearts so that we can arrive at our own conclusions.

It’s odd how in the last week of November thousands of people in Kashmir supervised by thousands of Indian troops lined up to cast their vote, while the richest quarters of India’s richest city ended up looking like war-torn Kupwara – one of Kashmir’s most ravaged districts.

The Mumbai attacks are only the most recent of a spate of terrorist attacks on Indian towns and cities this year. Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Delhi, Guwahati, Jaipur and Malegaon have all seen serial bomb blasts in which hundreds of ordinary people have been killed and wounded. If the police are right about the people they have arrested as suspects, both Hindu and Muslim, all Indian nationals, it obviously indicates that something’s going very badly wrong in this country.

If you were watching television you may not have heard that ordinary people too died in Mumbai. They were mowed down in a busy railway station and a public hospital. The terrorists did not distinguish between poor and rich. They killed both with equal cold-bloodedness. The Indian media, however, was transfixed by the rising tide of horror that breached the glittering barricades of India Shining and spread its stench in the marbled lobbies and crystal ballrooms of two incredibly luxurious hotels and a small Jewish centre.

We’re told one of these hotels is an icon of the city of Mumbai. That’s absolutely true. It’s an icon of the easy, obscene injustice that ordinary Indians endure every day. On a day when the newspapers were full of moving obituaries by beautiful people about the hotel rooms they had stayed in, the gourmet restaurants they loved (ironically one was called Kandahar), and the staff who served them, a small box on the top left-hand corner in the inner pages of a national newspaper (sponsored by a pizza company I think) said “Hungry, kya?” (Hungry eh?). It then, with the best of intentions I’m sure, informed its readers that on the international hunger index, India ranked below Sudan and Somalia. But of course this isn’t that war. That one’s still being fought in the Dalit bastis of our villages, on the banks of the Narmada and the Koel Karo rivers; in the rubber estate in Chengara; in the villages of Nandigram, Singur, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Lalgarh in West Bengal and the slums and shantytowns of our gigantic cities.

That war isn’t on TV. Yet. So maybe, like everyone else, we should deal with the one that is.

There is a fierce, unforgiving fault-line that runs through the contemporary discourse on terrorism. On one side (let’s call it Side A) are those who see terrorism, especially “Islamist” terrorism, as a hateful, insane scourge that spins on its own axis, in its own orbit and has nothing to do with the world around it, nothing to do with history, geography or economics. Therefore, Side A says, to try and place it in a political context, or even try to understand it, amounts to justifying it and is a crime in itself.

Side B believes that though nothing can ever excuse or justify terrorism, it exists in a particular time, place and political context, and to refuse to see that will only aggravate the problem and put more and more people in harm’s way. Which is a crime in itself.

The sayings of Hafiz Saeed, who founded the Lashkar-e-Taiba (Army of the Pure) in 1990 and who belongs to the hardline Salafi tradition of Islam, certainly bolsters the case of Side A. Hafiz Saeed approves of suicide bombing, hates Jews, Shias and Democracy and believes that jihad should be waged until Islam, his Islam, rules the world. Among the things he said are: “There cannot be any peace while India remains intact. Cut them, cut them so much that they kneel before you and ask for mercy.”

And: “India has shown us this path. We would like to give India a tit-for-tat response and reciprocate in the same way by killing the Hindus, just like it is killing the Muslims in Kashmir.”

But where would Side A accommodate the sayings of Babu Bajrangi of Ahmedabad, India, who sees himself as a democrat, not a terrorist? He was one of the major lynchpins of the 2002 Gujarat genocide and has said (on camera): “We didn’t spare a single Muslim shop, we set everything on fire … we hacked, burned, set on fire … we believe in setting them on fire because these bastards don’t want to be cremated, they’re afraid of it … I have just one last wish … let me be sentenced to death … I don’t care if I’m hanged … just give me two days before my hanging and I will go and have a field day in Juhapura where seven or eight lakhs [seven or eight hundred thousand] of these people stay … I will finish them off … let a few more of them die … at least 25,000 to 50,000 should die.”

And where, in Side A’s scheme of things, would we place the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh bible, We, or, Our Nationhood Defined by MS Golwalkar, who became head of the RSS in 1944. It says: “Ever since that evil day, when Moslems first landed in Hindustan, right up to the present moment, the Hindu Nation has been gallantly fighting on to take on these despoilers. The Race Spirit has been awakening.”
Or: “To keep up the purity of its race and culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races – the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here … a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.”

(Of course Muslims are not the only people in the gun sights of the Hindu right. Dalits have been consistently targeted. Recently in Kandhamal in Orissa, Christians were the target of two and a half months of violence which left more than 40 dead. Forty thousand people have been driven from their homes, half of who now live in refugee camps.)

All these years Hafiz Saeed has lived the life of a respectable man in Lahore as the head of the Jamaat-ud Daawa, which many believe is a front organization for the Lashkar-e-Taiba. He continues to recruit young boys for his own bigoted jehad with his twisted, fiery sermons. On December 11 the UN imposed sanctions on the Jammat-ud-Daawa. The Pakistani government succumbed to international pressure and put Hafiz Saeed under house arrest. Babu Bajrangi, however, is out on bail and lives the life of a respectable man in Gujarat. A couple of years after the genocide he left the VHP to join the Shiv Sena. Narendra Modi, Bajrangi’s former mentor, is still the chief minister of Gujarat. So the man who presided over the Gujarat genocide was re-elected twice, and is deeply respected by India’s biggest corporate houses, Reliance and Tata.

