Sarabjeet Singh: The case of mistaken Identity, must not be hanged

PAKISTAN SUPREME COURT has rejected the mercy plea of the Indian prisoner, accused of Lahore bombing in 1990. Sarabjeet’s news is often in the news and that made me curios to know more about the case. I was doing a fair bit of reading on the same. Yesterday, a news channel has also started a campaign to save Sarabjeet. The family of Sarabjeet is toiling hard for the last 18 years.

What I have got to read from various sources creates an impression that Sarabjeet is being punished for the crime, which he never committed. Sarabjeet is accused for espionage and is labeled as the man behind the Lahaore Bomb blasts in 1990. He was awarded death sentence by a Lahore anti-terrorism court in October 1991, for allegedly carrying out serial bomb blasts in Lahore and Multan in Pakistan. But this case is definitely of mistaken identity. Pakistani security agencies say that he is Manjit Singh who is sought for the bomb blast case. But the fact is that Sarabjeet is a resident of Bhikhiwind, a border village in India’s Amritsar district, strayed into Pakistan territory in an inebriated state. Even the officals in Paksitan also claim the same.

Writing in Pakistan’s The News in an opinion piece titled ‘Why Sarabjeet Singh must not be hanged’ (some years back), Senator Farhatullah Babar of the Pakistan People’s Party has linked Sarabjeet’s case to that of Alfred Dreyfus — a Jewish captain in the French Army who was banished in 1894, after being accused of being a spy but was allowed to return home in 1906 when the charge was found to be untrue. “We may have serious differences with the Indians but it must not persuade us to hang every Indian at the drop of a hat. Sarabjeet Singh’s trial must not be allowed to become our national embarrassment as was the Dreyfus trial in France. He must not be hanged,” Babar, a close aide of former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, said.

The key witness of this case, Salim Shaukat also said in an interview that he was forced to identify Sarabjeet as perpetrator. Rediff carried his interview and he said, “I was told by the (prosecution) lawyer that I should identify Sarabjeet as the main accused in the serial blasts and I did it,” said Salim Shaukat, cited as the main witness in the Lahore bombing, in which his father was killed. He admitted that he had not seen the accused as he had fainted during the blast. Acknowledging that he was forced to give such a testimony, he told Indian TV channels, Star News and Aaj Tak, from Lahore that “I am not sure if he is responsible for the blasts…. I was asked to say that I had seen him. But I had not seen him as I had fainted at the time of the incident. The moment I identified him as the accused, Sarabjeet asked me to swear by the Quran but I declined to do so. Sarabjeet kept looking at me after my statement but I was helpless as I was under the influence of law enforcement agencies,” Salim said in reply to questions.

Pakistan’s leading human rights activist Ansar Burney is also of the view that hanging Sarabjeet Singh would be tantamount to murder of humanity as the Indian national had been convicted without any substantial evidence. “I cannot allow the government to hang Sarabjeet Singh on the basis that he is a non-Muslim and non-Pakistani and because of pressure from extremist fundamentalist groups,” he said.

There is no doubt that Sarabjeet’s case had become a matter of prestige for the law-enforcement authorities in Pakistan. They have cooked up spying charges against him and produced false witness to ensure his conviction. There is also pressure from extremists also. Sometime back Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, chief of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the parent wing of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, has come out against any move to free death row prisoner and Indian national Sarabjeet Singh.

In a statement posted on the Jamaat website, Saeed said, freeing Sarabjeet would be equivalent to ‘ridiculing’ the country’s courts.

Ansar Burney is going to file the petition again for acquittal of Sarabjeet Singh. It is extremely disappointing that his petition as dismissed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan because the counselor of Sarabjeet failed to turn up for the hearing. Rana Abdul Hamid, the lawyer who was representing Sarabjeet, had been unable to appear in court after he was appointed last year an additional advocate general by Punjab province. The family of Sarabjeet is running from pillars to post to get him freed. It is of vital importance that the government of India urges Pakistan to set free the innocent man who has already served over 18 years in Kot Lakhpat Jail of Lahore. This case of Sarabjeet is now a national case and we must urge the government to pursue for immediate release of Sarabjeet. We must also support Pakistan Human Rights Activist Ansar Burney in his battle to secure freedom for Sarabjeet.

References for this post has been taken from REDIFF

Muslims in India after the 26/11 attacks

Muslims across the country are a worried lot post 26/11. Whenever there has been a terror strike in the country, Muslims are subject to suspicion and discrimination from the other communities and investigating agencies. Their loyalty to India is doubted. Unfortunately, some elements from both the communities (Hindus and Muslims), along with the dubious political class always ensures that there is continuous rift between the two communities so that may take advantage of it.

The common man is full of anger post-Mumbai attacks and Muslims too are not leaving any stone unturned to condemn the terror attacks. Even the celebration of E’id was scaled down. They want to present their viewpoint that terrorists are enemies not only of humanity, but also of the country, Indian Muslims and Islam. The clerics of the community have also refused to allow the burial of terrorists in any of their graveyard. “The bodies of these inhuman plotters against our motherland must not be buried anywhere on the Indian soil,” they said.

Terrorism in India has affected the Muslims of this country badly. It has provided a more conducive atmosphere for the political parties who survive on divisive ideology and destructive politics. There was a story in ‘Hindustan Times’ where the teacher who was upset with a Muslim girl in a Delhi convent school, called her ‘Pakistani’ in front of the entire class. There was an incident in Jet Airways flight where a passenger heckled a Muslim flight attendant citing her religion. There are various other instances as well. What is coming out of this is that across urban India there is anger and open prejudice against the Muslims.

I have no doubt that majority of Muslims in the country believe in the concept of one nation and are as patriotic as you and I are. I would like to question all those hypocrites who would look upon Muslims with an eye of suspicion but will watch SRK’s latest film or will cheer when Zaheer topples the batting order of opposing teams or will admire APJ Abdul Kalam as an icon or recite the poetry of Javed Akhtar. But this same group will not think twice before raising doubts over fellow countrymen.

