Thursday, November 27, 2008

Has Pakistan Frankenstein struck again?

WHO is behind the latest murderous attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai, in which hundred people have been killed and more are held hostage? The young men taking part have been described as just "boys" by witnesses, yet they were heavily armed, and not with popguns.

It was a planned and coordinated operation, and they knew their targets, and unlike previous atrocities in which Indians were mainly the victims, this time they reportedly went for Westerners, particularly those with British passports.

The bitter irony here is that the terrorist outfit responsible may have owed its beginnings to the war in Afghanistan when anti-Soviet mujahaddeen based in Pakistan were backed by the US Reagan administration and Britain's Margaret Thatcher.

India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, has said the attackers were supported from outside the country, and though he did not mention Pakistan by name, warned "neighbouring countries" to stop allowing their territory to provide bases for terrorism. Indian police claimed the attacks looked like the work of Lashkar e Taiba, an Islamic group based in Pakistani territory, though it is officially banned in Pakistan.

Lashkar e Taiba was founded in Kunar province, Afghanistan, in 1991 by Professor Hafiz Muhammed Saeed, as the military wing of an Islamic party, Markaz ad-dawa w'al Irshad, MDI, based near Lahore in Pakistan. It supported the fight against pro-Soviet Afghan President Najbullah. Then in 1993 it turned to launching operations in Kashmir.

Adhering to the strict conservative Wahabbi brand of Sunni Islam dominant in Saudi Arabia, this movement has the modest aim of establishing Islamic rule across a large area of the former Soviet Union, China and South Asia. Though officially banned by the Pakistan authorities after the United States labelled it terrorist, the Lashkar e Taiba moved from its Lahore headquarters to a base at Muzaffarabad in so-called Azad (free) Kashmir, the Pakistani-occupied zone of that country. Fetching in Afghan and Pakistani gunmen as supposed 'freedom fighters', it has attacked Indian forces in Kashmir. But since not all Kashmiris are Muslims, let alone mistaking fundamentalism for their freedom, it has also engaged in sectarian (or 'communal') attacks, such as killing 35 Sikhs at Chittisinghpura in 2000. A similar number of Hindus were taken from their homes and killed at Doda and Udhampar at the end of April 2006.

To avoid repression in Pakistan, the MDI transformed itself into separate wings in 2003, so that Hafiz now heads Jamaat ad Dawaa, the Party of the Calling, which operates legally and points to its charitable activities, as distinct from the military side. The 2005 Kashmir earthquake gave the Jamaat the chance to raise its prestige by being on the scene in Azad Kashmir's badly-affected areas ahead of the Pakistan authorities and army. It also afforded the chance to raise funds from Kashmiris and others in Britain and elsewhere, intended for humanitarian relief.

Yesterday's attacks in Mumbai are probably the worst in India since 11 July, 2006, when 211 people were killed and hundreds more maimed and injured in bombings of rush-hour commuter trains, also around Mumbai. The port city is being targeted as India's main commercial centre; but also, as the train bombings indicate, as a mized, modern secular city where it is working people, including Muslims, who are the victims.

The Pakistan government has condemned the Mumbai attacks, and so has Lashkar-e-Taiba Lashkar has no association with any Indian militant group," Abdullah Gaznavai, chief spokesman of the group, told Reuters.

As a sectarian state, and base for imperialism, Pakistan, through its military intelligence agencies, has long been implicated in sponsoring armed terrorist groups, though it seems in recent years the monster has grown out of control of Pakistan governments, or their Western allies.

We must not forget either that the present Indian government, contrary to the republic's democratic constitution and reputation, has not only kept its military occupation in Kashmir, but has elements linked to the pogroms in Gujarat when 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed. More recently we saw violence against Christians in Orissa.

To add to the grim and grisly picture, there have been suggestions that the latest attackers had links in Bangladesh, where a right-wing regime now includes those who sided with Pakistan against their own people's fight for independence.

Whatever the truth, and whichever accusations we have to believe, we can see that as they clear away the blood and debris from the latest carnage, and fear the next, people have also got to clear out rotten and criminal leaders from all three countries. And they are not alone.



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