Suhel Seth, a TV impresario and corporate spokesperson, recently said: “Modi is God.” The policemen who supervised and sometimes even assisted the rampaging Hindu mobs in Gujarat have been rewarded and promoted. The RSS has 45,000 branches, its own range of charities and 7 million volunteers preaching its doctrine of hate across India. They include Narendra Modi, but also former prime minister AB Vajpayee, current leader of the opposition LK Advani, and a host of other senior politicians, bureaucrats and police and intelligence officers.

If that’s not enough to complicate our picture of secular democracy, we should place on record that there are plenty of Muslim organisations within India preaching their own narrow bigotry.

So, on balance, if I had to choose between Side A and Side B, I’d pick Side B. We need context. Always.

In this nuclear subcontinent that context is partition. The Radcliffe Line, which separated India and Pakistan and tore through states, districts, villages, fields, communities, water systems, homes and families, was drawn virtually overnight. It was Britain’s final, parting kick to us. Partition triggered the massacre of more than a million people and the largest migration of a human population in contemporary history. Eight million people, Hindus fleeing the new Pakistan, Muslims fleeing the new kind of India left their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

Each of those people carries and passes down a story of unimaginable pain, hate, horror but yearning too. That wound, those torn but still unsevered muscles, that blood and those splintered bones still lock us together in a close embrace of hatred, terrifying familiarity but also love. It has left Kashmir trapped in a nightmare from which it can’t seem to emerge, a nightmare that has claimed more than 60,000 lives. Pakistan, the Land of the Pure, became an Islamic Republic, and then, very quickly a corrupt, violent military state, openly intolerant of other faiths. India on the other hand declared herself an inclusive, secular democracy. It was a magnificent undertaking, but Babu Bajrangi’s predecessors had been hard at work since the 1920s, dripping poison into India’s bloodstream, undermining that idea of India even before it was born.

By 1990 they were ready to make a bid for power. In 1992 Hindu mobs exhorted by LK Advani stormed the Babri Masjid and demolished it. By 1998 the BJP was in power at the centre. The US war on terror put the wind in their sails. It allowed them to do exactly as they pleased, even to commit genocide and then present their fascism as a legitimate form of chaotic democracy. This happened at a time when India had opened its huge market to international finance and it was in the interests of international corporations and the media houses they owned to project it as a country that could do no wrong. That gave Hindu nationalists all the impetus and the impunity they needed.

This, then, is the larger historical context of terrorism in the subcontinent and of the Mumbai attacks. It shouldn’t surprise us that Hafiz Saeed of the Lashkar-e-Taiba is from Shimla (India) and LK Advani of the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh is from Sindh (Pakistan).

In much the same way as it did after the 2001 parliament attack, the 2002 burning of the Sabarmati Express and the 2007 bombing of the Samjhauta Express, the government of India announced that it has “incontrovertible” evidence that the Lashkar-e-Taiba backed by Pakistan’s ISI was behind the Mumbai strikes. The Lashkar has denied involvement, but remains the prime accused. According to the police and intelligence agencies the Lashkar operates in India through an organisation called the Indian Mujahideen. Two Indian nationals, Sheikh Mukhtar Ahmed, a Special Police Officer working for the Jammu and Kashmir police, and Tausif Rehman, a resident of Kolkata in West Bengal, have been arrested in connection with the Mumbai attacks.

So already the neat accusation against Pakistan is getting a little messy. Almost always, when these stories unspool, they reveal a complicated global network of foot soldiers, trainers, recruiters, middlemen and undercover intelligence and counter-intelligence operatives working not just on both sides of the India-Pakistan border, but in several countries simultaneously. In today’s world, trying to pin down the provenance of a terrorist strike and isolate it within the borders of a single nation state is very much like trying to pin down the provenance of corporate money. It’s almost impossible.

In circumstances like these, air strikes to “take out” terrorist camps may take out the camps, but certainly will not “take out” the terrorists. Neither will war. (Also, in our bid for the moral high ground, let’s try not to forget that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the LTTE of neighbouring Sri Lanka, one of the world’s most deadly terrorist groups, were trained by the Indian army.)

Thanks largely to the part it was forced to play as America’s ally first in its war in support of the Afghan Islamists and then in its war against them, Pakistan, whose territory is reeling under these contradictions, is careening towards civil war. As recruiting agents for America’s jihad against the Soviet Union, it was the job of the Pakistan army and the ISI to nurture and channel funds to Islamic fundamentalist organizations. Having wired up these Frankensteins and released them into the world, the US expected it could rein them in like pet mastiffs whenever it wanted to.

Certainly it did not expect them to come calling in heart of the Homeland on September 11. So once again, Afghanistan had to be violently remade. Now the debris of a re-ravaged Afghanistan has washed up on Pakistan’s borders. Nobody, least of all the Pakistan government, denies that it is presiding over a country that is threatening to implode. The terrorist training camps, the fire-breathing mullahs and the maniacs who believe that Islam will, or should, rule the world is mostly the detritus of two Afghan wars. Their ire rains down on the Pakistan government and Pakistani civilians as much, if not more than it does on India.

If at this point India decides to go to war perhaps the descent of the whole region into chaos will be complete. The debris of a bankrupt, destroyed Pakistan will wash up on India’s shores, endangering us as never before. If Pakistan collapses, we can look forward to having millions of “non-state actors” with an arsenal of nuclear weapons at their disposal as neighbours. It’s hard to understand why those who steer India’s ship are so keen to replicate Pakistan’s mistakes and call damnation upon this country by inviting the United States to further meddle clumsily and dangerously in our extremely complicated affairs. A superpower never has allies. It only has agents.