Simi Grewal does not know the difference between the Islamic and Pakistani flag and makes absurd comments only to apologise later. But dear Simi, you have already done enough damage. The same is true for the majority population, which is proud of India’s secular fabric but will not think twice before raising suspicion about Muslims.

The problem within our country is that we have never developed a thinking of our own and have always played into the hands of selfish, power-hungry politicians. They have ensured that there is always an atmosphere of animosity between the two communities. BJP and Shiv Sena protest over the use of the word ‘Hindu Terrorism’ but have no qualms in accusing Muslims after every terror activity. Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad Yadav project themselves as messiahs of Muslims and will see every action in the interest of national unity as a bid to suppress the minority community.

Let’s face the real scenario. We as a citizen of this country are slowly and slowly shedding the concept of national integration. Muslims are made to believe by their top religious and political “messiahs” that they are being targeted in this country while Hindus leaders will attribute each and every problem related to internal security in the country to the Muslims. As a citizen, I want that there should be trust among all communities and we should be internally strong. The investigating agencies should carry the probe without any bias and influence from political authorities. If there is an anti-social element in any community we need to ensure that he is dealt with seriousness and is punished for his crime.

Greater political will is required to strengthen internal security. The issue of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants must be dealt with seriously. There should be no blame game in an hour of crisis until concrete evidence is available. Muslim clerics should also take the responsibility to protect their community members from any prejudice. Instead of issuing stupid ‘fatwa’ against Sania Mirza or Imrana, they should push for greater reforms within their community. They have the power to convince millions and they should use their reach for the betterment of the community.

On other hand, we should take a lesson from Pakistan that a nation formed on the basis of religion would end as a failed state and even an “international migraine”. The concept of India is based on its diversity and this makes our country special. We must not lose the beauty of our nation to such prejudice and bias. We need to work collectively to make our nation even stronger and that will be the fitting reply to all the anti-India forces.

HT Correspondent visits supposed LeT Headquarters

A correspondent from Hindustan Times was allowed to visit a Lashkar-e-Tayyeba outlet very close to the border, and believed to be their headquarters. The below is a report published today as HT’s main headline citing Harinder Baweja’s experience during the visit.

Map showing location of Muridke (via HT)
Map showing location of Muridke (via HT)

“You are in an educational complex, but you are from India and you work for Tehelka, so it will take you time to change your mind.”

That’s what Abdullah Muntazir, (my guide and the spokesperson for the foreign media), told me within minutes of reaching Muridke, commonly believed to be the headquarters of the Lashkar-e-Taiyyebba (LeT).

It was for the first time that due permission had been granted to any Indian journalist to visit the sprawling campus that lies forty km out of Lahore. The barricade that leads to the complex is heavily guarded and no one can enter without prior consent.

The guided tour took me through a neatly laid out 60-bed hospital, schools for boys and girls, a madarsa, a mosque, an exorbitantly large swimming pool and a guest house.

Nestled between tall trees and a meshed wire boundary, the 75-acre complex has manicured lawns, turnip farms and a fish-breeding centre. The students who enroll in the school pay a fee while those who study in the madarsa and pass out as masters in Islamic studies can come for free. Learning English and Arabic from class one on is elementary and so is a course in computers.

Trimmed lawns and microscopes

The administrators of the complex, drawn from the LeT’s political wing, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, are clearly at pains to disassociate themselves from the group widely believed to be behind the terror attack in Mumbai on 27/11. Other foreign journalists were guided through the complex a few days before my visit and during their orchestrated tour, saw students working in chemistry and physics laboratories, peering into microscopes and connecting electric circuits.

None of us went there thinking we would see firing ranges or target shooting in progress, but the tour itself is surreal. As you walk through the neatly trimmed lawns and veer left or right to see the hostel or the mosque or the hospital, the conversation itself is dotted entirely with words like terrorism, Lashkar and in my case, Kashmir.

Even though the gates have been opened – after clearance from Pakistan’s security agencies (read ISI) – to dispel the impression of Muridke being the training camp that “India has made it out to be,” the conversation is not about the school syllabus but wholly about how India is an enemy.

A day after I visited Muridke, I met a family whose sister-in-law lives right next to the complex. “But of course it’s a training ground. You can hear slogans for jehad blaring out of loud speakers in full volume and you can also sometimes hear the sound of gunfire,” members of this family confided. But during the two hours that I spent within the complex, there was enough conversation about jehad even if there were no signs of it being a sanctuary not just for the Lashkar-e-Taiyyebba but also believed to have been used as a hideout by al-Qaeda operatives, including Ramzi Yousef, one of the conspirators of the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing.

‘Without doubt, you are the enemy’

Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone terrorist who was captured alive in Mumbai, is supposed to have studied here, according to his interrogators, and it’s time to ask some straight questions.

So did Kasab study here, in Muridke?
“Even if he did, we are not responsible for what any one of our students do after passing out.”

Do you support the Lashkar-e-Taiyyebba?
“We used to.”

You used to?
“Yes, we were like-minded but the group was banned after Indian propaganda following the attack on its Parliament which was done by the Jaish-e-Mohammad and not the LeT. We use to provide logistical help to the Lashkar, collect funds for them and look after their publicity.”

Did you also provide them with arms?
“They must have bought weapons with the money we gave them. They were obviously not using the money to buy flowers for the Indian army.”

The Lashkar has claimed responsibility for the attack on the Red Fort in Delhi and the airport in Srinagar.

“We do not consider Kashmir to be a part of India. It is a part of Pakistan. Those who attack the security forces are not terrorists, they are freedom fighters.”

President Musharraf moved away from the position that Kashmir either secede or be given independence. He proposed joint control.

