Laskar-e-Tayyiba, the organization allegedly at the center of Mumbai attacks, including its front organization, Jamaat-u-Dawa, along with a couple of other Pakistani charity organizations, were added to the list of banned organizations by the UN terrorism sanctions committee on December 10, with their assets frozen, and operation, movement and arms dealings prohibited. Its four top leaders, including chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, have also met the same fate. Since the said decision had a mandate of the UN Security Council and was made under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter, Pakistan had no option but to instantly take steps to implement it. Apart from placing the four individuals under house detention, the authorities have detained a number of other activists of Jamaat-u-Dawa, besides sealing its offices countrywide.
Since then, a national debate has begun about the ineffective role of Pakistan’s current government leadership, especially that of its two chief envoys in the United States—Hussain Haqqani in Washington and Hussain Haroon at the United Nations—in preventing what is being portrayed as a “one-sided, Indian-inspired” UN decision, which forced Pakistan to indirectly admit the involvement of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba in Mumbai terror attacks.
The two Pakistani envoys in America are themselves believed to be seriously in conflict with each other--an issue that surfaced publicly during President Asif Ali Zardari’s September visit to New York. During the visit, besides attending the annual UN General Asembly session, President Zardari was scheduled to attend an event organized by the expatriate Pakistani community in New York. He did come but left the venue after a few minutes while protesting that Haqqani had willfully not invited Haroon on the occasion.
As for Mr. Haroon, in the aftermath of the UN committee’s verdict, he is accused of playing host to Bilawal Bhutto Zardari who happened to be at the UN to receive the human rights award for late Benazir Bhutto while the UN sanctions committee was finalizing its decision. It is reported that he was not even aware that such a process was under way, even though the same reports making this accusation cite his submission before the UN committee just a day before the decision was announced; i. e, on December 9.
In that statement, Mr Haroon narrates at length the steps that the government of Pakistan was undertaking with respect to the arrest of Jamaat-u-Dawa leaders and activists, including freezing their assets, restricting their movements, and closing the offices of the organization. This was because the issue of adding the names of Pakistani individuals and organizations to the UN list of terrorist organizations and individuals had been on the agenda of the UN terrorism sanctions committee for quite some time. The Mumbai attacks only increased the urgency of expanding the said list.
In retrospect, it appears that even if Pakistan’s two envoys in America were the best of friends and coordinating their acts, and even if Mr Haroon was fully aware of the proceedings of the UN terrorism sanctions committee and acted proactively, it would have been difficult for Islamabad to prevent the addition of four of its citizens and three organizations to the UN list of terrorist individuals and terrorism-sponsoring organizations. In fact, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba was already banned in early 2002. Jamaat-u-Dawa came to the forefront as a lead relief entity during the October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan’s Kashmir and Frontier regions. Perhaps the reason why Lashkar-e-Tayyiba had to be once again added to the UN list was the conviction of the Security Council members that it had started to operate under the a new name.
Therefore, the so-called diplomatic fiasco at the UN might have happened even if Pakistan had posted career diplomats as ambasadors in Washington and New York. However, in that case, what a proactive diplomatic bid on the part of Pakistani envoys, especially at the UN, could have prevented is the potential marginalization of Kashmir dispute, which can be an indirect of the UN terrorism sanctions committee’s December 10 decision.
It is true that, on December 9, in his submission to the said committee, Mr Haroon did refer to the non-resolution of Kashmir dispute as a major cause of terrorist problem in the region and as well pointed out a 2000 massacre of Sikhs in disputed Indian Kashmir, which India had accused was carried out by Lashkar-e-Tayyiba but was eventually found through India’s own investigations to be linked to Indian intelligence. However, it can be argued that perhaps he failed to articulate the two issues in a way that could have balanced their importance with that of the counter-terror steps taken by the Pakistani regime in advance of the UN committee’s decision.