On the plus side, the advantage of going to war is that it’s the best way for India to avoid facing up to the serious trouble building on our home front. The Mumbai attacks were broadcast live (and exclusive!) on all or most of our 67 24-hour news channels and god knows how many international ones. TV anchors in their studios and journalists at “ground zero” kept up an endless stream of excited commentary. Over three days and three nights we watched in disbelief as a small group of very young men armed with guns and gadgets exposed the powerlessness of the police, the elite National Security Guard and the marine commandos of this supposedly mighty, nuclear-powered nation.

While they did this they indiscriminately massacred unarmed people, in railway stations, hospitals and luxury hotels, unmindful of their class, caste, religion or nationality. (Part of the helplessness of the security forces had to do with having to worry about hostages. In other situations, in Kashmir for example, their tactics are not so sensitive. Whole buildings are blown up. Human shields are used. The U.S and Israeli armies don’t hesitate to send cruise missiles into buildings and drop daisy cutters on wedding parties in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.) But this was different. And it was on TV.

The boy-terrorists’ nonchalant willingness to kill – and be killed – mesmerised their international audience. They delivered something different from the usual diet of suicide bombings and missile attacks that people have grown inured to on the news. Here was something new. Die Hard 25. The gruesome performance went on and on. TV ratings soared. Ask any television magnate or corporate advertiser who measures broadcast time in seconds, not minutes, what that’s worth.

Eventually the killers died and died hard, all but one. (Perhaps, in the chaos, some escaped. We may never know.) Throughout the standoff the terrorists made no demands and expressed no desire to negotiate. Their purpose was to kill people and inflict as much damage as they could before they were killed themselves. They left us completely bewildered. When we say “nothing can justify terrorism”, what most of us mean is that nothing can justify the taking of human life. We say this because we respect life, because we think it’s precious. So what are we to make of those who care nothing for life, not even their own? The truth is that we have no idea what to make of them, because we can sense that even before they’ve died, they’ve journeyed to another world where we cannot reach them.

One TV channel (India TV) broadcast a phone conversation with one of the attackers, who called himself Imran Babar. I cannot vouch for the veracity of the conversation, but the things he talked about were the things contained in the “terror emails” that were sent out before several other bomb attacks in India. Things we don’t want to talk about any more: the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, the genocidal slaughter of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, the brutal repression in Kashmir. “You’re surrounded,” the anchor told him. “You are definitely going to die. Why don’t you surrender?”

“We die every day,” he replied in a strange, mechanical way. “It’s better to live one day as a lion and then die this way.” He didn’t seem to want to change the world. He just seemed to want to take it down with him.

If the men were indeed members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, why didn’t it matter to them that a large number of their victims were Muslim, or that their action was likely to result in a severe backlash against the Muslim community in India whose rights they claim to be fighting for? Terrorism is a heartless ideology, and like most ideologies that have their eye on the Big Picture, individuals don’t figure in their calculations except as collateral damage. It has always been a part of and often even the aim of terrorist strategy to exacerbate a bad situation in order to expose hidden faultlines. The blood of “martyrs” irrigates terrorism. Hindu terrorists need dead Hindus, Communist terrorists need dead proletarians, Islamist terrorists need dead Muslims. The dead become the demonstration, the proof of victimhood, which is central to the project. A single act of terrorism is not in itself meant to achieve military victory; at best it is meant to be a catalyst that triggers something else, something much larger than itself, a tectonic shift, a realignment. The act itself is theatre, spectacle and symbolism, and today, the stage on which it pirouettes and performs its acts of bestiality is Live TV. Even as the attack was being condemned by TV anchors, the effectiveness of the terror strikes were being magnified a thousandfold by TV broadcasts.

Through the endless hours of analysis and the endless op-ed essays, in India at least there has been very little mention of the elephants in the room: Kashmir, Gujarat and the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Instead we had retired diplomats and strategic experts debate the pros and cons of a war against Pakistan. We had the rich threatening not to pay their taxes unless their security was guaranteed (is it alright for the poor to remain unprotected?). We had people suggest that the government step down and each state in India be handed over to a separate corporation. We had the death of former prime minster VP Singh, the hero of Dalits and lower castes and villain of Upper caste Hindus pass without a mention.

We had Suketu Mehta, author of Maximum City and co-writer of the Bollywood film Mission Kashmir, give us his version of George Bush’s famous “Why they hate us” speech. His analysis of why religious bigots, both Hindu and Muslim hate Mumbai: “Perhaps because Mumbai stands for lucre, profane dreams and an indiscriminate openness.” His prescription: “The best answer to the terrorists is to dream bigger, make even more money, and visit Mumbai more than ever.” Didn’t George Bush ask Americans to go out and shop after 9/11? Ah yes. 9/11, the day we can’t seem to get away from.

Though one chapter of horror in Mumbai has ended, another might have just begun. Day after day, a powerful, vociferous section of the Indian elite, goaded by marauding TV anchors who make Fox News look almost radical and leftwing, have taken to mindlessly attacking politicians, allpoliticians, glorifying the police and the army and virtually asking for a police state. It isn’t surprising that those who have grown plump on the pickings of democracy (such as it is) should now be calling for a police state. The era of “pickings” is long gone. We’re now in the era of Grabbing by Force, and democracy has a terrible habit of getting in the way.

