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Beware of Musharraf!

April 22, 2004

Jaws dropped, mouths drooled, and knees chattered -- hai! Ram!!, kya ho gaya yaar -- he'd done it again.

Just when it seemed, that Pakistan was ready for friendly behavior, Musharraf threatened us with a deadline on Kashmir. 'Yet another U-turn' screamed the headlines; analysts overnight came up with well-adjudged reasons for it all -- 'the MNNA status given to Pakistan by the US has made them more confident,' they claimed.

But the reality is that Musharraf has been making these threats for quite a few weeks now. As Asia Times told us many weeks ago: 'Lieutenant General Shahid Aziz, Corps Commander Lahore, who is tipped to be the next chief of army staff, criticized Pakistan's "softer" stand on Kashmir, which forced Musharraf to give a gentleman's promise that if India continues with its designs by not responding to Pakistan's initiatives, Pakistan will support the Kashmiri struggle with 'full heart and soul' from May when the snow starts melting.'

Of course, Musharraf has also convinced his cohorts, that the minimal acceptable good-faith response from India would be a 'Pakistan keeps all it's got, but India negotiates for the scraps it gets' plan, called the Chenab plan.

What gives -- wasn't Musharraf supposed to have turned over a new leaf, especially after the two genuine assassination attempts? Heck, one of my favorite essayists had this to say: 

'Well, having watched Musharraf carefully in Davos, where he became a star for being the Islamic world's most moderate leader, and having listened to his speech to Islamic scholars in Islamabad last week I have to say that he does appear to have changed. Not only does he no longer seem duplicitous when he renounces jihad as something that has brought a bad name to Islam but he seemed completely sincere when he told the Islamic scholars that Pakistan needed to prove to the world that it was no longer a country that promoted terrorism' -- (Indian Express, February 22)

Let me start with my contention then -- all this hand-wringing is misplaced -- Musharraf and Pakistan have not taken a U-turn at all; in fact they never took a turn for the better, in the first place.

Surely, I must be smoking weird stuff or a down and out fundoo of some sort -- after all, venerated opinion makers have been telling us about the warm fuzzies that's sweeping the two nations. Yeah! Right -- the good thing about opinions is that everyone has one and miraculously, most such opinions do not need to have any co-relation with facts.

Don't believe me -- consider the recent ruminations of a suave opinion-maker on this issue:

'Whilst in the last quarter century we, in India, have become cold and suspicious of our neighbor they, (the Pakistanis) on the other hand, have become more open and welcoming of us.'

That is his opinion, of course, and he is welcome to it -- unfortunately, the facts state that in the last quarter century, these same 'open and welcoming' people have killed off 100,000 Indian civilians. Ah, those pesky facts -- intruding on well-formed ideological opinions, once again.

So, I say -- show me the evidence; show me the ground realities. Only then will I believe in any of these apoplexies of bonhomie. Can we faithfully answer such simple questions,  as 'has the killing in Kashmir really gone down since the peace moves?' After all, a basic measure of good faith would be to stop killing the people that you're trying to be at peace with -- right?

Apparently, the answer to this simple question is an unequivocal NO!!. 

'Interestingly, February 2004 saw a marginal increase in violence compared with the same month of 2003. There were 60 attacks on security forces last month, compared with 53 in February 2003. 183 people died in terrorism-related violence, compared with 126 the previous year,' says Praveen Swami, a well-known security expert.

In other words, 57 more people have died this year in Kashmir, as compared to the same time last year. Of course, last year we were nearly at war with that nation, but this year we are at peace with Pakistan. As for those infiltration rates --don't worry, that too is being taken care of as IntelligenceOnline reports:

'Following the US decision to make Pakistan a "major non-NATO ally," the Indian Army and security forces have seen a perceptible heightening of terrorist preparations to infiltrate into Jammu and Kashmir once the snows melt, and officials say that General Pervez Musharraf is going back on his peace commitments to India.'

So, we have our first peace dividend data:

►    Peace Dividend #1 -- Terrorist related deaths have shown a sharp increase in peaceful February 2004 compared to February 2003, when near-war like conditions existed. Total deaths including those of terrorists went up by 45%; deaths of Indians civilians and security forces went up 76%

Enough chit-chat -- let's look at the evident ground realities of the last 6 months and tally up the other peace dividends.