Insofar as the Indian habit of implicating Pakistan and Pakistan-based organizations in every act of destabilization that takes place inside India is concerned, the 2000 massacre of thirty and something Sikhs in disputed Kashmir was not the only incident in which New Delhi had wrongly accused Pakistan. The 2006 bombing of Samjotha Express, in which scores of Pakistanis traveling from Amritser to Lahore died, was again blamed on Pakistan, until Indian investigations implicated a serving Indian General as the architect of Samjotha bombing.
As for Kashmir dispute, that also needs to be placed in proper historical context. It is a fact that until late 1980s no act of terrorist violence took place in disputed Indian Kashmir. There were instances of mob violence, which cannot be described as terrorism. Terrorism in disputed Indian Kashmir began in the 1990s, as the jihad movement from Afghanistan spread its tentacles in the Kashmir region, often with the connivance of Pakistani authorities. Organizations such as Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad were an outgrowth of the same jihad wave in the region.
However, it is also a fact that in the post-9/11 period, a qualitative shift did occur in Pakistan’s strategic thinking in the region, including its Kashmir policy.
Pakistan’s official position until the terrorist events of 9/11 was that jihad or popular uprising in Indian-held Kashmir was merely a reaction to human rights violations being perpetrated on Kashmiri people by hundreds of thousands of Indian troops deployed there. In the aftermath of 9/11, especially after the 2002 crisis in India-Pakistan ties was defused with US intervention, Islamabad started making a number of overtures on Kashmir, most importantly President Musharraf’s four-point formula of settling it without implementing UN security Council resolution.
By doing so, Islamabad was basically reclaiming the essence of Kashmir struggle: securing the right to self-determination of Kashmir people, an issue that was marginalized by the jihad movement, which itself had no scope in the post-9/11 period in terms of forcibly securing Kashmir resolution. In early 2002, by banning Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad, and declaring that Pakistan will not allow its territory to be used by any organization to commit terrorism in any form and shape anywhere, including in disputed Kashmir region, Islamabad tried to preserve Kashmiri people’s right to self-determination and prevent its marginalization in the name of terrorism.
The current government faces the same challenge, which has become much graver in the aftermath of Mumbai attacks. It is not just India accusing Pakistan-based outfits of orchestrating the Mumbai terror attacks, the United States and the United Kingdom share India’s views. That is why British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and her deputy John Negroponte have all urged Pakistan to respond to the Mumbai attacks and do whatever it can to curb Pakistan-based groups accused by India of being involved in these attacks. Prime Minister Brown has even publicly named Lashkar-e-Tayyiba as the organization behind the attacks.
Now, by following through on the UN committee’s decision and, in fact, by implementing the decision before it was announced, the government has itself indirectly established that whatever India has been saying since the day the Mumbai attacks began is true. This, coupled with reported media revelations that terrorists involved in Mumbai attacks, including the sole survivour, hailed mostly from Pakistan ’s southern Punjab areas, seem to indicate the involvement of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba or Jammat-u-Dawa in these attacks.
But such circumstancial evidence needs to be investigated. Only investigation can transform a suspect into accused, and the accused then has to be tried in the court of law. So, currently, the most cruial issue is that of investigating the matter. It would have been better if India had agreed with Pakistan to initiate joint investigations. If these investigations had revealed the involvement of any of the individuals detained by Pakistani authorities, then Islamabad would have been legally bound to try them in the court.
Or, perhaps, the Indo-Pak collaboration in joint investigation of terror suspects could have facilitated the process for some sort of bilateral extradition arrangement or a similar multilateral agreement within the SAARC framework, whereby both sides could exchange each other’s terror suspects. However, given the acute lack of trust between the two traditional rivals, which four-year long peace process has not been able to overcome, India may not agree to Pakistani proposal of joint investigation nor can Pakistan be expected to hand over a number of terror suspects wanted by India.
The roots of India-Pakistan go back to 1947, in fact to the competing Hindu-Muslim extremisms that partitioned the Subcontinent that year and to a number of wars and skirmishes over Kashmir and host of other issues since then. Therefore, the traditional hostility that characterizes their relationship will take time to disappear.
However, this does not prevent India and Pakistan from doing what they can to sort out their internal mess, which allows al-Qaeda and inividuals and organizations linked to it or sympathetic to its cause to flourish, and expand its terrorist reach in South Asia.