“Musharraf did not have any legitimacy. He had no business making such proposals.”
Do you consider India an enemy?
“Without doubt. India is responsible for the attack on Islamabad’s Marriot hotel, for the bomb blasts in Peshawar. Sarabjit Singh has been convicted for being a RAW agent.”
Your Amir, Hafiz Sayeed has given calls for jehad.

“He supports the freedom movement in Kashmir. We think it is right. It is ridiculous to call him a terrorist. Even when a thorn pricks India, the whole world stands up. Why did Condoleeza Rice not put pressure on India for handing over Narendra Modi after the Gujarat carnage?”

Kashmir is no longer entirely indigenous. Foreign fighters like Maulana Masood Azhar were arrested in Anantnag.

“He was a journalist and still is an inspirational writer. Anyone from here can go to Kashmir. We don’t see it as part of India.”

Did you sanitise this place before bringing me in?
“This is an educational complex and the Jamaat ud Dawah is a charitable organisation. There are very few people here because of the Eid break.”

Does the ISI support you?
He just laughs.

A Pakistani Hamas

Jamaat ud Dawah, banned by the US in 2005 for being a Lashkar alias, draws patronage from the ISI and though proscribed abroad, has a free run in Pakistan. It has branches all across the country and is as famous for its social work as for its terror activities. It sees itself as a movement and not an organisation and has appeal to many in rural and urban areas.

When a correspondent from London’s The Observer newspaper went to Kasab’s village in Faridkot, close to the border with India, to establish if he indeed was a Pakistani, he was told that “religious clerics were brainwashing youth in the area and that LeT’s founder Hafiz Sayeed had visited nearby Depalpur. There was a LeT office in Depalpur but that had hurriedly been closed down in the past few days. The LeT paper is distributed in Depalpur and Faridkot.”

The Jamaat ud Dawah has a wide base and operates 140 schools and 29 seminaries in different towns and cities of Pakistan. According to the Jamaat’s website: “Islam does not mean following a few rituals like performing prayers, keeping fasts, performing the pilgrimage to the Ka’ba (Hajj), giving alms (Zakat), or donating to charitable works, but in fact, it is a complete “Code of Life”.

That is why Jamaat-ud-Dawah’s struggle is not limited to any particular aspect of life only; rather, Jamaat-ud-Da’wah addresses each and every field of life according to the teachings of Islam. Jamaat-ud-Dawah is a movement that aims to spread the true teachings of Islam, and to establish a pure and peaceful society by building the character of individuals according to those teachings.”

Its appeal extends to urban professionals like doctors who were out in large numbers in Muzaffarabad (the capital of Azad Kashmir or POK, depending on which side of the line of control you are on) in 2005, after a devastating earthquake. Unlike the Taliban, the Jamaat is modelled after Hamas and is not merely an army with gun-toting members but a complex and intricate organization with a social and political agenda. It has a huge following and reports have often indicated that in its annual congregations, where Hafiz Sayeed gives a call for jehad, , as many as 100,000 people are present in the sprawling Muridke compound.

It is groups like the Jamaat and the Jaish-e-Mohammad — started by Maulana Masood Azhar soon after he was set free in Kandahar – which both India and Pakistan are up against.

Not the time to pick a fight

The complete U-turn, post 9/11 when General Musharraf lent complete support to George Bush, saw Pakistan take a slow but sure journey that has today placed it in a dangerous crosshairs.

While Musharraf joined the war against terror – forced to by Bush who had infamously said you are either with us or against us – he also got isolated from the his own people. They took to the streets, openly protesting his support of America that was bombing and strafing civilians, first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq.

The last straw came when his own Army stormed the Lal Masjid in Islamabad in mid-2007. Reports of machine guns being used against innocents who got trapped in the Masjid, converted many within the Army and the ISI and those who had retired from these outfits.

It was the tipping point, said former ISI chief, Lt Gen Assad Durrani: “It was the most blatant homage paid to the Americans. The mosque is located under the nose of the ISI headquarters, and you can’t first allow it to become a fortress and then fire on people who were willing to surrender. ”

The storming of the Lal Masjid was a tipping point in more ways than one. If the release of Masood Azhar and the subsequent formation of the Jaish saw the advent of fidayeen attacks in Kashmir, the Lal Masjid operation led equally to the birth of intense attacks by suicide bombers.

The suicide attacks were not just targeting civilians, they were seeking men in uniform and the figures, in fact, tell the story. The first half of 2007 saw 12 such attacks all over Pakistan between January and July 3, and an estimated 75 people were killed. But after the Lal Masjid operation which reduced large parts of it to rubble, 44 suicide attacks took place between July and December, killing 567 people, mostly the members of the military and para-military forces, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and the police. December also saw the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, a grim reminder of the fact that the militants had declared a war against their ex-masters. The attack on Islamabad’s Marriot Hotel, the city’s most high-profile landmark, only confirmed the fact that terror can strike at will, any time and anywhere. It confirmed also that terror was not restricted to Pakistan’s tribal belt alone. President Musharraf himself had in fact also survived three assassination attempts and now lives under extremely tight security. The terror threat in Pakistan, can in fact, be gauged from the fact that both President Asif Zardari and the Prime Minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, in a complete first, offered Eid prayers at their respective residences on December 9.

The wave of suicide attacks in Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan does not just testify to the revival of al Qaeda and the Taliban networks but as Ahmed Rashid, strategic writer and author of several books on the jehadi networks, said: “The army is embroiled in fighting these forces in the Frontier and one third of the country is not even in the state’s control. This is hardly the time to pick a fight with India.”

More Lashkar than Lashkar: Retired soldiers

The ratcheting up of tension and animosity between India and Pakistan after the Mumbai terror attack on 27/11, points to another dangerous faultline – while the Pakistani Army joined the global war against terror, it never completely gave up its support to the jehadi network that is active on its border with India.

Even after the Lashkar and Jaish were banned, neither was their back accounts frozen, nor was they’re any attempt at forcing them to shut shop. The Army and the ISI continued to support fronts like the Jamaat-ud-Dawah, which does more than just equip men with arms.