Dangerous, stupid television flashcards like the Police are Good Politicians are Bad/Chief Executives are Good Chief Ministers are Bad/Army is Good Government is Bad/ India is Good Pakistan is Bad are being bandied about by TV channels that have already whipped their viewers into a state of almost uncontrollable hysteria.

Tragically, this regression into intellectual infancy comes at a time when people in India were beginning to see that in the business of terrorism, victims and perpetrators sometimes exchange roles. It’s an understanding that the people of Kashmir, given their dreadful experiences of the last 20 years, have honed to an exquisite art. On the mainland we’re still learning. (If Kashmir won’t willingly integrate into India, it’s beginning to look as though India will integrate/disintegrate into Kashmir.)

It was after the 2001 parliament attack that the first serious questions began to be raised. A campaign by a group of lawyers and activists exposed how innocent people had been framed by the police and the press, how evidence was fabricated, how witnesses lied, how due process had been criminally violated at every stage of the investigation. Eventually the courts acquitted two out of the four accused, including SAR Geelani, the man whom the police claimed was the mastermind of the operation. A third, Showkat Guru, was acquitted of all the charges brought against him but was then convicted for a fresh, comparatively minor offence. The supreme court upheld the death sentence of another of the accused, Mohammad Afzal. In its judgment the court acknowledged there was no proof that Mohammed Afzal belonged to any terrorist group, but went on to say, quite shockingly, “The collective conscience of the society will only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded to the offender.” Even today we don’t really know who the terrorists that attacked the Indian parliament were and who they worked for.

More recently, on September 19 this year, we had the controversial “encounter” at Batla House in Jamia Nagar, Delhi, where the Special Cell of the Delhi police gunned down two Muslim students in their rented flat under seriously questionable circumstances, claiming that they were responsible for serial bombings in Delhi, Jaipur and Ahmedabad in 2008. An assistant commissioner of Police, Mohan Chand Sharma, who played a key role in the parliament attack investigation, lost his life as well. He was one of India’s many “encounter specialists” known and rewarded for having summarily executed several “terrorists”. There was an outcry against the Special Cell from a spectrum of people, ranging from eyewitnesses in the local community to senior Congress Party leaders, students, journalists, lawyers, academics and activists all of whom demanded a judicial inquiry into the incident. In response, the BJP and LK Advani lauded Mohan Chand Sharma as a “Braveheart” and launched a concerted campaign in which they targeted those who had dared to question the integrity of the police, saying it was “suicidal” and calling them “anti-national”. Of course there has been no inquiry.

Only days after the Batla House event, another story about “terrorists” surfaced in the news. In a report submitted to a sessions court, the CBI said that a team from Delhi’s Special Cell (the same team that led the Batla House encounter, including Mohan Chand Sharma) had abducted two innocent men, Irshad Ali and Moarif Qamar, in December 2005, planted 2kg of RDX and two pistols on them and then arrested them as “terrorists” who belonged to Al Badr (which operates out of Kashmir). Ali and Qamar who have spent years in jail, are only two examples out of hundreds of Muslims who have been similarly jailed, tortured and even killed on false charges.

This pattern changed in October 2008 when Maharashtra’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) that was investigating the September 2008 Malegaon blasts arrested a Hindu preacher Sadhvi Pragya, a self-styled God man Swami Dayanand Pande and Lt Col Purohit, a serving officer of the Indian Army. All the arrested belong to Hindu Nationalist organizations including a Hindu Supremacist group called Abhinav Bharat. The Shiv Sena, the BJP and the RSS condemned the Maharashtra ATS, and vilified its chief, Hemant Karkare, claiming he was part of a political conspiracy and declaring that “Hindus could not be terrorists”. LK Advani changed his mind about his policy on the police and made rabble rousing speeches to huge gatherings in which he denounced the ATS for daring to cast aspersions on holy men and women.

On the November 25 newspapers reported that the ATS was investigating the high profile VHP Chief Pravin Togadia’s possible role in the Malegaon blasts. The next day, in an extraordinary twist of fate, Hemant Karkare was killed in the Mumbai Attacks. The chances are that the new chief whoever he is, will find it hard to withstand the political pressure that is bound to be brought on him over the Malegaon investigation.

While the Sangh Parivar does not seem to have come to a final decision over whether or not it is anti-national and suicidal to question the police, Arnab Goswami, anchorperson of Times Now television, has stepped up to the plate. He has taken to naming, demonising and openly heckling people who have dared to question the integrity of the police and armed forces. My name and the name of the well-known lawyer Prashant Bhushan have come up several times. At one point, while interviewing a former police officer, Arnab Goswami turned to camera: “Arundhati Royand Prashant Bhushan,” he said, “I hope you are watching this. We think you are disgusting.” For a TV anchor to do this in an atmosphere as charged and as frenzied as the one that prevails today, amounts to incitement as well as threat, and would probably in different circumstances have cost a journalist his or her job.

So according to a man aspiring to be the next prime minister of India, and another who is the public face of a mainstream TV channel, citizens have no right to raise questions about the police. This in a country with a shadowy history of suspicious terror attacks, murky investigations, and fake “encounters”. This in a country that boasts of the highest number of custodial deaths in the world and yet refuses to ratify the International Covenant on Torture. A country where the ones who make it to torture chambers are the lucky ones because at least they’ve escaped being “encountered” by our Encounter Specialists. A country where the line between the Underworld and the Encounter Specialists virtually does not exist.

