Beyond conspiracy theories
By Kaiser Bengali, Dawn, December 15, 2008
THE Mumbai massacre has been a shocking event for all civilised souls across the world, including those in Pakistan.
As is always the case, the search for responsibility began and, almost immediately, fingers were pointed at Pakistan. Equally promptly, denial followed from this end.
However, the world community appears to be accepting the Indian view and Pakistan is under enormous pressure from all quarters. The government has been aware of the gravity of the situation and the complete diplomatic isolation of the country. It has acted responsibly and has taken a series of measures on the domestic and diplomatic fronts to limit the damage.
Questions arise as to who could be responsible for this barbaric act and what could have been the motive. Three classes of conspiracy theories can be discerned. One, there is the Indian view that the perpetrators were Pakistanis and the attack originated in Pakistan. It is stated that Pakistan has been using non-state actors since the 1980s to forward its regional agenda in Afghanistan and Kashmir. In Afghanistan, their motive was to bring down the pro-Soviet, pro-India regime and to install a pro-Pakistan dispensation.
Post-2001 it is stated that these non-state actors have been operating with the support of rogue elements within the country’s intelligence agencies, meaning without official sanction. Their theatre of operation is now limited to Kashmir and to the occupying power, India, with the objective of bleeding India to the point of conceding Kashmir.
The second view is that the Mumbai attacks were executed by the Indian intelligence. India, it is said, has been unnerved by the sustained peaceful agitation for independence in Kashmir, aggravated by the sharp communal split in the held state. India’s claim that the Mumbai attackers had trained in camps in Azad Kashmir as well as implied threats that India could launch attacks on such camps are noteworthy in this respect. It is suggested that a successful Indian military operation in Kashmir would effectively exclude Pakistan as a party to the dispute and weaken the independence movement therein to enable India to force a political settlement on its own terms.
The third view is that the Mumbai operation was part of an Indo-Israeli-US conspiracy with the larger objective of denuclearising Pakistan. The immediate objective could be to prove to the world that the Pakistani security establishment is incapable of controlling the militant establishment which can hijack the country’s nuclear arsenal. If this is indeed the case, one can expect more such sponsored attacks.
The latter explanations may sound preposterous, given that half a dozen US and Israeli citizens and more than 100 Indians have been killed. This kind of modus operandi is, however, not unknown in the world of covert intelligence operations. Of course, it was necessary for the nature and scale of the attack to be audacious, the targets high profile and symbolic, and the death toll high if the desired ends were to be attained. The actual involvement of Pakistani nationals is irrelevant. Anybody in the world could have covertly hired any number of Pakistanis to carry out the operation for them.
Herein lies the catch for Pakistan. Of the above three scenarios, all of them may be true, none of them may be true, or some of them may be partly true. That, however, is not relevant. What is relevant is the fact that Pakistanis could have been hired by foreign elements. This implies that there are enough Pakistanis with the necessary ideological mentoring to be available for jihadist operations. And these jihadis do not emerge as individual products.
Clearly, there is an infrastructure with organisational, financial and operational resources to recruit, indoctrinate and train the jihadis. Clearly, such an infrastructure cannot exist and operate without an element of tolerance or support from powerful elements aligned to state agencies. Otherwise, how is it possible that sophisticated arms can be stockpiled in the centre of the capital city, Islamabad, enabling the ‘students’ of Lal Masjid/Jamia Hafsa to fight the Pakistan Army for days?
How is it possible that A.Q. Khan can engage in worldwide nuclear smuggling without the intelligence agencies deputed to protect him failing to discover his operations? How is it possible that hundreds of firearms are brought out and liberally used in clashes in Karachi and the intelligence agencies cannot identify the source and supply channels of such arms?
Apart from the bloody mayhem these outfits may or may not be causing in neighbouring countries, they have certainly torn Pakistani society apart.
Either the nation’s intelligence agencies are completely incompetent or totally complicit. If it is the former, then the country is in mortal danger. If a mere imam of a mosque can stockpile arms or if a high-security state official can smuggle sensitive material out of the country then it must be equally possible for an enemy country to smuggle in its agents and arms for internal sabotage in the event of a war. If it is the latter, then the criminal adventurism of the self-styled protectors of national interest is bestowing on the country international disdain and endangering its stability and security.
In the 1980s, the ‘non-state actors’ paradigm was used within the ambit of the US and western global strategy. Understandably, no aspersions were cast internationally with respect to the legitimacy of the means being employed. Of course, the paradigm was irresponsible and criminal then and is equally so now. The difference is that, in the current global scenario, US patronage is no longer available and this paradigm is simply unacceptable. The cost that Pakistan will have to pay for continuing such a course of action will be exorbitant.
It is likely that the stage can be set for US-led international forces to carry out an operation aimed at eliminating the presumed capacity to mount terrorist operations abroad — and to prevent nuclear weapons from falling into the wrong hands. Given, however, that India will be a partner in any such operation, an attempt will be made to disable our intelligence capability altogether. The implications for national security will be grave.
It would, therefore, be prudent for the country’s security leadership to undertake to renounce the highly counterproductive use of non-state actors as a policy tool and launch a full-fledged clean-up operation on their own initiative. An operation of some sort is currently underway. That is not sufficient. The leadership of jihadi organisations may appear fierce with their bushy beards and fiery rhetoric. However, a more potent danger is posed by their handlers. Pakistan’s security demands that these handlers be neutralised.
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