It motivates and indoctrinates minds and as Rashid pointed out, “Musharraf used to place Hafiz Sayed and Masood Azhar under house arrest for Western consumption. He may have stopped infiltrating them into Kashmir too under international pressure but there was no attempt to stop their activities in Pakistan after they were banned. They were just allowed to hang loose.” Former interior secretary, Tasneem Noorani, said: “There was no effort to mainstream the radicals.”

Kasab’s journey from a remote village in Faridkot to Mumbai is a testimony to this. So is his revelation to his interrogators that a ‘Major’ trained him.

Zardari may have been right when he attributed the Mumbai attack to ‘non-state actors’ because the Major does not necessarily have to be a serving officer employed with the ISI.

“Retired ISI officers are helping the Pakistani Taliban and they have become more Lashkar than the Lashkar,” said Rashid. Any number of strategic and security analysts will testify to this dangerous trend – to how ex-ISI officers are still in business because they have now attached themselves as advisors to militant organizations like the Lashkar and the Jaish.

“You don’t need large training camps,” admitted one such analyst who prefers not to be named. “Ex servicemen are imparting arms training within the compounds of their homes. Different officials are attached with different groups.”

The switch from one alias to another – Lashkar-e-Toiba, Markaz-e-Toiba, Markaz-e-Dawah-Irshad, Jamaat ud Dawah – speaks of the Establishment’s (the Army and ISI combine are referred to as the Establishment in Pakistan) more than subtle support of groups that are used against India. The long-standing relationship between the Establishment and the India-bound militants is now under pressure. The overriding message from America after the Mumbai attack is for these groups to be reigned in and this is testing not just the Army’s carefully crafted support for the militants but has also focused attention on yet another faultline – the equation between the Establishment and the civilian government.

The effect of Indian television

Committed to better relations with India, Pakistan’s top-most civilian representatives responded instinctively to the horror in Mumbai, in keeping with what Zardari had told the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, held a few days before the gun and grenade battle at Nariman House and the Taj and Oberoi hotels.

In what took the Indian government by surprise, Zardari committed Pakistan to a no-first-use of nuclear weapons. It was the first major security-related statement to come from Pakistan’s government after the February 18 election and more than just surprise the Indian government; it caused unrest amongst its own Establishment.

The next statement, made by Prime Minister Gilani – and confirmed through a press release issued by his office – pertained to the civilian government agreeing to sending its top most ISI officer, Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha to India on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s request.

The sequence of events following Gilani’s offer and Zardari’s quick retraction, saying they had agreed to send a director and not director general Pasha, in fact speaks of the internal battle of supremacy between the Establishment and the civilian authorities, especially on the crucial issue of national security which the Army believes to be its exclusive domain. As Imtiaz Alam, a peacenick and head of the South Asian Free Media Association, who had dinner with Zardari a day after the Mumbai attack explained: “Zardari is very firm on terrorism. He thinks democracy is a better weapon but the terrorists have succeeded in creating a psychological gulf between India and Pakistan. Instead of Pakistan fighting the jehadis, it has become a fight between India and Pakistan.”

Senior journalists in Pakistan admitted that briefings from the ISI changed the post-Mumbai discourse. Reacting perhaps to the loud, jingoistic demands on Indian television channels, for action against Pakistan, the ISI told a select group of journalists that India had in fact ‘summoned’ their Chief. Jamaat ud Dawah Amir, Hafiz Sayeed – with a clear nod from his handlers – appeared on one news channel after another, making the same points: that the list of 20 most wanted which also includes him, was old hat, that India was playing the blame game without evidence, that India had its own band of ‘Hindu terrorists’ and India should give freedom to Kashmir and end the matter once in for all.

The leak soon after, of the hoax call, purportedly made by Minister of External Affairs Pranab Mukherji to President Zardari, sealed the debate – India bashing was back in business. The jingoism overtook the more important debate of the threat Pakistan itself faced from terror networks flourishing on its soil.

Who’s in Charge? Not Zardari

Pakistan’s news channels went on overdrive and as some even blared war songs, the question that gained importance through the entire din, was – who really runs Pakistan? Who is in control?

The answers to the questions are both easy and complex. Mushahid Hussain, Chairman, Foreign Affairs Committee in the Senate was clear about the answer: “War on terror, national security and relations with India, Afghanistan and China are the domain of the army. Thanks to India, the army has been rehabilitated and the war bugles are all over. No one person, no one institution is running Pakistan. Musharraf ran a one-window operation and the Army and the ISI used to report to him but now decision-making is murky and that is causing confusion. The hoax call and the DG ISI controversy are symptomatic of that.”

There are other examples. Only a few months ago, Zardari quickly retracted his effort to bring the ISI under the control of the Interior Ministry. And even as the Pakistan government’s response to Indian pressure to rein in the terror networks, plays itself out on a day to day basis, it is evident that the civilian authorities have had to embrace the Establishment’s point of view vis a vis India. Therefore, the talk that India should provide concrete evidence. Therefore, Zardari’s statement that the guilty – if found guilty – will be tried on Pakistani soil. That the 20 most wanted will not be handed over. Even on sourced reports, put out in the local media, that Masood Azhar had been put under house arrest, Prime Minister Gilani went on record to say that no such report had come to him yet.

If India believes that Pakistan’s response has been poor – two Lashkar men, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and Zarrar Shah have been arrested in Muzaffarbad – it is because the Establishment and pressure from its own people tie down the government here. It cannot be seen to be buckling under pressure either from India or America.