India's internal situation has seen marked deterioration in recent years, including instances of Hindu terrorism against Muslims and significant growth in home-grown grievances among the Muslim minority. India is faced by a number of ethno-nationalist separatist movements. But they cannot be confused with what happened in Mumbai. What happened there has all the hallmarks of what al-Qaeda-inspired terrorist groups, which unfortunately have Muslim perpetrators, do: kill unarmed people deliberately to terrorize a wider population, to scuttle a country’s economy, and to derail its democratic growth.
On the other hand, the violence in north-east India can at best be termed as guerilla struggle, in which the various movements conduct violence against Indian security forces. As for Kashmir, it is a recognized international dispute, and, therefore, cannot be simplified as a terrorist problem. Had India responded to Pakistan’s many overtures on Kashmiri settlement during the recent peace process, we may not have seen its alleged hijacking once again by a Kashmir-specific Pakistan-based jihad outfit.
The Mumbai attacks have surely been carried out by the very forces of darkness which carried out the Marriott attacks and scores of terrorist attacks all across the world. It is the same regressive mentality that is responsible for the carnage of innocent people on 9/11 in the United States, and on 7/7 in London.
The Mumbai attacks underscore the criminal nature of terrorism and the barbarism that defines terrorists who commit such acts of violence and hatred. Just because terrorism occurred in a country which we do not like does not mean we should condone it. Whoever they are, the terrorists, like those who perpetrated the crimes in Mumbai, are the lowest form of humanity and do not deserve religious, social or cultural recognition from the leaders of their faiths, families, communities, or their home countries. They deserve criminal prosecution and eternal social and spiritual banishment.
Those who support terrorism are in violation of international laws, and exercise outright disregard for moral, spiritual and human decency. They should receive the full brunt of the legal and security apparatus of the nations of the world, as long as they continue to wage terrorism. Those who assist and provide refuge to terrorists are accomplices to the crimes committed against humanity, and are no better than the criminals whom they give comfort and support.
The above discourse on terrorism and its heinous nature is applicable to Pakistan as much as it is relevant for peoples and nations in the Middle East, South-East Asia or, for that matter, any other place of the world infested by the problem of terrorism. Whatever the motivations of terrorists, religious or otherwise, and regardless of the fact whether they are abusing Islam or justifying their acts on the basis of ethnicity and nationalism, terrorism as a deliberate atack on civilians is something that needs to be fought together militarily, legally as well as ideologically.
Apart from adopting immidiate measures to counter terrorism, since it poses an immidiate threat, there is need to take important long-term steps to eliminate the scourge of terrorism once and for all. The Indian government, for instance, needs to take important initiatives to settle Kashmir with Pakistan and improve the lot of Indian Muslims, if it wants to prevent them from linking up to al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda-inspired organizations in the region or within India itself.
Simultaneously, the international community needs to undertake proactive mediation defuse the latest and most severe India-Pak crisis. The two countries should revert to the peace process, which had made significant strides in the past four years. The peace process between the two countries and the War on Terror in Afghanistan and the region are too precious international and regional projects to lose. If they are, then it will be the victory of terrorists.
Last but not least, the time has come that we in Pakistan should once and for all come out of self-denial. There is an urgent need to acknowledge that something is seriously wrong within the country, to recognize that there are still people within us who are hell bent upon violating the sovereignty of the country and who have no respect for its borders, who cross them and undertake terrorist attacks abroad. We need to understand that these are the very people who conduct terrorist activities at home, who have turned Pakistan as the world’s foremost victim of terrorism in the years 2007 and 2008.
Given that, it is our responsibility as a nation to prevent any organization, be it Lashkar-e-Tayyiba or Jamaat-u-Dawa, from using our land to conduct terrorism against us, or against anyone in the region, including the Indians and the Afghans. This is an internal security challenge that we need to tackle urgently and seriously. In fact, by doing so, we may be better placed to project Kashmiri’s case for self-determination proactively at the global stage and seek its urgent international resolution.
Access column at weeklypulse.org