No terrorism from Pakistani soil -- fact or fiction?

We were informed 'there would be no more terrorism against India from any territory controlled by Pakistan.' Of course, some of us even believed it. But, once again the facts are very different from our wishes, hopes and opinions. The basic facts, that I will point out is that not only are groups like Lashkar-e-Tayiba openly carrying out attacks on India, they hold public jihad meetings and have been going on nation-wide fund-raising campaigns for jihadi terrorism. Perhaps, the worst news is that, the political party that is in majority in two provinces and holds 20% of the seats in the National Assembly of Pakistan is openly trying to legitimise these terrorist groups, by incorporating them into the alliance called the MMA. The Pakistani weekly The Friday Times tells us, that

'Maulana Samiul Haq's faction of the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam (JUI-S) is devising a plan to widen the existing membership of Mutahidda Majlis-e-Amal, a six-party religious alliance. But the JUI-S is trying to play its hand cleverly. The party seems to be moving towards getting other groups in by going through the 'jihadi' groups. "We do not reckon Lashkar-e-Taiba (now Jama'at-ud-Dawa) and banned Jaish-e-Mohammad as enemy organizations and consider them as patriotic as anyone else in Pakistan," JUI-S Khan told TFT.'

However, the Lashkar's recent activities provides much more direct evidence. We were told 'India has made its continued participation in the peace talks contingent on Musharraf's efforts to crack down on groups such as Lashkar-e-Tayiba.'

Only during the few days of the SAARC summit, were there any restrictions put on the Lashkar -- its web site was shut down and its chief restrained from giving speeches for those days. In fact, even during those few days, an Indian journalist friend managed to have a skin-crawling encounter, when he paid a visit to the very open, very active Lashkar offices in Islamabad. Since the SAARC summit, things have gone back to normal, as you'll see [Hindu, February 24].

In fact, just about an hour after Indian and Pakistani diplomats meeting in Islamabad had proclaimed the successful conclusion of their first round of peace talks; talks made possible in part by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's solemn promise to put an end to the activities of the extremists waging war against India in Kashmir -- the Lashkar held a large jihadi meeting right in the middle of Islamabad.

The NYT put it thus: 'There was no way to hide the gathering of 500 or so solemn, heavily bearded men who had assembled alongside one of Islamabad's smartest shopping centers to hear him (Lashkar chief Hafiz Sayed) speak. Brightly colored carpets were strewn around the grass, and banners were strung up around the park extolling the virtues of the "jihad" being waged against Indian rule in Kashmir.'

Virulently anti-Indian speeches were topped by Hafiz Sayed who declared 'Beat the infidels so harshly that they run away,' probably referring to the minority populations who are being systematically cleansed out of Kashmir valley. Denouncing Musharraf's support for the United States in its proclaimed war against terrorism, Saeed told his supporters that the jihad for Kashmir 'will continue until Kashmir is free.' The Pakistani police simply looked on.

The contrast of these openly anti-India activities right along side the so-called peace talks, did not go unnoticed by the foreign press -- only that much of the Indian press missed it. As Amy Waldman tells us, 'The anti-Indian speeches at the park were a pointed contrast to what Pakistan's foreign secretary, Riaz Khokhar, described Wednesday as the "very constructive" atmosphere at the talks between him and his Indian counterpart, Shashank.'

Lying blatantly, Pakistani Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat openly defended the terrorist group 'Jamaat ul-Dawa (Lashkar) had not been banned because there is no credible substantive evidence that it is indulging in activities against the interest of Pakistan or using Pakistan as a base to harm the interest of people or governments or countries outside Pakistan.'

Same old story -- so, let us investigate that last statement.

A few weeks ago, three Lashkar Pakistanis, attempting to attack the international airport in Delhi were caught, interrogated and made available to some pressmen. Describing what they heard to be 'disturbing evidence of a renewed cross-border offensive by the Lashkar-e-Taiba,' The Hindu informed us about four separate 'specially-trained fidayeen (suicide squad) groups had been sent across the Line of Control since December, when India and Pakistan began observing a ceasefire. Members of these groups carried out attacks on a bus stand in Poonch and the Jammu railway station before initiating plans to hit the Indira Gandhi International Airport.'