Some moves seem to be on the cards, including the banning of the Jamaat ud Dawah. But Lashkar was banned in the past as was the Jaish. Prime Minister Gilani has committed to not allowing Pakistani soil to be used for terror attacks, but then Musharraf had made the same exact promise on January 12, 2002 soon after the Parliament was attacked in Delhi.
Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has gone as far as to say that “Pakistan needs to set its own house in order” (see interview) but he is in the Opposition and he can afford to make such statements. If Pakistan has begun to resemble a house of terror, it is because the Army and the ISI are yet to change their stance, not just vis a vis India but vis a vis the terrorists it creates and supports. Until then, the sprawling compound in Muridke will continue to remain in business. If the Jamaat ud Dawah does get banned, all it will need is another alias.

via Hindustan Times

The Pakistani media is distorting Mumbai attack facts

Two weeks have passed since terror struck Mumbai. The investigations are going on at full swing and till date, according to Indian agencies, all indications are that Pakistan’s land has been used in this dastardly attack. Indian media has also tried to highlight the involvement of Pakistan which has created pressure on the neighbours as they are now bound to act. USA and other countries have openly supported India and want Pakistan to act fast and with sincerity.

As Indian media reports the facts and other information related to terror attacks, a total opposite image of India and her investigation agencies has been built by the Pakistani media. I have read few articles and videos of Pakistan media and was surprised and outraged by what they were showing?

A report said that Mumbai terror attacks could be the handiwork of “radical elements within the Hindu community” who are “unhappy with domestic and foreign policies of the Congress-led government” and speculates that these attacks could have been engineered to influence the outcome of the general elections. Another news channel claimed that the Mumbai attack was masterminded by the RAW itself to defame Pakistan. A video claims that Kasab is not a Pakistani and a Muslim, but a Sikh boy, and his real name is Amar Singh. Because of the band he was wearing. (Mumbai Police has now revealed that terrorists wore the band for deception).

A sizeable number of Pakistanis feels that September 11 attacks were the product of a Zionist-cum-CIA conspiracy to malign the Muslims and topple the Taliban and Iraqi regimes. And in this case also they feel that this attack is a handiwork of the RSS, VHP and BJP combine. This was to stop the probe in Malegaon case in which many Hindu extremists are involved. Geo News covered the attacks round-the-clock and blamed the Indian government for failing to anticipate the attack and mishandling the rescue operation. They interviewed people like Hameed Gul, former director general of the ISI, and Shirin Mazari, former director general of Institute of Strategic Studies and they repeatedly classified the Mumbai attackers as either Hindu militants or Indian Muslims, but definitely not Pakistanis.

If such news is reported in Pakistan media 24/7, it is bound to have its impact on the people of Pakistan. I have always been told that people on both sides want peace but if such unregulated and false reports are circulated in one country, it is just impossible to accept that mental state of people will change. This will lead to mistrust among the people. I don’t know what will happen next but I want a few things from my government.

Pakistan has openly claimed that India has no evidence of the involvement of Pakistanis in the attack and it will not charge any of its citizens unless given concrete evidence. If the claims made by Indian investigation agencies are true then they should be made public and the proof of the same should be submitted to Pakistan government as well as United Nations. Pakistan should be made to take action against those involved in the act of terror.

We should publicly disclose the details of the investigations so that Pakistan media can also be taught a lesson. Moreover, these reports should be made public by Indian authorities only and not US or UK. The truth must be told. At the same time, I would like the Indian authorities to do some introspection and tell the people where it failed and what steps it will take to overcome fallacies and weakness.

The citizens of the country have suffered the most and they have a right to know the truth.

Pakistan will have to pay a heavy price: MJ Akbar

M J Akbar is one of India’s best-known journalists and commentators, someone with a deep insight into the Indian people and their mindset. In this first-person, as-told-to piece, Akbar discusses the Mumbai attacks and their relevance for India.

Many people forget that India is a tough nation. Toothless leaders have turned India into a soft nation. People forget that India has fought back Muslim terrorism in Kashmir; Sikh terrorism in Punjab, Christian terrorism in Nagaland and Hindu terrorism in Assam, and amongst the Naxalites [Images].

We have had everything thrown at the Indian nation State. Still, we have stood up. The people of India have shown the courage and ability to believe in their nation and to fight back. But the completely impotent leadership of five years have turned a tough country into a soft State.

I am very sad. I keep feeling that if they protect India as they protect their leaders — whether it is Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] or Congress President Sonia Gandhi [Images] — I think I would be safe. Today, India’s leaders are safe and India is in panic.

On what India’s response should be:

India’s proper reaction would be possible if we understand the extent of the disease.

If the disease is cancer, you can’t apply band aid. After making a complete mess of security issues for five years by asking Shivraj Patil [Images] to go finally we may have a home minister who doesn’t comb his hair and change his clothes. But we want something more than that. If it is cancer, we need chemotherapy, a much more serious exercise. It needs a legislative and executive framework. It needs political mobilisation. People are numbed.

The Indian people have no leadership. You have a prime minister. Did you see him when he addressed the nation? Nobody knew if he was addressing the nation or having a cup of tea?

He looked serious, but he didn’t talk to us about our anger and about our anguish. I think this administration is tone deaf to the anguish of the people. They just cannot understand what the people are going through. They just don’t understand our pain or our anger. The most important thing is that, perhaps, we have politicised not only the instruments of the State like the police but we have also politicised the understanding of the nature of the problem.

I think the very first thing to do is to ensure security so that it prevents the next attack. If any attack takes place under someones job should go. Don’t come to me with alibis.

On the terrorists getting local support:

I am an Indian Muslim and I am very proud of both, being an Indian and a Muslim. I do not see any contradictions. This is my land and I have nowhere else to go.

But can I say because I am an Indian Muslim that no Indian Muslim is involved? Can you, because you are a Hindu, say that no Hindu is involved? We have to behave like Indians first. Not as a Muslim or as a Hindu first. Because we need Hindu votes and Muslim votes and because this government thinks that it needs Muslim votes so it has been in complete denial.

Do you think that these people came across from Pakistan and had no support in Mumbai?

It is not possible. It was a huge operation. Ten people hit nine places and you killed nine of them. You want to say that they went from place to place? Who knows some of them must have slipped away to create new sleeper cells to hit us six months later.

