Friday, December 12, 2008

Terror in Mumbai: Understanding Pakistan

Terror strikes in Mumbai

The recent Mumbai terror strikes that struck India were ghastly. Nearly 200 people, ordinary Indians, few foreigners, and many police and soldiers of India, died in different locations in Mumbai. Many Indians do not know why it happened. Indians stood flabbergasted, while the terrorists were satisfying their appetite for creating havoc and terror in the minds of Indians, which they did successfully.

It’s not that Mumbai hasn’t seen terror strikes before. But this one was different from all the previous ones. This time around, it was seen live, as it was unfolding. It was dramatic- the terrorists were acting and operating while the TV crews were filming them. It was right from the movie script – few terrorists land on Indian shores using boats, carrying loads of ammunition, spraying bullets, hurling grenades, targeting various designated spots.

Many Indians, even those who normally do not watch news, were glued to TV watching the live action for three days, terrorized and traumatized.

Role of Pakistan

Even before the dust had settled, everyone in India, and even the West, had already started to see the role of Pakistan. There was enough evidence to suggest that the terrorists originated their journey in Pakistan. They may not have the official sanction of the Pakistan state, but still, the plan may have been hatched in Pakistan. Now, India and the US are pressurizing Pakistan to act. The Prime Minister of Pakistan looks like he wants to act, but he looks so unsure. Will he act this time around? Will it be another eye wash exercise where the masterminds behind this carnage will be nabbed, put under house arrest and then released at a later date? It’s not like it didn’t happen before. Is Pakistan serious this time?

For those who ask these questions in India, the answers are actually very clear. What are those answers? For that we need to understand Pakistan.

Idolizing Terrorists

Pakistan has for many years glorified the terrorists who fight on behalf of Pakistan. In fact, this behavior originated during creation of Pakistan itself – when a group of tribes were armed and sent into India by Pakistan to force accession of Kashmir. For all these years, Pakistan has resorted to using its civilians, sometimes its soldiers dressed as civilians, to attack or infiltrate India. The same tactics were also used in Afghanistan.

The rest of the world may call them terrorists but that’s not what Pakistanis call them. They are called mujahideen, the freedom fighters. They are not the villains. They are heroes. In a country that did not produce good heroes legitimately, except in Cricket, these terrorists who killed and died to further the interest of the nation became the heroes, the idols, the stars. They are the sacrificing self-less youth who are ready to give up their lives for the service of this nation that suffered from identity crisis since its inception. What cause can be greater than sacrificing oneself for the nation? It’s called patriotism, and it is a great virtue in many nations, including India.

The way Indians revere and idolize Bhagat Singh, Azad, et al, Pakistanis hail and revere leaders like Masood Azhar, the heads of Jaish-e-Mohammed, LeT, etc. These are the men who don’t just sit around and talk or give speeches like the politicians, but they are the ones who actually act, ready to give up their lives in the process.

Will Indians ever renounce their respect for Bhagat Singh and Azad just because some foreign country asks us to criminalize them? Not really. When a nation has carefully constructed heroes to get the mileage out of them they cannot go back on that campaign to renounce them at a later date.

For many generations, Pakistanis idolized these terrorists who were waging a war against India for a very noble cause – to free Kashmiris from the clutches of evil India. While their government showed tepid enthusiasm, vacillating between supporting them and then renouncing them, these fighters, these valiant men, carried on the fight for the sake of nation, and Pakistanis will not forget those heroes.

Will Pakistan act?

Will Pakistan suddenly start acting against these terrorists just because US and India are forcing them to do so?

Pakistan has never trusted India. Pakistanis have been taught to mistrust everything that India does. Why should they trust India now? According to Pakistanis, India has backtracked itself from so many promises. Not only did it usurp Kashmir which rightfully belonged to Pakistan, it even broke off their nation to create Bangladesh. Pakistan has never trusted the West either. Why should they? First they support their military, and then they put restrictions on Pakistan, they even try to stop their much acclaimed nuclear program.

AQ Khan, father of Pakistan’s nuclear program, was revered and respected by Pakistanis the way Abdul Kalam is revered and respected by Indians. A good deal of media attention focused on him to make him a hero. So, when a ‘cooked up story’ from the West, that AQ Khan actually stole nuclear secrets from someone else, makes rounds in the international media, it falls on blind eyes and deaf ears in Pakistan. It’s like Indians reacting to an allegation that Abdul Kalam learnt his rocket secrets from the West. Would Indians ever accept it?

So, when the West coerced Pakistan to defame AQ Khan and house arrest him, Pakistanis were indignant, they rose up in anger against their own leaders who have bowed down to the pressures of the wily West that cooks up fantastic stories to defame Pakistani heroes.