The first group was almost completely decimated by Indian security forces. So, as The Hindu goes on to say, 'Lashkar commanders had earlier dispatched a second fidayeen squad led by Rashid, also a Karachi resident, in early December. This squad carried out the December 10 attack on the main bus stand in Poonch, killing three persons and injuring 10. One fidayeen was also killed in the course of the attack. Two other Lashkar cadres volunteered for the January 2 assault on the Jammu railway station. Four security force personnel were killed in this attack, in which both fidayeen who carried it out also died.'

The remnants of these two groups planned were then asked to carry out the attacks on IG airport, where the plan was to carry out a 'frontal attack on any of the three departure terminals, where passengers are not screened by security staff until after they enter the buildings.'

The third group was arrested in Delhi right before Republic Day, preventing a huge international fiasco. 'In an effort to replace these losses, a fourth fidayeen group attempted to cross the LoC two weeks ago at Dehri, in Poonch. Troops of the 25 Punjab Regiment intercepted this unit metres from the LoC, and killed five terrorists in a brief but fierce battle. The firing almost led to a showdown with Pakistani troops, said sources who also claimed that the terrorists bodies lay on their side of the LoC. Indian soldiers eventually recovered three bodies, while Pakistani troops took two.'

The evidence of Pakistani machinations in continuing big attacks in India is actually much broader than that. Asia Times has reported in the last few months about an 'a new recruitment campaign for militants -- to be used in cross-border raids into Indian-administered Kashmir' -- that has been started in all big cities. Throughout the last six peaceful months Lashkar has been never stopped its fund-raising, brazen terrorist attacks or its public recruitment drives. Throughout the winter months of October through January, the Jaish-e-Mohammad supremo was engaged in country-wide jihad conferences to raise money and awareness for jihadi-terrorism in Kashmir.

Zulfiqar Shah expresses surprise at Maulana Masood Azhar's 'recent countrywide tour to address a number of widely publicised jehad conferences' and goes on to say 'Masood Azhar's tour -- widely considered as a major proof of the resurgence of jihadi activity …raises questions as to whether it could have taken place without the government's consent. "The tour has established that he enjoys the state support," says an analyst who wanted not to be named. "It's astonishing that on one hand Musharraf says he is against jihadis and on the other hand he has given Masood Azhar free hand to hold jihad congregations throughout Pakistan," says Iqbal Hyder, former minister for law and parliamentary affairs and executive council member of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. "Masood has been operating under complete patronage of government agencies," he claims.'

Describing one such conference that took place in Karachi, the author says 'Followed by wide publicity though pamphlets, posters and banners all around the city, the conference was able to attract thousands of people to come and listen to him. Even the city government headed by Jamaat Islami's Naimatullah Khan, which otherwise is very quick in removing unauthorised advertisement banners and hoardings, gave the organisers free hand for the publicity of the conference. Contrary to past practice when Jaish's functions were closed for many people especially media, Masood Azhar's jehad conference in Karachi was an open event. The way it was publicised clearly showed that the organisers wanted to draw as many people as they could. Masood Azhar, who has renamed his organisation as Pyam-e-Islam, has addressed similar conferences attended by thousands of people in Hyderabad and Nawab Shah in Sindh and Lahore and other cities in Punjab'

Today, Masood Azhar is supposed to be on the run, due to his involvement in internal terrorist acts, but most Pakistani newspapers claim that he is hiding in the open under the protection of a Punjab minister. None of these leaders of terrorist groups have been arrested or have had their activities curtailed within Pakistan.

The denial of course, goes on at all levels -- speaking to an Aussie television station, Musharraf went to bat for the Lashkar with 'Lashkar-e-Tayiba is not threatening anybody. Who has told you that they are threatening anybody?' and even denied the now well-reported arrests of Lashkar honchos in Iraq -- pretty much like he'd given 400% denials about any nuclear proliferation from Pakistan 2 years ago!!

►  Peace Dividend #2 -- Anti-India terrorist groups still receive Pakistani government support and encouragement; these groups, especially the Lashkar, are raising funds in public, recruit openly, disseminate terror propaganda, carry out nation-wide jihad conferences and plan/carry out attacks on India; worse still, they are now being legitimized through incorporation into powerful political parties and of course the denial continues.

NEXT: Why are the jihadis targeting children?


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Arindam Banerji

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