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Pakistan's lies, exposed again
Vijay Dandapani
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April 12, 2007
Zahid Hussain, the Pakistan correspondent for The Times, London, and The Wall Street Journal, was in New York recently for the release of his slender yet highly revelatory book, titled Frontline Pakistan.

Speaking at the offices of the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, Hussain noted how journalists in Pakistan are subjected to a relentless rollercoaster of news items, the latest being the summary ouster of Pakistan's chief justice.

Narrowing his brows and lowering his voice slightly, Hussain suggested President Pervez Musharraf had crossed the Rubicon and, this time, bitten off more than he could chew.

While the uproar that followed the sacking has been unceasing, it is not clear, yet, that it poses an existential threat to the Musharraf Presidency.

Nevertheless, Hussain's eminently readable book offers much that is of interest to India and Indians, not the least of which is the thinly reported account of how Indian intelligence had alerted General Musharraf of the first attempt to kill him by blowing up a bridge in Rawalpindi his Presidential motorcade was to pass over.

While Hussain does not name any source for the startling revelation, Indians may feel a varying mixture of pride and anger on reading it.

That Indian intelligence is one better than its Pakistani counterpart on Pakistani soil may be a hard one to swallow for a neutral observer. If true, it is highly commendable but also arguably indicative of the Indian establishment buying into the widespread and mistaken belief in the United States administration that Musharraf represents the dam that holds back a sea of Islamic terrorists.

Very early in the book, Hussain lays out, in considerable detail, the extent of Pakistan's involvement and active support for terrorism by trying to 'Islamise a secular separatist movement' in Kashmir.

There is an account of how the bearded, 'born-again' Muslim fundamentalist General Javed Nasir, as head of the Inter-Services Intelligence, widened the role of the nefarious spy agency beyond Kashmir including in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts.

Prior to 9/11, the Indian government loudly protested cross-border terrorism at virtually every international forum, but to no avail. The book lays bare the truth underlying those accusations.

The author's account of the founding of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba by Hafiz Saeed and its 'close coordination' with the ISI to launch terrorists into Kashmir across the Line of Control makes chilling reading, given the murderous outcomes that followed.

Hussain dryly mentions the 'hundreds of LeT centres operating openly across the country.'

These centres drew recruits not merely from the unemployed but also from university students, thereby giving the lie to the still-repeated myth of an absence of education and material comforts being a contributory factor to terrorism.

Interestingly, most Lashkar terrorists are Pakistani Punjabis with few, if any, Kashmiris in their ranks.

Even more tellingly, the author notes how the Lashkar and its new incarnation get a relatively free pass from the Pakistani State as they abjure violence against it.

Frontline Pakistan documents numerous other malevolencies originating from Pakistan that have had a devastating effect on India and other neighbouring countries, notably Afghanistan.

Many of them, such as the sponsorship of the Taliban, are well known and need no repeating.

While, in the end, Hussain argues it is time for Musharraf to go, the book does portray the president as being between the horns of a dilemma not entirely of his making. That ought to evoke little sympathy from dispassionate observers, as it is hard to make a case for the continuance of a military dictator regardless of country.

At the Carnegie Council, after a somewhat laboured primer on Pakistan's politics and the terrorist nexus, Hussain took questions and mingled with the audience of Americans, Indians, Pakistanis and an assortment of nationalities seeking to understand what makes Pakistan a continual, if often unwelcome, presence on daily newswires.

Geography, a frequent if somewhat facile answer, was one response. Hussain, like many in the Pakistani intelligentsia, also offered other explanations -- like feudalism and the pernicious influence of US aid.

But he too danced around the principal fault line of the Pakistani State, its deeply ingrained Islamic (Sunni) identity. The exclusionary worldview it spawns is evidenced by the systematic reduction in numbers of its minorities.

The resultant lack of intermingling is not limited to people but also ideas, and Pakistan's polity reflects that.

When asked to autograph his book, Hussain was unable to spell Vijay, a virtually ubiquitous name. In contrast, it is hard to think of almost anyone, Indian or otherwise, having difficulty spelling Hussain.

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