How should those of us whose hearts have been sickened by the knowledge of all of this view the Mumbai attacks, and what are we to do about them? There are those who point out that US strategy has been successful inasmuch as the United States has not suffered a major attack on its home ground since 9/11. However, some would say that what America is suffering now is far worse. If the idea behind the 9/11 terror attacks was to goad America into showing its true colors, what greater success could the terrorists have asked for? The US army is bogged down in two unwinnable wars, which have made the United States the most hated country in the world. Those wars have contributed greatly to the unraveling of the American economy and who knows, perhaps eventually the American empire. (Could it be that battered, bombed Afghanistan, the graveyard of the Soviet Union, will be the undoing of this one too?) Hundreds of thousands people including thousands of American soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. The frequency of terrorist strikes on U.S allies/agents (including India) and U.S interests in the rest of the world has increased dramatically since 9/11. George Bush, the man who led the US response to 9/11 is a despised figure not just internationally, but also by his own people. Who can possibly claim that the United States is winning the war on terror?

Homeland Security has cost the US government billions of dollars. Few countries, certainly not India, can afford that sort of price tag. But even if we could, the fact is that this vast homeland of ours cannot be secured or policed in the way the United States has been. It’s not that kind of homeland. We have a hostile nuclear weapons state that is slowly spinning out of control as a neighbour, we have a military occupation in Kashmir and a shamefully persecuted, impoverished minority of more than 150 million Muslims who are being targeted as a community and pushed to the wall, whose young see no justice on the horizon, and who, were they to totally lose hope and radicalise, end up as a threat not just to India, but to the whole world. If ten men can hold off the NSG commandos, and the police for three days, and if it takes half a million soldiers to hold down the Kashmir valley, do the math. What kind of Homeland Security can secure India?

Nor for that matter will any other quick fix. Anti-terrorism laws are not meant for terrorists; they’re for people that governments don’t like. That’s why they have a conviction rate of less than 2%. They’re just a means of putting inconvenient people away without bail for a long time and eventually letting them go. Terrorists like those who attacked Mumbai are hardly likely to be deterred by the prospect of being refused bail or being sentenced to death. It’s what they want.

What we’re experiencing now is blowback, the cumulative result of decades of quick fixes and dirty deeds. The carpet’s squelching under our feet.

The only way to contain (it would be naïve to say end) terrorism is to look at the monster in the mirror. We’re standing at a fork in the road. One sign says Justice, the other Civil War. There’s no third sign and there’s no going back. Choose.

Will Pak-American Bomber Provide Excuse for US Special Forces To Cross Border?

Failed New York bomb puts Pakistan under spotlight

If the United States pushes Pakistan too hard, it could strain relations that have improved in recent months. — Photo by Reuters

ISLAMABAD: Any links between Pakistan’s Taliban and a failed bombing in New York’s Times Square could put the country under renewed US pressure to open risky new fronts against militants.

Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Taliban Movement of Pakistan, has claimed responsibility for the failed bombing and its leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, appeared in videos on the Internet on Sunday threatening suicide attacks on major US cities.

A US citizen born in Pakistan, Faisal Shahzad, is accused of driving the failed car bomb into Times Square and will appear in Manhattan court on Tuesday, authorities said.

Questions may arise again over Pakistan’s determination to tackle militants as it juggles other problems, from a sluggish economy to power cuts that have made the government unpopular.

“Pakistan may have to prepare to make more sacrifices and wage a much more intense use of force such as search and destroy operations, more systematically,” said Rifaat Hussain, head of the Department of Defence and Strategic Studies at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad.

Pakistan, heavily dependent on foreign aid, says it is too stretched to expand security offensives to new areas such as North Waziristan, home to a complex web of militant groups that could deepen the threat to the state if antagonised.

“International goodwill is going to sour unless we are seen to be doing more against the groups in North Waziristan which have not been touched, and the groups of Punjab which have not been touched,” said Taliban expert and Pakistani author Ahmed Rashid.

Punjab a militant base

Some of Pakistan’s most dangerous militant groups are based in the country’s heartland Punjab province.

They include Lashkar-i-Taiba (LT), blamed for the 2008 attack on the Indian commercial capital Mumbai which killed 166 people and accused of plotting attacks in the West.

LT — once nurtured by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency to fight India in Kashmir — is estimated to have between 2,000-3,000 gunmen and another 20,000 followers, many trained to fight and who could be mobilised against a crackdown.

A major assault could drive the LT and other Punjab groups into an alliance with the Pakistani Taliban, an umbrella group backed by al-Qaeda that continues to stage suicide bombings despite offensives the army says has killed hundreds of fighters.

Those risks may be put aside by the United States now that the failed Times Square bombing has sounded new alarm bells in a country still haunted by al-Qaeda’s September 11, 2001 attacks.

If the United States pushes Pakistan too hard, it could strain relations that have improved in recent months.

“If Hakimullah is responsible for what happened in Times Square and is launching a campaign against American cities, then this is the kind of thing that shakes everybody up and generates political will to really get in the Pakistani government’s grill,” said Brian Fishman, counterterrorism research fellow with the New American Foundation.

“If Hakimullah is in any way providing direction to attacks on the US homeland, that changes the kind of influence the US is going to want to assert against Pakistan. That raises the stakes of the political game.”

Doubts on TTP ability

Many security experts are sceptical the TTP has the ability to stage attacks outside Pakistan, but worry it may be growing closer to al-Qaeda and could be adopting the global aims of Osama bin Laden instead of limiting itself to fighting the Pakistani state.

