Save Pakistan, save the world

December 27, 2008

US investment in Pakistan’s textile, technology and education sectors could help nudge the country away from terrorism. Feisal Hussain Naqvi in the Guardian:

International attention has focused on Pakistan like never before in the weeks following the Mumbai attacks. To quote Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and adviser to President-elect Barack Obama: “All of the world’s nightmares come together in Pakistan.”

Assuming the world does not have the option of turning its back on the country, what can it do to help Pakistan?

The short answer is that Pakistan needs economic assistance. The militant extremists who wreak havoc are, for the most part, unemployed and frustrated young men.

If the Pakistani people – as opposed to the Pakistani military – were given tangible, visible economic assistance, it would go a long way toward winning over a suspicious populace. After all, starving Pakistanis cannot eat the F-16s sold to their armed forces.

With that in mind, here are three suggestions.


Steel amid adversity: Tata after Mumbai

December 22, 2008

Joe Leahy reports from Mumbai in Financial Times:


Ratan Tata was at home in south Mumbai late on November 26 when the call came. On the line was a frantic R.K. Krishna Kumar, head of the Tata group unit that owns the city’s luxury Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel.

The unthinkable had happened, Mr Kumar told the Tata chairman. Terrorists had taken over the Taj, the 105-year-old wedding cake-like structure on Mumbai’s waterfront that was built by Mr Tata’s great-grandfather and is the pride of India’s largest private sector group. Scores had been killed. The building was on fire.

Unable to leave his apartment that evening because of the chaos on the streets, Mr Tata made it to the group’s stately south Mumbai headquarters, Bombay House, the following day. As the country’s politicians engaged in a blame game, Mr Tata was one of the few public figures who seemed to strike the right tone on the attacks. He bluntly criticised the state’s lack of preparedness while expressing grief for those killed.

“This is a very, very unfortunate situation which none of us are going to forget. My message really is that the government and state authorities should also not forget,” he told journalists on the steps of Bombay House.


Edgy but defiant, Mumbai inches towards normality as hotels scarred by terror reopen

December 22, 2008

Eight priests from across faiths conduct ceremony to emphasise city’s unity. Randeep Ramesh in the Guardian:


The newly reopened Taj Mahal hotel lights up the Mumbai seafront. AFP

The newly reopened Taj Mahal hotel lights up the Mumbai seafront. AFP



Until gunmen entered the Taj Mahal hotel in the early hours of 26 November, Praful Patel had known no other home for 16 years. Room 1017 was his residence, a sanctuary from which he ran his investment business amid statues of his favourite Hindu deity, Ganesha, the elephant-headed “remover of obstacles”.

During those hours Patel, who is British, “died more than once” as the sound of gunfire and explosions reached the bed he hid in. Indian commandos rescued him the next day, walking him out through pools of blood.

Last night he checked back into his room, part of a collective act of defiance against the gunmen whose rampage left more than 170 dead. Guests had been allowed back in the Taj’s modern wing, and its 268 rooms bore no trace of the violence inflicted. The blood stains around the swimming pool had been cleared, the grenade blast in the cafe was a distant memory and the bullet holes in the lobby were nowhere in sight.


Risk factors

December 17, 2008

George Packer in the New Yorker:

taj_sketchA few days after well-armed men mowed down scores of helpless people in Mumbai, an American commission released a report on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. “World at Risk” is one of those conscientious, bipartisan efforts, its importance signalled by publication as a trade paperback, whose sober findings and pragmatic recommendations momentarily give you the sense that every problem-even one as alarming as the likelihood that “a weapon of mass destruction will be used in a terrorist attack somewhere in the world by the end of 2013”-has a common-sense solution. The report includes chapters on biological and nuclear risks, and one titled “Pakistan,” which would seem to suggest that the nation itself is a kind of W.M.D.

