Archive for the ‘ Mumbai Attacks ’ Category

Pakistan and India Are Back At the Peace Table

By Manzer Munir

Islamabad, Pakistan- India’s Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao is scheduled to visit Islamabad later this month as both India and Pakistan are back on track to resume their high level diplomatic talks. The discussions between the two so far are considered “preliminary” and are a “first step” in the words of Secretary Rao. She had earlier restated India’s concerns about terrorist groups operating in Pakistan and provided additional information related to the Mumbai attacks. Her counterpart in Pakistan, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir, stated that “Pakistan is doing all that it can to fight terrorism”. Expressing his sympathy with the victims of the Mumbai attacks, he focused on Pakistan’s core concern that “terrorism should be looked at more broadly”. He believes that the two countries should address the root causes of the terror campaign and, from that perspective; Kashmir is the “core issue.” Pakistani officials believe that if India was a bit more flexible on Kashmir, then all the outstanding issues between the two countries can be resolved.

India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is believed to sincerely desire to make a “breakthrough” in relations with Pakistan and has been vocal about it too in recent interviews. During the elections last year, he had highlighted his efforts to promote back-channel diplomacy for conflict resolution during the rule of former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. He also met last year with the current Pakistani Prime Minister to pledge to resume peace talks.

In Pakistan there also appears to be a significant shift in foreign policy. The American and Pakistani militaries and intelligence agencies are working closely and have had some recent successes together to stop the al Qaeda-sponsored terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The US commanders have been full of praise of the Pakistan army and its recent offensives against the Taliban. The Pakistani army has disrupted the al Qaeda and Taliban network over most of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. This has come at a steep price as more than 2,500 soldiers have been killed.

This sacrifice by the Pakistan army has not gone unnoticed as the United States has increased both military and economic aid to Pakistan. The US is nudging both India and Pakistan to the peace table since a peaceful border with India will allow Pakistan to focus entirely on its western border at the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. This will facilitate the Obama administration’s ability to eradicate the Taliban and Al-Qaeda once and for all from the region with Pakistan army’s help.

For far too long since Pakistan’s independence, the army has always felt India to be the biggest threat to the nation’s sovereignty and freedom. But for the first time in its history, an enemy has surfaced and proven to be much more detrimental to Pakistan’s survival as a nation and security for its citizens. And that enemy and threat is the radicalized groups such as the Taliban both from Afghanistan and inside Pakistan as well as the largely Arab Al-Qaeda network that operates in the area. Also militant groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and others also pose the biggest threat to the nuclear armed nation. The danger from the extremists has allowed elements inside Pakistan’s army leadership to reconsider the threats to Pakistan.

The dialogue between India and Pakistan has been off again and on again for over 63 years. But in the current climate of mistrust and hatred coupled with tensions still simmering from the Mumbai attacks, there is little room for error on both sides. It is hoped that the upcoming talks prove to be a step in the right direction of normalizing relations between these two nuclear armed neighbors who share almost an 1800 mile long border known in this part of the world as the Berlin Wall of Asia.


The Snub of Pakistani Cricketers by the Indian Premier League Should Come As No Surprise

By Manzer Munir

New Delhi, India- Events at an auction held earlier this month by India’s wildly popular Indian Premier League (IPL), consisting of professional cricket teams and franchises, has caused outrage amongst the cricket crazed Pakistani population. Up to seventeen top Pakistani cricketers were anticipated to be selected as top picks in the auction between the teams that saw none of the Pakistani players being selected.

Indian Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram on Monday said that the “decision of the franchisees not to select any of the 17 Pakistani cricketers, who had been given Indian visas for participation in the third edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), was a disservice to the game of cricket.” Speaking in an interview to a television channel, Chidambaram said that the “IPL issue could have been handled in a better way” and expressed disappointment over the non-selection of the Pakistani cricketers as individuals.

He said these players were 20-20 World Champions and did not deserve to be treated this way. He said that any suggestion that the Indian Government had “nudged” the IPL not to select Pakistani players was not true and had no foundation.