The United States has repeatedly called on Pakistan to do more to fight not just home-grown militancy but also al-Qaeda-backed Afghan Taliban based in North Waziristan who cross the border to attack Western forces in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has said it does not have the resources to go after other groups such as the Haqqani network, described by US forces as one of their biggest enemies in Afghanistan.

There are strategic reasons for Pakistan’s hesitancy to attack the Haqqanis, believed to operate from North Waziristan.

Pakistan sees the group as a strategic asset that will give it influence in any peace settlement in Afghanistan so Islamabad will want those militants on its side.

But it may have few choices if a solid Pakistani connection with the failed Times Square bombing emerges. Other cases already show Pakistani militants have global reach.

David Headley, an American arrested in Chicago last year, has pleaded guilty to working with LT to plotting attacks in India, including surveillance of targets in Mumbai.

Counter-terrorism experts say LT poses a risk to the West in several ways, including lending its network to groups such as al-Qaeda to conduct attacks.

Terrorism Is Helping the Americans

[Deobandi leaders refuse to cleanse their movement of the corrupting influence of Wahhabism, effectively sealing their lips shut out of fear for their own lives.  It took many years and a lot of effort on the Saudis’ part to “Islamicize” Pakistan, indoctrinating Pakistani young men in the path of bloody revenge killings and political “jihad.”  It will take many years of patient house-cleaning to find the true Deobandi path hidden beneath all of the CIA-doctored fake “Islam” heaped upon it.  Take care, Pakistan, lest your children turn into monsters and cut your throats in your sleep!]

Still shying away from condemning suicide bombings

By Nasir Jamal
Supporters of Sunni Tehreek wave sticks while chanting slogans against clashes between Ahle Sunnat and Deobandi sects in Faisalabad March 1, 2010. The clashes between the two groups on February 27 left dozens of vehicles, motor bikes and buildings damaged in the city. – Photo by Reuters.

LAHORE: The Deobandi leadership in the country has for the moment refused to give a consensual nod of disapproval to suicide attacks and other acts of militancy — despite efforts by some members to reconcile the school to new realities.

A meeting held here recently was part of this initiative for reconciliation. Rising above their political and factional disputes, around 150 leaders representing different Deobandi groups, seminaries and political parties from Karachi to Bajaur converged in Lahore on April 15 for a rare meeting.

Over three days they shared space at the Jamia Ashrafia, one of the oldest and influential Deobandi institutions in the city.

Many participants are known to have links with Pakistan’s visible and invisible establishment. They included moderates such as Mufti Rafi Usmani and hardliners such as Maulana Mohammad Ahmed Ludhianvi of the banned Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan.

Big names in politicis — Maulana Fazalur Rehman, Hafiz Hussain Ahmed and Maulana Samiul Haq, whose Darul Aloom Haqania in Akora Khattak in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is credited to have given birth to Afghanistan’s Taliban movement, were also there along with heavyweights such as Maulana Saleem Ullah Khan and Hanif Jallundhry, who manage the Deobandi seminaries and education system in the country.

The objective of this rare Deobandi gathering, according to some participants, was to deliberate on terrorism, debate its causes, discuss impact on the economy and politics and suggest solutions and work together to stem the menace.

“The basic goal of this conference was to organise the movement for enforcement of Shariah through peaceful and democratic means, and discuss the reasons for terrorism in the country,” Qari Hanif Jallundhry told this reporter from Multan by telephone.

“The other objective was to draw public attention towards the need for defending Pakistan’s sovereignty and security.” More parochially, the organisers of the meeting were worried that growing militancy in the tribal backwaters of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and increasing incidence of terrorism in the cities in the rest of the country are exclusively being seen as a Deobandi phenomenon and has the potential to discredit the movement among the masses suffering because of it.

After all, the tribal fighters engaged in a pitched war with the military and killing its soldiers in the north-west or suicide bombers carrying out operations elsewhere in the country are either graduates of the Deobandi seminaries or are linked with Deobandi groups and organisations.


Qari Hanif conceded that militancy and terrorism could harm the Deobandi movement. “If terrorism can impact upon the economy and add to the troubles of common citizens of this country, how can we escape its effects,” he wondered.

Others say the meeting was organised at the behest of the government (read establishment), which is desperately looking for wider support from Deobandi pockets against militants fighting the army in the tribal areas. “The most important objective of those who arranged the assembly was to somehow convince the participants to issue a fatwa or religious edict censuring militants involved in terrorism and fighting the army and urging them to renounce violence at the behest of the government,” a participant from Balochistan told Dawn by telephone.

He said “a part of our leadership is under pressure (from the establishment?) to help evolve a wider consensus among all the Deobandi groups and organisations against the militants’ attacks on our soldiers and military installations as well as terrorist raids within the country”. If that was what the meeting aimed to gain, it was only partially achieved.

Maulana Ludhianvi and Hafiz Hussain Ahmed are said to have “turned the tables” on the organisers and forced them to restrict themselves to issuing a joint communiqué that was soft on militants and harsh on government and, obviously, the United States.

“Neither a fatwa triggered this war nor will it help stop one. If a fatwa could stop this war, we would have peace in our tribal areas and the rest of the country now,” another participant, who also refused to give his name, said. “Whatever is happening in Pakistan or Afghanistan today is a reaction to the American policies, its increasing influence and interference in Pakistan and our government’s inability to understand this fact and side with the West.”