Not only Pakistan but many other countries outside Western world find the West to be deceiving and lying. The West and the allies of West may forget their cooked up stories as foibles. But the non-West does not forget them. Remember the time when Colin Powell walked up to the UN and submitted photographs of evidence that Iraq had nuclear weapons to make a case to invade Iraq? That war led to killing of nearly half a million innocent people. Later, we find out that those photographs were a fake, and therefore that invasion was based on a premise that was a blatant lie, a fabrication. There were no nuclear weapons. That may appear to be a minor inconvenience to the West. The non-West looks at it as flagrant violation of everything that is decent.

So, when the West alleges that AQ Khan stole secrets, Pakistanis don’t believe it. They think it is a cooked up story to malign and denigrate their hero, and along with him the whole of Pakistan. They refuse to accept it. And yet, when their government bends down to the carry out the orders from the West, they completely lose trust in their leaders. Pakistani hates their political leaders for this and all other acts of such cowardice.

Politicians are hated by all in the subcontinent

Pakistan’s leaders have done volte face so many times that nobody has a count on it. First they supported and aided the terrorists into India, then they renounced them, then they embraced them, later they arrested them, and they let them go free, and so on. Pakistan’s leadership has done a volteface, then volteface on the volteface, and then volteface on the last volteface, so on, that they don’t even know where they stand. But people of Pakistan know where they stand. Just like Tamils of India do not forget where their allegiances lie, even after the volte face that India did on the Tamil’s struggle for freedom in Sri Lanka, Pakistani people do not change their opinion about these terrorists. They hero worship these terrorists and they are not going to let some wily politicians sway their opinion.

When Mumbai terror strikes were happening, many Indians outpoured their angst against Indian politicians. Many Indians carried placards which denounced the Indian politicians. Ordinary Indians came on TV to berate Indian politicians. Many readers wrote to newspapers to stand up against Indian politicians. So much was the anger against Indian politicians that if an observer saw the proceedings he may even believe that Indian politicians were the masterminds behind what happened in Mumbai.

Indian politicians are seen as incompetent, wily, crafty, and corrupt. Pakistanis politicians are seen, in addition to the above, as traitors, bowing down to the West, betraying their own people to please the West, and backstabbing their own people to sell out to the West. Indian leaders are at least spared the ignominy of bowing down to the West and selling out their nation. Pakistanis hate their politicians ten times stronger than Indians hate their politicians.

What to expect from Pakistan

India cannot expect anything in the short term from Pakistan. In fact, all this pressure on Pakistan to rein in the terrorists is counter-productive. The stronger the administration of Pakistan acts against these outfits coming under coercion from India and US, the stronger will people of Pakistan support their fallen heroes. Pakistan has to learn its lessons, on its own. The way Indians would not like to be taught lessons by others, Pakistanis wouldn’t like it either.

It is important for Pakistan to look at itself in the mirror, find its identity which is not based in anti-India hatred. It has to look within and correct itself. Nobody can correct it for them. Any external measure would be counter-productive.

All this talk of India making surgical strikes against terror camps in Pakistan is empty rhetoric. Everyone knows that these terrorist camps cannot be destroyed just like that. We ask Pakistan to ban an outfit. They comply. Everyone in Pakistan knows that they will regroup as some other outfit under a new name. It is as simple as that. There is no dearth of names. Destroying their dwelling does not make any difference. They will just take the sign board and move to a new office.

Unless Pakistan is serious about what they really want to do, no coercion will help. And it is time for Pakistan to save themselves from homegrown terrorists who have become Frankenstein monsters. Bomb blasts, killings, massacres, assassination of national leaders is now a common phenomenon in Pakistan. Ultimately it is Pakistan which has to pay the price for allowing the hero worship of these terrorists. They have to learn to let go the practice of hero worship of such criminals – whether the crime is against friends or foes.

Lessons from Pakistan

Instead of learning lessons from Pakistan, India is exactly following the footsteps of Pakistan. Instead of criminalizing Sadhvi and Purohit, the alleged masterminds behind bomb blasts in Malegoan and other places, Indian Hindu outfits have eulogized them. Very soon, we may see the pictures of Sadhvi and Purohit next to Bhagat Singh and Azad. They will join the pantheon of constructed national heroes who have refused to bow down to the onslaught of alien religions, and who sacrificed to uphold the great Bharat Sanskruti.

Instead of distancing itself, Indian Hindu parties have come out in the open to defend these masterminds. So do many Indian Hindus. These alleged conspirators are already seen as defenders of Hindu (Indian) faith. They are seen as the real actors when everyone around them is a mere talker. These are the real sacrificing heroes while Indian politicians, who are willing to put them in jails succumbing to Indian secularists, are the villains.