They are hiding things. I would like to believe that there was an underworld connection. Because, Karachi and Mumbai are also linked by drug smuggling. The culture of criminals is aggression. It comes naturally to them. It is not easy for you and I to become aggressive, however angry we are. It does not come naturally to us. These are people who are trained psychologically in aggression. They have no respect for the State. They have no love for the country. And they have no respect for authority.

Why? Because the only face of authority is the corrupt policeman. The criminal gives money in the morning and money in the evening. Why should he have respect for somebody he gives bribes to? For the guy from the underworld his understanding of the Indian State and authority is corruption. He has no patriotism to stop him. Why would he not join hands with the terrorists? In any case, he belongs to another world. We have not even begun to address and discuss this.

On the Pakistan factor

I am tired of giving Pakistan a long rope on some excuse or the other. Everybody is saying this will happen if we do this, that will happen if we do this. Our relations with Pakistan will go, then, let them go. What has our relations with Pakistan brought us except violence and terror? Why should we be in charge of saving Pakistan? For what? Every time they turn around and they say they want evidence. Now, finally we have evidence.

I have been an editor for 35 years from the age of 23. From that time on, since the days of General Zia-ul Haq, I have been hearing ‘Pakistan is asking for evidence’. We asked for withdrawal of their support to the movement for Khalistan, they said, ‘Oh, we don’t know anything about it.’ On Kashmir, they kept repeating where is the evidence. Benazir Bhutto [Images] came, she asked for evidence. Nawaz Sharif came, he asked for evidence. I think Pervez Musharraf [Images] asked for less evidence. Now again, they are asking for evidence.

There is a terrorist in Mumbai, captured and arrested. How much more evidence do you want? If what he is saying is not evidence, then how can you get more evidence?

This government is in its 11th hour. Now they will bluff the people to protect their votes. There is no time left for them. The agony of departure will be hard from this government.

On the reaction in the West

The US and Britain have a vested interest in telling India to look within. Why? When Americans die then they can send their air force 7,000 miles and bomb every country to smithereens. But when Indians die, they tell us no, no, you must be patient. You must act like a swami and a yogi. Why? Is an American life more precious than an Indian life? Why should we keep listening to them? But we have a government that keeps listening to them all the time. We don’t get tough.

The last time we got tough was after the attack on Parliament. We took some tough actions under Operation Parakram and then there was a certain lull. Three years ago, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was able to tell President George W Bush [Images] that there are no terrorists amongst Indian Muslims. That means that lull continued.

Pakistan must be made to realise that it will have to pay a heavy price. Not necessarily through war, but a heavy price will have to be paid in loss in trade, in cancellation of orders and other engagements. They should pay a heavy price in terms of people to people relations. I am not saying you can freeze a relationship to death, but the message must go out that if there is a crime there will be a penalty. You just can’t get away with it.

Let the Pakistan government cooperate with us. But look at how the Pakistan government has buckled down and we are sitting here whimpering.

They want to send some lowly officers to India. For what? Even Pakistan is treating the Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi government with total contempt. They know how weak it is.

Delink Hindu-Muslim relations and Pakistan

Look, you must not confuse the Pakistan issue with the Indian Muslims issue. Their so-called alienation or their economic deprivation is not linked to the issue of Pakistan.

Indian Muslims have nothing to do with Pakistan. They have absolutely no sympathy for Pakistan. They know that Pakistan was the biggest mistake committed in the history of Indian Muslims. They know it. You can ask anyone in Baroda, Bihar or Mumbai. They know how they are suffering the backlash of all the consequences of cross-border terrorism.

Today, they fear retribution from the government, they fear retribution from popular disenchantment and anger. They feel helpless. They feel afraid.

We must understand finally that it is not so much the ‘local people’, it is the local underworld that is involved in anti-India activities. In 1993, who were involved in terrorism? The underworld. Why have you not done anything about it? The State turns a blind eye to the police and corruption. I don’t know how many readers smoke hashish and other stuff, but I am accusing them of cross-border terrorism. Drugs come to India from Afghanistan via Karachi.

What we can do as individuals

If whoever is responsible for protecting the nation fails, then he or she should not be allowed to continue in power. That is the toughest and sharpest message we can give. You can tell that you may be a soft State, but we are a hard people and we are hard voters.

We are not going to forgive you for your lies and deception and for your waffling. How many blasts do we need to understand that? When Jaipur [Images], Ahmedabad [Images], Mumbai and Delhi [Images] happened no one who was genuinely guilty was caught.

We have to understand now that corruption has eaten away vitals of this nation. It is the biggest danger to the security of India. It is not just the case of some spectrum being sold to someone by some minister in. Everyone who is corrupt get out!

It Is a failure all around. We have to be extremely practical and pragmatic. There is great deal to be depressed about as an Indian. Frankly speaking, I feel very angry and upset. I am never upset by the behaviour of our enemies. I am only upset by the betrayal of those I trust.

(via Rediff)

