India continues to contend that it has handed over sufficient evidence to Pakistan to prove that non-state actors in Pakistan were responsible for the recent attacks in Mumbai — probably linked to the Jama’at-ud Dawa (JuD) and the banned erstwhile Lashkar-e Tayba (LeT) — and that now India is waiting to see what action Pakistan takes. India has back-pedalled to the extent that it no longer insists on those it has accused to be handed over but awaits their trial by Pakistan.
While Pakistan continues to contend that no tangible evidence has been provided to it, the Pakistani government has begun its own investigations domestically and, as a pre-emptive move, raided locations of JuD and other suspect organisations, arresting numerous leaders; amongst them a senior commander of the LeT, Zakiur Rahman Lakhvi, of Arab origin but residing in Pakistan.
Although Lakhvi was not on the list of those wanted by India, Pakistani intelligence authorities believe him to have masterminded the attacks in Mumbai — to this extent, it appears that the government of Pakistan has accepted the fact that JuD may be responsible for the attacks.
It is essential here to clarify that with regards to incidents of terrorism, there is never likely to be incontrovertible evidence ‘beyond a shadow of doubt’, as demanded by normal criminal law. For instance, if Lakhvi is indeed the mastermind, his instructions are likely to have been conveyed through a conduit, who is unlikely to be able to identify the person from whom he received his orders. Thus, it is possible that while a link with individual(s) of JuD could be established, it is highly unlikely that sufficient evidence that could convict the mastermind in any worthwhile court could ever be found.
However, let us address the issue as it stands. If Pakistani non-state actors were responsible for these acts, what was the purpose of the attack? Since it becomes necessary to conjecture in seeking an answer to this question, it is best to look at the consequences of these attacks.
The first consequence is an immediate deterioration in Indo-Pak relations and a scuttling of the peace process. The second consequence is increased international pressure on Pakistan to ‘do more’, resulting in increasing domestic instability in Pakistan, bound to impact on our (already) lethargic economic growth. The third consequence is an increased religious divide in India, encouraging Hindu extremists to respond against Indian Muslims and vice versa. In effect, all three consequences have further destabilised the entire region, including Afghanistan.
If we accept the assumption that JuD is responsible, even if the evidence against it is, at best, circumstantial, and if the destabilisation of the region was their intent, even those who planned these attacks could not have imagined the extent to which they would be successful.
If this was the intent, the question again arises: why? Why should JuD seek to destabilise the region? Let us not forget that each of these Muslim organisations involved in terrorism or religious extremism have links with Al Qaeda and that Al-Qaeda’s enemy number one is no longer the US, but Pakistan, a fact acknowledged by American analysts.
Osama bin Laden’s self stated dream is to instigate the Muslims of the world to rise in, what he conceives would be, a worldwide Jihad to oust the current ‘corrupt and un-Islamic’ Muslim leadership, defeat the dominating Kafir Empire, i.e. the US, bring back the Caliphate and impose sharia. He can’t be accused of small dreams!
To this end, he started with Afghanistan and, having created the chaos he desired, feels that US/ISAF forces in Afghanistan are in a ‘no win’ situation there. Therefore, he is now in a position to extend this chaos to Pakistan. However, Pakistani forces were giving him battle and, despite the negative consequences of continued US drone attacks, were recapturing area(s) that had succumbed to extremists, and were in the process of re-establishing the writ of the state.
This one attack which, due to the unnecessarily harsh Indian reaction, forced Pakistani security forces to look westward, and the resultant diversion has allowed the extremists to consolidate their positions in Swat as well as Waziristan, which can only add to our difficulties. That, in the process, they have destabilised India and may force further confrontation between Indian Muslims and Hindus, would be the icing on their cake.
One can understand the increasingly hard-line reaction on all sides, with India supporting the anti-state forces operating in Pakistan and Pakistani citizens being responsible for the carnage in Mumbai. But if we can understand why such incidents occur and that the increasingly hard line taken on both sides is exactly what such attacks are intended for, perhaps saner minds could prevail. The truth is that the future of Pakistan and India is linked by an umbilical cord and that includes the issue of terrorism.
We can chose to enjoy each opportunity offered by the other to reverse the peace process and become as jingoistic as possible, or we can begin to understand that we will sink or swim only together, not alone.
The author is a retired brigadier. He is also former vice president and founder of the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI)
Reproduced by permission of DT.