The Pakistani press also had a field day with this turn of events calling for a boycott by the hockey team that is scheduled to visit India next month for Hockey’s World Cup being held in India where Pakistan is scheduled to participate.

Pakistan’s sports minister has demanded the Indian government carry out an inquiry into the snubbing of Pakistan cricketers in the Indian Premier League player auction. “We want the government of India to intervene in this issue and let us know who were responsible in keeping Pakistan cricketers away from the IPL,” Ijaz Jhakrani said Tuesday. “From day one our stance is that the IPL decision was an influenced one.”

The sports ministry has also put on hold its granting its permission for the Pakistan golf team to tour India next month. In addition, Speaker of Pakistan parliament’s lower house, Dr. Fehmida Mirza, stopped a parliamentary delegation’s proposed tour of India in protest. “We have asked both our foreign and interior ministries to let us know about the golf team’s tour to India,” sports ministry spokesman Faik Ali told the Associated Press. “We will decide on golf team’s tour to India after receiving inputs from both ministries”, she said.

Even Bollywood superstar actor Shah Rukh Khan, an owner of one of the IPL teams, the Kolkata Knight Riders, weighed on the issue saying it was “humiliating” to see none of the Pakistani players being picked and that the issue could have been handled better.

The tensions between India and Pakistan are seen as the main reason why the teams stayed away from picking the top Pakistani cricketers. There is a fear amongst the owners of the teams that should the animosities between India and Pakistan escalate, then the teams would suffer as their Pakistani players would be unable to travel or participate in games due to conflict between the two long time enemies. So in a sense it is a business reason that may have precipitated the action by the IPL. There is also a belief by many in Pakistan that perhaps the Indian government influenced the IPL into not accepting Pakistani cricketers as a way to reprimand Pakistan and punish it and its citizens for the Mumbai attacks of 2008, which is still fresh in everyone’s minds. India feels Pakistan has not done enough to rein the terrorist groups blamed for the attacks.

Nonetheless, the upset Pakistani cricket fans should also realize that there is a persistent uneasiness and suspicion on the part of India as Pakistan continues to be seen as the major threat to India’s sovereignty and security. To many in India, allowing Pakistani cricketers to play in India’s IPL would be seen as a way of rewarding a country and its citizens whom you detest and view with deep suspicion and enmity. So in a region of the world where so much tension and conflict already exists between the two neighbors and has simmered for over 60 years, one must not assume everything is peachy and just play ball!

Pakistan and China increase military spending and cooperation as India shows concern

Beijing, China- A senior Chinese defense official has justified Chinese sales of warships and submarines to Pakistan on the grounds that Russia and the United States were selling similar systems to India.

The defense official also indicated that China was aware of the fact that India may not be happy with its deal with Pakistan. “The initiative may invite concerns from its neighboring countries. But the doubts are unnecessary,” Zhai Dequan, deputy director of China Arms Control and Disarmament Association , was quoted as saying by the official media.

Pakistan’s chief of naval staff, Norman Bashir, also made a push to persuade China to sell higher capacity ships compared to the F22P frigates that China began delivering in June.  Chinese official Zhai said that Pakistan’s   desire for higher capacity ships is normal for an independent nation seeking to bolster its security. “India has also entered into deals for military hardware from the Unites States and Russia. India’s aircraft carrier has already cost it billions of dollars”, said Zhai.

Bashir also met with the Chinese defense minister, Liang Guanglie, and discussed with him Pakistan’s needs in terms of modernizing their armed forces to try and keep up with the torrid pace of rival India’s defense spending. “The Chinese armed forces would like to improve friendly and cooperative relations with the Pakistani armed forces,” defense minister Liang Guangile said, according to China’s state-run Xinhua press agency.” China attached great importance to its traditional friendship with Pakistan, Liang said, adding that the two countries had conducted comprehensive and multi-level military exchanges and cooperation in various areas.”

