In crisis mode-Ahmad Rafay Alam

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Earlier this year, the governments of India and Pakistan were actually trying to sort out an easier visa process for travellers. Just the type of boring diplomatic work that countries that trust each other get themselves into.

On Nov 26, a heavily armed and expertly trained gang of terrorists plunged the great city of Mumbai into chaos, terrorised a nation and set a dangerous trajectory for the entire region.

At this stage of Pakistan’s existence, there is no long-term future without a working relationship with India. Not Delhi or North India. All of India.

At this stage, it is clear that the attackers had links to elements in Pakistan. The Indian press and media, which one has watched with such a sense of anguish these past few days, has made much of these links and is demanding blood. In Pakistan, the response has been to point to “non-state actors” and to demand “concrete evidence” of Indian allegations.

The Pakistani response needs to be examined. On the one hand, we seem to accept that we harbour elements in our society that participate in terrorism and which fuel a gradual Talibanisation of this country. On the other, we want “concrete” proof that this is happening. Why must we wait for cement to dry? International terrorism demands from us a reaction that is mature and sophisticated, not one which seems like it’s stalling for time.

At the same time, many Pakistanis I have spoken to about the Mumbai attacks seem to think that Indian aggression must be met with an equal response. This is a stupid and immature response which, if taken to its logical conclusion, can spell disaster for this entire region.

We have a population of 170 million growing rapidly and which, by 2030, will be as high as 300 million. There is massive urbanisation, so much so that by then we might see the very location of poverty – currently located in rural areas among farming communities according to the last Economic Survey – shift to our cities. We have static food production and, mismanagement has shown how current food production is not sufficient. Unless mismanagement is curbed and new technologies introduced, by 2030 our import bill will be strained because of the need to import basic grains and cereals. We have an energy shortage now, with an installed capacity of just over 20,000MW. By 2030, given our population growth, Islamabad predicts we will need something in the region of 162,000MW of installed capacity for electricity generation. It’s difficult to imagine how this can be achieved. Oil is too expensive and, ultimately, unsustainable. Hydel takes too long and can be politically difficult. There are external players at work when it comes to nuclear power or the IPI pipeline, and alternative energy doesn’t have the ability to contribute in any major way. Unless the potential of the Thar coalfields can be tapped in an equitable and environmentally sustainable way, Pakistan doesn’t have power for its future generations.

There is no way to escape this conclusion: that the future of Pakistan depends on a healthy working relationship with India and the emerging economic power it is. Anyone harbouring ideas of limited strikes and containment should be told to retire and take up gardening.

What surprises me is that, in response to violence that is not dissimilar from a US high school shooting (a bunch of crazies declaring war on a building), Indians and Pakistani have exchanged nothing but accusation and spoken war.

International terrorism of the type witnessed in Mumbai is sophisticated. It cannot be met with responses better suited to a Punjabi film or Spaghetti Western. The only way to beat international terrorism is to be smarter than it.

In 2001, when terrorists attacked the US, it responded by declaring war on the Taliban and occupying parts of Afghanistan. If one thing is clear from the experience of this event: invasion after attack does not affect the enemy. That Indians and Pakistani can’t learn from this, they are already playing into the hands of whoever was responsible for Mumbai.

Every step and reaction taken and made since the attacks in Mumbai seems to have been scripted. As if the terrorists had one goal in mind: to destroy the important relationship between India and Pakistan. So far, no alternative script exists. Unless we are smarter than the terrorists, we will continue along this dangerous trajectory we have locked ourselves into.

The Pakistani state can no longer have the luxury of “concrete evidence.” Because of the evil terrorism and extremism pose in our society, the Pakistani state must be quick to respond. It must be flexible. In response to international terrorism, it must be creative.

Pakistan should invite Indian investigators to Pakistan and carry out a joint investigation of evidence presented. It should arrest everyone it suspects of holding and aiding these terrorists. It must do so regardless of Indian demands. It must do it for the sake of its own future and security. Only by doing something bold and unique can it hope to break the dangerous trajectory that threatens to reduce to ashes the hard diplomatic work of the past 15 years.

The writer is an advocate of the high court and a member of the adjunct faculty at LUMS. He has an interest in urban planning. Email:

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