According to intelligence reports, the attacks in Mumbai were carried out by terrorists who had received extensive training from the Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e-Taiba, or Army of the Pure. Its agenda has been to force India to give up control over the disputed northern mountain region of Jammu and Kashmir. More recently, the group’s leader, Hafiz Saeed, spoke of creating a Muslim south Asia-thus, the band that carried out the killings called itself the Hyderabad Deccan Mujahideen, implying a holy war extending down to the south-central Indian region that, in the late eighteenth century, marked the farthest limit of the Mughal empire.


Why Kashmir holds the key

December 16, 2008

Resolving the Kashmir dispute would help Pakistan to end its support for Islamist separatists implicated in the Mumbai attacks. Muzamil Jaleel in the Guardian:

So the key question is: why is it impossible for Pakistan to hand over Lashkar founder and Jamat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Mohammad Sayeed to New Delhi when it did not hesitate to arrest Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and other key al-Qaida operatives for the Americans?

In a word, Kashmir. The Kashmir dispute is at the core of Pakistan’s very existence. Unlike Afghanistan, Kashmir has traditionally been a major influence on Pakistan’s domestic as well as foreign policy. While Pakistan did launch a crackdown after the attack on the Indian parliament, it continued to insist that this shift did not mean abandoning its support for separatists in Kashmir.

There is another important aspect to this contradiction, which has more to do with ideological and demographic differences between the Taliban and Lashkar movement. The Taliban, in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, is primarily based on the Deobandi school of thought, while Lashkar is Salafi. While Deobandis in Pakistan seek the establishment of an Islamic state and support a jihad against the establishment, Salafis do not support rebellion against the government in a Muslim country and rather advocate reform to turn the ruling elite into “Muslims at heart”.


Boozy and raucous, a cafe in Mumbai defies terror

December 15, 2008

Mumbai’s Leopold Cafe has become a sort of shrine of defiance against terrorism. Thomas Fuller in the New York Times:

The bullet holes at Leopold Cafe.

The bullet holes at Leopold Cafe.

Some day, Farhang Jehani might patch up the bullet holes and cover the shrapnel pockmarks. But for now they are the Leopold Cafe’s new décor.

“We are going to let it be,” Mr. Jehani said over the din of his crowded restaurant, where eight people were killed in the Mumbai terrorist attacks last month. “It’s part of history.”

In the two weeks since the attacks, this Mumbai neighborhood of narrow streets shared by street urchins and the well-to-do has staggered back onto its feet. But at the Leopold, it is often standing room only.

The restaurant has become a sort of shrine of defiance against terrorism. That, at least, is how Mr. Jehani portrays it. “I want it to go on the same way, as if nothing has happened,” he said.


The confessions of Mumbai terrorist

December 14, 2008

As Ajmal Ameer Kasab, the only terrorist caught alive for the attack, gives details of his indoctrination and training, Sagnik Chowdhury pieces together the terror plot against Mumbai. From the Sunday Express:


Ajmal Amir Kasab, the face of the Mumbai attacks. Photo: Reuters

In 2005, however, Kasab had a fight with his parents and walked out of his home, taking to robbery and dacoity to earn money. Kasab’s recruitment into the terror fold began in mid-2006 when he wanted to buy a firearm and was asked to contact an LeT operative in Rawalpindi. It was through this contact that he was introduced to top leaders in the terror outfit and radicalised through sustained indoctrination by Zaqi-ur-Rehman Lakhvi. Kasab has told interrogators that the ten terrorists were handpicked from a larger group and that they attended training camps at Mansera, Muridke, Muzaffarabad and a location near Karachi. Top LeT operatives, identified as Abu Hamza-said to be involved in the December 2005 attack on the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore-and Kahafa were in charge of their training.

“Kahafa was a sort of course co-ordinator and was constantly shepherding the group. Hamza was involved during the advanced training in firearms and explosives,” says Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Rakesh Maria, the officer in charge of the investigations.

LeT commander Hafiz Saeed too visited the group during their training. According to the Crime Branch, several of the handlers at the different training camps were names that had been dropped by arrested operatives of the Indian Mujahideen when grilled about their training in Pakistan.



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