Ganguly: A glittering career comes to an end

Whatever may be the reasons for Sourav Ganguly’s retirement, it is time we all stood up in admiration of one of the greatest Indian cricketers and lets just hope that he goes out with a big bang as he had entered the world of cricket in 1996.
Amitabh Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan and Sourav Ganguly have something in common. No it isn’t any brand that they are endorsing. They have scripted the best comebacks that any one can remember in their respective fields. It is said that Character is judged at times of adversity. These three men have sprung a surprise whenever they have been written off by the critics. Sourav Ganguly- the most charismatic and successful captain that India has ever produced is said to retire. This will mark the end of a glorious career in cricket. Whether you loved him or hated him but you could never be indifferent to him.
What started off with a bang at Lords in London is said to go down against the most formidable team in the World. The aussies have always been wary of the Indians specially in their own backyard. And as Ganguly said in the press conference yesterday he would like to go off on a winning note. All eyes will be on the ‘Royal Bengal Tiger’ as he goes out for his last prowl against the Aussies. Every time he will effortlessly caress the ball through the off side, millions of people all around the country will jump in sheer delight.
Through out his career, Ganguly has been in the media glare. He got the ‘Bad boy’ image going but he gave the team an aggressive outlook when he took over as captain something that had not been seen too often in Indian cricket. He has had his string of ups and downs but the resilience, grit and determination has always stood out in his tough time. His partnership with Dravid in the match against Sri Lanka at Taunton in the 1999 world cup, his hundred against Australia at Brisbane last tour and his double hundred against Pakistan in the last series were some of his best performances. Toronto perhaps was his favourite venue, where he wom four man of the match awards in a series against Pakistan.
As a captain, Ganguly had great achievements. Won twenty one tests, out of which twelve were won abroad. His famous Natwest series win against England at Lords when he flung his T shirt off and yelled foul words changed the image of Indian cricket and also made Freddie Flintoff a bit more reticent in the future. His series win against Australia at home in which India scripted a great comeback and went on to win a test after following on. This series is regarded as the best series ever where the underdogs sprung a surprise on the champions and is still one of the greatest inspirational stories in the world of cricket. India’s maiden win in a series in Pakistan also came under the captaincy of Ganguly. The Indian team’s performance of reaching the finals of the 2003 world cup in South Africa could also be credited to the captaincy of Sourav Ganguly who also struck two hundreds in the series.
Ganguly was the poster boy of Indian cricket for a long time. Many feel he may not be as talented as Sachin or as technically correct as Dravid, but when it came to stroking through the off side he was the most gifted players ever. He did have his weak points like the rising short delivery, or fending outside the off stump, not one of the best fielders of the side and a poor runner between the wickets. But every one has some weak points including a great called Achilles. Ganguly has called it a day now, and lets not ruin the moment and contemplating as to why he has done it. There are theories of voluntarily retirement schemes, some sort of deal sprung up with the board and even threats of kidnapping his daughter. Lets give attention and credit where it is due. Here’s a cricketer who has devoted his life to the sport and is one of the most loved sportsmen in India. This aint his end yet, just the beginning of the end. We will still see him coming in black and gold and scaring the hell out of the other bowlers in the IPL’s seasons. It is time we stood up in admiration of this great cricketer and hope he has a fitting ending to a great career.

A bomb safety costume kit: Best Eid gift in Pakistan

Pakistan may be in a terror grip brought about by terrorists and militants but the people of the land of Pakistan have not lost their sense of humour with a ‘Bomb safety costume kit’ being a favoured gift idea at the occasion of Eid this year.
Pakistan continues to be in turmoil, even after Musharraf gave up the presidency and Asif Ali Zardari took over the reigns of the country. Bomb blast at one of the safest hotels in the country in the capital city, attack on ministers, American troops trying to enter at the Afghanistan and the Pakistan border, the people of Pakistan have their hands full and with the weakening rupee and the high inflation numbers are making it tough for Pakistan this festive season. But the people of the country have shown that they have the courage to hang in there even in such turbulent times and having a good sense of humour will help you a long way in coping with difficult times.
A web site in Pakistan that describes itself as extremely addictive internet lifestyle for the Pakistanis, gave an option to Pakistanis to brain storm and come up with creative ideas for gifting this festive season. Stop.pk has become one of the premier web sites in the country. Pakistanis may have not celebrated the festival with a bang outdoors because of the fear of terror strikes and bomb blasts but definitely made up for it by visiting the internet back home. Their sense of humour is what stood out when you go through the list of the top ten Eid gifts for the festive season. Coming in at the first position was a “bomb safety costume kit”. Clearly the Pakistan people though it would be a great gift to any one this festive season in the wake of the recent bomb blasts.
Not just the bomb safety costume kit, if you go through the rest of the list, the items were equally hilarious. The price of flour has sky rocketed in the past few months and hence came in the bag of flour. The country has been facing frequent power cuts and hence hand fans seemed to be the best solution for any one to get through this crisis. Other ideas included gifting people in dollars for like the Indian rupee, in the wake of the current global financial crisis the value of the dollar continues to weaken. The list also includes a gift box or a ‘dua’ that relatives and friends do not have to contend with any disaster.
The list went on to show that Pakistan people have retained their great sense of humour which will help them tremendously in coping with these times of turmoil that the entire country is facing today.

Zardari admits miltiants in Kashmir are terrorists

Former Pakistan leaders have always been accused of not accepting facts, but current Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari in a candid interview admitted that the militants operating in Kashmir were indeed terrorists and a major threat.
In an interview made to Wall Street Journal, Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari frankly said that India is not and has never been a threat to Pakistan. He also went on to say that the militant groups that were operating on the other side of the border in Kashmir were terrorists. The statement is one of the first ones to be made by a top Pakistan leader. Asif Ali Zardari’s predecessor used to have a different take on the crisis in Pakistan. General Pervez Musharraf would have definitely called them freedom fighters or jehadis but definitely not terrorists. This statement is in complete disregard of the policy adopted by the governments of Pakistan in the past few decades of treating the militant groups as freedom fighters. The statement made by Pakistan president Zardari has evoked a great response from the Indian side. While on one hand it has been welcomed by the Indian government, it has created a ripple in Pakistan with several groups slamming the president for making such a remark. In India, Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma and BJP National Spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy, welcomed the statement made by the Pakistan President.
Meanwhile back home in Pakistan, the statement made by the Pakistan president has drawn flak and criticism from several quarters. Abba Ansari, Hurriyat leader has strongly condemned the statement whereas Siddiq-ul-Farooq, Spokesperson, PML(N) has said that the Pakistan president does not know what the dispute in Kashmir is all about and his maiden trip to America had been a disappointing one.
Zardari also went on to say that he had nothing against the Indo-US Nuke deal and the growing friendship of India and America saying that why would they dislike the largest democracy in the world (India) getting friendly with one of the oldest democracies in the world (America). He also said as long as Pakistan is treated ‘at par’ he had no problem.
On the Americans carrying predator missiles in Pakistan territory, Zardari said that America and Pakistan had an understanding and that they were in sense fighting the same enemy. He also said that they welcomed the help of America in terms of providing the intelligence and technology in terms of helicopters, night goggles and other equipment.
Zardari went on to add that trade between the two subcontinent countries should increase as free trade between the two neighboring countries was the best way of economic survival in these turbulent times.
Zardari’s statements made may have drawn criticism from the Pakistani sources but will definitely go on to strengthen the relationship between India and Pakistan in the near future.