“The Pakistani armed forces and people cherished their friendship with the Chinese armed forces and people”, Noman Bashir said, noting that “Pakistan would like to work with China to promote the comprehensive and cooperative partnership.” Bashir also stated that Pakistan was keen on buying bigger ships and more JF-17 fighter planes from China in addition to submarines and that Pakistan will be buying more weapons from China, including missiles. 

“These growing military ties between China and Pakistan are a serious concern to India,” stated Defense Minister A K Antony. India worries about China’s rising influence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region, a neighborhood traditionally considered as its sphere of influence.

India’s relations with Pakistan, never easy after three wars since 1947, went downhill fast after last November’s Mumbai attacks blamed on Pakistani originated militants. Meanwhile, Chinese and Pakistani cooperation on military and economic projects has increased in the last few years. “The increasing nexus between China and Pakistan in military sphere remains an area of serious concern,” Antony said in a speech. “We have to carry out continuous appraisals of Chinese military capabilities and shape our responses accordingly. At the same time, we need to be vigilant at all times.” Tensions between India and China, who fought a brief war in 1962, flared again in recent months, especially with the re-emergence of a long-standing border dispute made worse by a visit by the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, to Indian territory claimed by Beijing.

India increased defense spending by 24% for this year’s budget to $28.4 billion a year dwarfing Pakistan’s budget of $4.2 billion for the same period. Meanwhile, China and India are together set to make Asia the highest regional spender on defense in the next seven years replacing North America as their economies continue to fund their weapons appetite.

Pakistan cannot compete with the likes of India and China militarily. Just as Taiwan could not compete with China militarily, but went on to become an economic powerhouse and used its influence economically,  so too must Pakistan focus on growing its economy rather than growing militarily. Even though Pakistan possesses the nuclear bomb, and that very well may end up being a strong deterrent against India in the likelihood of a war, it still is loathe to use it, for the consequences from India would be similar and far worse due to their increased warheads and military might.

Also, although Pakistan’s military and previous leadership have articulated the right to a preemptive nuclear strike or a nuclear first use option in the event of hostilities with India, this choice is often seen as a losing option by the military due to the aftermath of a nuclear exchange between the two countries. India’s budget and its technological advancements make it impossible for Pakistan to ever win a conventional war with India. And a nuclear exchange between these two neighbors will leave neither side feeling as the winner.  

Pakistan’s most beneficial strategy must consist of directing its full armed forces against the Taliban and militant groups within its territory and re-engaging India back to the peace table in hopes of resolving the long disputed Kashmir region because war with India will certainly not leave Pakistan the victor. However a peace treaty can open the long border between India and Pakistan for trade, goods, ideas, money and people to move freely across the border and allowing much needed investments and flow of technology to Pakistan that will go a long ways in helping the country and its people catch up with the rest of the world.

Reported by Manzer Munir for

Pakistani court suspends deportation as another case of homegrown terror troubles US authorities

Karachi, Pakistan- Pakistani police on Monday seized a luggage and a cell phone from a hotel where three of the five Americans who were arrested on suspicion of terrorism planning and militant links stayed. A court has ruled that the men cannot be deported to the United States until the judges review their case.  Pakistani police has alleged that the five young Americans intended to join militant and extremist groups in the northwest tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. This case is troubling as it would appear that Americans and Western raised men are traveling to Pakistan to link up with Al-Qaeda and other militant groups like the Taliban.

Pakistani police had searched their hotel, aptly named Saddam Hotel in the southern city of Karachi.  The detainees have been accused of using the internet and such sites as Facebook and Youtube to reach out and connect to extremist groups and have been said to have been in contacts with a Taliban recruiter also.  The Pakistani court actions are intended to prevent the deportation of the accused to the United States until the courts in Pakistan can ascertain the facts and review the case.

The men, who are from the Washington DC area were picked up last week by Pakistani authorities after their worried families in the US contacted the FBI about their missing sons and enlisted their help in tracking the men down. The authorities were given a farewell video found by one of the family members that showed scenes of war and called for Muslims to be defended. FBI agents, who have had some access to the men, are trying to see if there is enough evidence to charge the men with conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist group.