The same source said a majority of the participants agreed that militancy and terrorism would continue to haunt this nation as long as the factors and causes responsible for forcing people to take up were not removed. This was exactly what the joint communiqué says. It blames the government’s policy of ‘toeing the American line’ on Afghanistan for growing terrorism. “..militancy and terrorism continue to haunt this country in spite of wide denunciation of such acts (suicide bombings and subversive activities) by all patriotic people as well as use of organised military force. The situation calls for a dispassionate analysis of the fundamental causes (of this situation). In our view it is the consequence of the foreign policy that Pervez Musharraf pursued (in the aftermath of 9/11) and the incumbent government continues to follow. We demand that the government separates itself from the war in Afghanistan and stops pursuing pro-American foreign policies and providing logistics support to foreign forces (for military operations in Afghanistan,” the communiqué says. The opponents of an edict against militants were vociferously supported by the participants from Swat and Bajaur and other tribal areas. “They are the people who are actually suffering at the hands of Americans and their allies in Pakistan. They are the people who have to bear the brunt of military action and drone attacks. How could they support pro-government edicts and decrees?,” the participant from Balochistan quoted above argued. Nevertheless, the communique did urge the militant groups to pursue peaceful means to achieve their objectives of enforcement of Shariah and expulsion of Americans from the country.

The paper calls for an end to all kinds of terrorist and subversive activities (by militant organizations). “If the government is following erroneous policies, it does not mean that we set our home afire. We, therefore, confidently and honestly believe that only peaceful struggle is the best strategy that can help enforcement of Islamic Shariah in Pakistan and secure it from the foreign influences.

The use of violence is contrary to Islamic teachings and detrimental to our objective of enforcement of Shariah in the country and efforts to expel Americans from this region. Rather, it is helping the United States deepen its influence in this region,” it argues.

Speaking to Dawn about the objectives and outcome of the meeting, Maulana Samiul Haq said: “We must avoid saying and doing anything that helps the evil forces (America in this case). And terrorism is helping the Americans.”

He made a distinction between what is going on in Afghanistan and in Pakistan’s tribal regions. “What is going in Afghanistan is essentially jihad. They (Afghan Taliban) are fighting for the freedom of their country from foreign occupation. Some of our people (Pakistani Taliban) also want to go there and help their brethrens in their war for freedom.” He pointed out that certain elements who have entered the ranks of Pakistani Taliban and are killing innocent civilians and soldiers, are responsible for obliterating the distinction between jihad and terrorism. “The present situation is quite worrisome for us because it can build up pressures against our seminaries. But, the Maulana said, it is wrong to expect that the use of force can stop the militants from carrying out their operations or stem terrorism from the country. “The only lasting solution to the issue lies in talks. If the government is willing to talk (to the militants) on some solid, concrete points, we are ready to act as a bridge and mediate between the two parties. But before proceeding in that direction the government has to distance itself from the American policy objectives. You cannot stop suicide attacks and terrorism as long as you are seen to be standing side by side with the United States,” he contended.

Another JUI leader said it is important for Pakistan to bring the militants to the negotiation table. “The Americans are talking to Taliban, the Afghan regime is talking to Taliban. Why can’t our rulers?” He was perturbed that Washington “ignored” Islamabad as it began peace talks with the Afghan Taliban in spite of the fact that we are the ones providing it logistics support and cheap oil for its operations there. The communique too urged the government to “realise that the lasting solutions to internal insurgencies lay in peace talks. It, therefore, should review its foreign policy in the light of recommendations of the in-camera session of the parliament and effect necessary shift in its policies.” A participant conceded that the moderate Deobandi leadership is worried about its loss of influence and control over younger graduates from the seminaries. “This loss of influence on younger generations is pushing them towards militancy. The communique particularly addressed the younger students of Deobandi seminaries and advised them to follow the opinion and views of ulema to stay on the right path.”

Opaque and unaccountable counter-terror

Opaque and unaccountable counter-terror

Mosharraf Zaidi

The murder of Pakistan’s international man of mystery, Khalid Khawaja, should awaken Pakistanis on all points in the political, religious and social spectrum to the depth and complexity of the terrorists’ challenge to Pakistan. Khawaja was, what many investment bankers would call, a relationship manager. Along with a small group of others, he helped manage Pakistan’s various and increasingly complex relationships with terrorist groups. That he had spent an increasing share of his time in recent months trying to cool down and temper the responses of terrorists to the Pakistani state’s full-scale war on terror is ironic. Khawaja was the quintessential 21st century holy warrior — the anti-thesis of a counter-radicalisation strategy. That he was an asset in Pakistan’s strategy speaks volumes about how poorly prepared Pakistan is for this challenge.

As far back as 1987, Khalid Khawaja was seen to be too blunt, too extreme and too much of a risk for the piety-stricken Gen Ziaul Haq. It is ironic indeed that Daniel Pearl once harangued Khawaja for greater access to some of the Al Qaeda and Taliban figures he was on personal terms with. In the end, the extremist disease that beheaded Daniel Pearl was unable to distinguish between what Pearl represented, and what Khawaja stood for. When Pakistan’s violent extremists cannot tell the difference between Islamist activists like Khalid Khawaja and reporters for the Wall Street Journal like Daniel Pearl, we should all be very scared about what the hell it is, that is actually going on, in Pakistan. (That is of course if you haven’t yet been scared by the more than 25,000 lives that terrorism and counter-terror operations have claimed).