How corrupt are we?

Corruption seems to be an endemic part of India as the latest report of Transparency International rates India as the 85th most corrupt country in the world but did we really need an international report to tell us as to how corrupt we are?
New Zealand, Sweden and Denmark seem to be from a different planet all together as they have been voted as the least corrupt countries all over. The redeeming fact was that our next door neighbor Pakistan is at the 134th position, but seeing our economic progress and the lack of theirs, Pakistan is not really the country that we should be comparing with. Where India and China were at par at the 72nd position last year, India has slipped whereas the Chinese despite hosting the most high profile event of the World- the Beijing Olympics have maintained their position.
The harsh reality is that corruption in India is not limited to the politicians and the government employees. It is woven in the social fabric of our country and is tangible in every section of society. Just look around you and you will see the impact of Corruption. The traffic policeman standing at the signal, the ticket checker at the railway station, the peon in the college premises have all been involved in corruption. But to say that these are the only people who breed corruption would be giving credit where it is not entirely due. For we are the people because of whom corruption thrives in our country.  It isn’t just the public sector where corruption thrives but the entire society. The person who offers the bribe is equally corrupt as the person who accepts is. So is it a lack of the respect for the law that makes us corrupt? Is the law enforcement in our country so weak that people believe they can get away with such activities?
The differentiating factor between India and the other nations of the world was its rich culture and heritage and its spiritual and religious outlook. But inspite of all this corruption has thrived in India. Look every where whether it is the public sector, private sector, the government, the judiciary and even the armed forces, none of them can stand up and say that we are not corrupt. Is there something wrong in our parental and teaching process for not instilling morals in us?
Perhaps this is the cynic view that many NRI’s hold once they have shifted abroad. The reason why they refrain from coming back to the country is corruption. The irrational rules of the system, the inefficient bureaucracy and the corrupt society are what confirm their beliefs. And those are the feelings shared by many of us staying within the country.
India is on the threshold of becoming a superpower in the world. But all these dreams can not be realized if corruption were to continue. One of the actors in Rang De Basanti had said, “No country is born great, it has to be made great”. It applies to every country including ours. Strong efforts need to be taken by all of us in order to curb corruption. The Right to information (RTI) act was a great step in empowering the common man in his fight against the system. Now he has the courage to challenge corruption. But this is not enough. For starters we could have separate to speed up the corruption cases, the media could play a bigger role in tarnishing the image of corrupt people in public and we could have stronger laws to deter corruption. We might have received freedom from the British more than six decades ago but we are yet to receive freedom from the perils of corruption. Corruption is like a termite which if not stopped now could eat up our entire society. But as Mahatma Gandhi had once said, “Be the change you want to see in the World” – the efforts will have to begin from our side.

Pakistan troops open fire on american choppers

American helicopters flew into Pakistan in the Pakistan Afghanistan militant infested border but had to return as Pakistani troops opened fire on them. Earlier fifteen people were killed in aerial strikes carried out by America on September 3rd.
Though Pakistan is a key ally of America in its fight against terror, but the recent shooting of the Pakistan troops on the American choppers is sure to create tension between the two nations. In the blast at the Marriot hotel in Islamabad more than fifty people were killed a few days back with a lot of them being foreigners. Two American department of defense officials also lost their lives in the attack.
In this particular incident it is said that two American choppers crossed on to the Pakistan border at Lowari Mandi in the North Waziristan region. From the Pakistan side, the troops as well as civilians opened small arms fire. The American forces though did not retaliate with fire and after monitoring and patrolling for some time returned back to Afghanistan.
There has been increased pressure being put by America on the new government in Pakistan to act against the militants and insurgents belonging to Taliban and the Al Qaeda who are suspected to be on the Pakistan and the Afghanistan border. The Americans believe that Pakistan officials have to act fast if they are to curb the acts of militancy and terrorism in Pakistan as well as regions of Afghanistan. The American authorities also believe that some of the top leaders of the Al Qaida including Osama bin laden are hiding on Pakistan land.
This is not the first time that America has engaged in aerial strikes. Just a few days back, on September 3rd, in a raid by American commandos. Fifteen people were killed in the missile strikes.
Meanwhile the American embassy in the Pakistan capital has sent out instructions to all Americans in Pakistan asking them to reduce their movement and to travel only when absolutely essential. They have also been asked to keep a low profile and also avoid very crowded regions.
The spate of militant activities in the Pakistan Afghanistan region has been on the rise with gunmen kidnapping Afghanistan ambassador designate and killing his driver in Peshawar. In another incident a suicide bomber killed several security officers in the Swat valley.
Following the attack on the JW Marriot hotel in Islamabad, British airways has also temporarily suspended its flights to the country. It used to offer six flights to Pakistan every week.
Meanwhile Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari is due to meet his American counterpart in America today. The topic of the fight against militants and terrorists will be on top of the agenda. Zardari has maintained that he will protect the sovereignty of Pakistan at all costs and any one violating its border will have to face action. Zardari has also asked America to assist them with intelligence reports in finding the militants but has maintained that Pakistan will be in a better position to deal with the threats themselves. With the security and safety of the people in Pakistan being the core issue these days and with Americans deciding to go ahead with aerial strikes in Pakistan, the Pakistan president is sure to face a tough time on the hot seat.