A US government official was satisfied with the Pakistani government’s assistance stating that “We’ve had excellent cooperation with the Pakistani authorities, both on the diplomatic side and on the law enforcement side,” said State Department spokesman Ian Kelly, “And the Pakistani authorities granted us access to the individuals within 24 hours of our request, which is a very speedy response.”

The threat posed by homegrown terrorists in the United States and in European countries is a growing concern for the FBI and US agencies. The incidents such as the Fort Hood shooting where Major Nidal Hasan allegedly shot and killed 13 fellow soldiers at the Texas base last month do nothing but further raise those concerns. Then there’s David Headley, an American born Muslim to mixed ancestry who is indicted in the Mumbai blasts of November 2008. And now comes the story of the five Muslim American men arrested in Pakistan who were interested in waging  jihad against the US.

It is too early to call it a growing trend, but the incidents and their frequency does suggest that there is certainly a minority segment of very young Muslim males who somehow are being radicalized not in strict Afghanistan or Pakistan or somewhere in Iran. Rather, in the streets of Virginia, New York, Chicago and other cities, certain young Muslim males are becoming radicalized and becoming extremists. This phenomenon can be best described as a catch 22. You see, these radicalized and misguided men feel that because the United States is waging wars in Muslin countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan, it is being an oppressor. To these men, defending Muslim lands from an outsider and an oppressor is an obligation and a duty and is a call for every Muslim. On the other side, there is the American policy of engagement of the enemy on its turf, as is seen in the Bush doctrine. “Take the war to the terrorists” as President Bush so famously put it in 2001.  These wars that were initiated to be pre-emptive in the case of Iraq and retribution in the case of Afghanistan, have inadvertently become the cause célèbre of these jihadists and young extremists.

In essence, there is a vicious cycle of violence at work here. We have American troops in Afghanistan who are there to defeat the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan so that the US is safe from a terrorist attack hatched overseas. Yet, the next threat may actually be coming from an American born Muslim who is being alienated and radicalized due to the “unjust” war against his “brothers” constant 24 hour cable news coverage, satellite TV and foreign news channels, the internet websites and other sources.

As instances of homegrown Muslim radicalization grow or come into the limelight, it is imperative that the vast majority of peaceful, law abiding and patriotic American Muslims keep vigilant and mindful of the few in their midst who may be becoming radicalized in front of their eyes. It is vital that the Muslim community speak up as the parents of these young men did and alerted the authorities when they became concerned that they may have some sinister designs after discovering their farewell video. It is together with our cooperation with the authorities that we can sniff out these lost individuals before they do any harm to anyone or to an entire religion. The mosques and Islamic centers must do more to ensure that there is no radicalization or fiery sermons. There needs to be a conscientious effort on the part of the American Muslim community of progressives and moderates to speak up and chastise those that are becoming extremists within their midst in order to prevent the next Fort Hood massacare or the next Mumbai.

 Reported by Manzer Munir for

Chicago Man Is Charged in 2008 Attack on Mumbai

December 7, 2009 WASHINGTON — The Chicago man with roots in Pakistan who was arrested two months ago for planning to attack a Danish newspaper now faces the much more serious charge that he was deeply involved in planning the 2008 massacre in India that killed more than 150 people, according to court documents filed by the Justice Department.  

Court documents charge that David Coleman Headley, 49, an American citizen who is the son of a former Pakistani diplomat and a Philadelphia socialite, conducted extensive surveillance of targets in Mumbai, India, for more than two years prior to the attacks by the terrorist group called Lakshar-e-Taiba, which is based in Pakistan.  

Six Americans were among the dead in the attacks on a Mumbai train station, the Oberoi and Taj Mahal hotels and other sites.

He has been charged with conspiracy to murder and maim in a foreign country, and material support of terrorism. Federal officials said the most serious charges, conspiring to carry out bombings that resulted in deaths, carry possible sentences of death or life in prison.

The Justice Department said that Mr. Headley, who is cooperating with the government’s investigation, spent several years and considerable effort on behalf of the plotters, attended training by the group in Pakistan, videotaped targets and briefed the other conspirators on how to carry out the attack on India’s largest city.