We know through the intrepid reporting of Zafar Abbas and Hamid Mir of course that Khawaja’s killers were not garden variety ‘Taliban’. We know that none of the so-called ‘good’ Pakistani Taliban — Gul Bahadur, Sirajuddin Haqqani, and their ilk — have any control over any of the ‘bad’ Pakistani Taliban — Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Ilyas Kashmiri, and their latest ilk, the Asian Tigers. We know that the Asian Tigers, the group that took Khawaja’s life, was inspired by the tragedy at Lal Masjid. We know that the Afghan Taliban, no matter how hard clash-of-civilisations-analysts try, are not the same thing at all, as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ Pakistani Taliban, or their splinter groups, like the Asian Tigers.

Yet somehow, the word Taliban continues to be used in the broader Pakistani discourse wantonly, without any context. This enables a sanitised and simplified civilisational version of the world in which black and white caricatures are pitted against one another. On one side are the supposed frappuccino-sipping, sun-block dripping, dogma-ripping globalised liberals, on-side with the west and all things modern. On the other are the ‘Taliban’. If you don’t fit squarely into one group, you are automatically the other. This is why it is so easy to equate criticism of the PPP as a right-wing conspiracy, why it is so easy to label as anti-Pakistan anyone that questions the conduct of the military on and off the field of battle, and why it is so easy to brand those that condemn and oppose the tyranny of terrorists as American and Indian agents.

This “us versus them” formulation of a very complex set of incentives, stimuli and events had produced a dangerous culture of simplified good and evil in Pakistan. As we know from global experience, simpleton good v. evil is bush league — George W Bush League to be precise. If the American people have smartened up to the nuance and delicacy of dealing with different parts of the world, and different Muslim populations, differently, it seems ridiculous that Pakistanis should need any prodding at all to be convinced that nuance and delicacy might be in order in Pakistan’s own struggle against terrorists.

It stands to reason that among terrorist threats, there are both the reconcilables and irreconcilables. The reconcilable may include the so-called ‘good’ Taliban, like Haqqani and Co. Or they may not. We don’t actually know if there are any terrorists that are reconcilable. The possibility of openly exploring the space for armistices has been captured by the military, and shrunk due to the secrecy and failure surrounding previous attempts. The disastrous Nizam-e-Adl fiasco and the ensuing Rah-e-Rast operation in Swat buried the little political space that existed to consider engaging reconcilables. Many that had long advocated a zero-tolerance for terror groups’ demands were buoyed by the shrinkage of space for negotiations and talks with terrorists — at least partly, myself included. But Pakistanis have paid a high institutional price for the shrinking of the space for dialogue.

That price is the relevance of mysterious figures like Khawaja and Hamid Gul in Pakistani public life. In an environment that condemns talking to terrorists as a sign of weakness, and an existential threat, the only way the Pakistani state can communicate with terrorists is through these kinds of interlocutors. These interlocutors do the dirty work of the Pakistani state. The fact that Pakistanis don’t trust these interlocutors, any more than they trust their enemies, is not surprising. Operators like Hamid Gul can never enjoy the legitimacy to act on behalf of the Pakistani people. The only actors in the public space that do enjoy the luxury of legitimate agency are politicians.

Of course, the political space has not demonstrated its capacity for the courage to sit with, stare down, and negotiate with terrorists. Unless the mainstream parties, led by the PPP and the PML-N, produce politicians capable of travelling to the tribal agencies and sitting down with the Sirajuddin Haqqanis and Mullah Nazeers of the world, we can be certain of two things. One, public policy ‘trouble-shooters’ like Khawaja and Hamid Gul will continue to exercise power on behalf of the people of Pakistan, without the burden of accountability. Two, the Pakistani military will continue to conduct military operations — and charge taxpayers in Pakistan (and outside) a sizeable amount of money to do so, without any oversight at all.

If Pakistan’s military will ever be the impregnable wall of defence for Pakistan that it aspires to be, it needs to be subservient to civilian oversight. Only visible and demonstrable civilian oversight can help internalise the human cost of Pakistan’s war on terrorism. That cost begins and ends with innocent civilian casualties, or collateral damage. If there is one single issue that drives and motivates the rank and file of the irreconcilable terrorist threat in Pakistan, it is innocent civilian deaths.

We often speak of innocent civilian deaths in the abstract. The reason is simple. There is very little verifiable information about civilian deaths available to the public. All access to victims is controlled by the state — which is not too keen to allow a balanced national conversation. Still, two events stick out strikingly, in the chronology of the terrorism and counter-terrorism story of Pakistan since 2002. The first is the October 30, 2006, military attack on the Chenagai madressah in Bajaur, which killed more than 80 (mostly children). The second is the July 10, 2007, storming of Lal Masjid.

Innocent civilian deaths are often seen as a Trojan Horse, or a proxy for ideological opposition to war. And perhaps there needs to be an ideological debate about the merits and demerits of a Pakistani war on terrorism. But the implications of innocent civilian deaths on the actual war effort as it exists are here and now. They are real life, not ideological. The Asian Tigers’ are a direct correlate of the killing fields of Lal Masjid. Their murder of Khalid Khawaja is a manifestation of just how irreconcilable these groups have become.

The take-no-prisoners, kill-’em-all approach to the Pakistan’s terrorism problem has been arguably successful in some respects. But if the fallout from Lal Masjid is anything to go by, its failures and their extent is unknowable. That is a dangerous and scary prospect.

Killing innocent civilians is what terrorists do. That’s how terrorists should be branded. Those Pakistani soldiers that are bravely fighting terrorists should never be seen as aggressors of innocent people. The manner in which Pakistan is countering terrorism undermines the sacrifices of its soldiers, and perpetuates the presence of Khalid Khawajas and Hamid Guls in our national conversation. Pakistan and democracy can do better than this.

The writer advises governments, donors and NGOs on public policy.