 Mr. Headley took boat trips in and around Mumbai harbor in the spring of 2008, videotaping potential landing sites for the attackers, who would arrive by sea, the court documents charge. The attackers traveled from Karachi, Pakistan, hijacked an Indian fishing trawler, killed its captain, and then used a small boat to go ashore. The masked men used assault rifles and grenades in their deadly onslaught.

 Mr. Headley also scouted out other potential targets in Mumbai and elsewhere in India that were not attacked, including the National Defense College in Delhi.

 Mr. Headley, a resident of Chicago with a criminal record for smuggling drugs to the United States from Pakistan, was arrested in October with a Pakistani-born businessman, Tahawwur Rana, 45, who runs several businesses in Chicago and Toronto. Mr. Rana and Mr. Headley, who have known each other since attending an elite Pakistani military high school, were charged with plotting an attack against Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper that published a series of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

 Mr. Rana, a citizen of Canada, was not charged in the Mumbai attacks. But officials said the two men appeared to consult closely, and Mr. Headley posed as a representative of a company owned by Mr. Rana. In a bail hearing last week, Mr. Rana argued that he was duped by Mr. Headley.

 The Justice Department also announced Monday it had filed charges against Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed, a retired major in the Pakistani army, with collaborating in the plot against the Danish newspaper.

“This investigation remains active and ongoing,” said Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the United States Attorney for the northern district of Illinois.

 David Kris, the Assistant Attorney General for National Security, said, “This case serves as a reminder that the terrorist threat is global in nature and requires constant vigilance at home and abroad.”

Arrested on Oct. 3 at O’Hare airport in Chicago as he was boarding a plane on the first leg of a trip to Pakistan, Mr. Headley was officially charged a few weeks later with plotting to attack employees of a Danish newspaper that in 2005 published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that offended many Muslims.

Federal authorities said at the time that Mr. Headley told F.B.I. agents that he had initially targeted a building occupied by the Danish newspaper, Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten in Copenhagen, but later proposed killing the paper’s cartoonist and cultural editor instead.

Officials said they regarded the case as significant because Mr. Headley traveled to Pakistan and consulted closely with three Pakistani men who belonged to Harakat-ul Jihad Islami, a terrorist group affiliated with Al Qaeda. The officials said Mr. Headley reported to Ilya Kashmiri, the operational leader of the terrorist group, who is based in a tribal region of northwest Pakistan.

When he was arrested, Mr. Headley was carrying about a dozen videotapes of the Danish newspaper office and surrounding areas that he was going to deliver to other conspirators in Pakistan, federal officials said. They said he had made the videotapes during several visits to Copenhagen in 2009.

Mr. Headley (or Daood Gilani, the name he was given at birth) is a man who has been pulled in different directions almost from the moment he was born. Even his eyes — one brown, one green — seem to symbolize the contradictions in his life.

Mr. Headley was born in Washington, where his Pakistani father and American mother worked at the Pakistani Embassy, he as a diplomat and she as a secretary. Mr. Headley’s mother, Serrill, grew up in a fashionable suburb of Philadelphia, and the cultural differences between her and her husband were too vast for the marriage to survive after the family went to Pakistan.

Serrill Headley left her husband and her children and moved back to Philadelphia sometime in the early 1970s. She worked at various office jobs and borrowed enough money from a suitor to buy an old bar, which she named the Khyber Pass.

In the late 1970s, she brought her adolescent son to Philadelphia to live with her. “Daood was not immune to the pleasures of American adolescence,” a former Khyber Pass employee once recalled.

Nor, to judge from his own words, was he immune to the lure of Islamic fundamentalism. “Courage is, by and large, exclusive to the Muslim nation,” he told high school classmates in an e-mail message last February. More chilling was an e-mail message he wrote defending the beheading of a Polish engineer by the Taliban in Pakistan: “The best way for a man to die is with the sword.”

By Ginger Thompson and David Stout for The New York Times originally published Dec 7, 2009

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