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09 February, 2009

India must strengthen civilian democracy in Pakistan


In the clamour for asking the Pakistani government to take decisive action against terrorist organizations in that country and shut down their camps we forget one thing. The civilian government in Pakistan is probably simply not in a position to do what we expect from it. It is a well known fact that military and ISI in Pakistan are quite independent of the civilian government. The terrorists function quite independently too - sometimes with overt and at others with covert support of the military and ISI. In fact, the situation is such in Pakistan that probably none of the players is in a position to dictate terms to another. How may we expect any coordinated action in this anarchy?

The best course of action for the government of India would be to strengthen the civilian democratic government of Pakistan and not see it as its adversary. For only when the civilians government and the civil society will have any say in running the affairs of the Pakistani society can we hope for an order there. The military and intelligence cannot have an upper hand in any civilized society and definitely the terrorists have no place. But it is easier said than done. The Pakistani society has to cope with its problems. But the least we can do is to encourage the elements in there to help restore normalcy and democracy.

In the aftermath of the terrorist incidents in Mumbai it was easiest thing to have put the entire blame on Pakistan , treating it as a monolith. Thus people's anger was channelized away just like in the US after the September 11 attacks the entire blame was put on Al-Quaida. For, if the blame had not been put on Pakistan , people would have started asking very inconvenient questions.

First and foremost is, we've yet to know who exactly were responsible for the security lapses and why are they not being held accountable? The Home Minister and the Chief Minister or his deputy were only the tip of the iceberg. What about people below who were more directly responsible for day to day security and intelligence? It is humanly not possible to launch the kind of attack that we saw over three days by ten Pakistani citizens coming from outside through the sea route without any inside help. Are we completely denying it? Or, have we begun the process of identifying the insiders, in or outside the government-administrative-security apparatus, who might have helped the aggressors? Why has nobody not raised the last piece of information that Hemant Karkare's investigations had begun to reveal before his unfortunate death- the links between RSS and the ISI? Why were Bal Thakerey and Raj Thakerey silent during those three days? Have we forgotten that Bal Thakerey had offered to the then PM Vajpayee to send his Shiv Sainiks to fight the Pakistanis during the last build up at border? This time the enemy had obliged by coming to his doorsteps. But why did the Shiv Sainiks, or for that matter any group of combatants or non-combatants, not storm the Taj or the Oberoi to end the ordeal sooner? Is it possible for a Class IV educated daily wage labourer from Pakistan to operate sophisticated electronic devices during the attack? Has the letter written by Ajmal Kasab to Pakistani High Commissioner asking for legal help actually written by him or like in plethora of other cases police got him to sign on what they wanted to be written? Indian Express carried a front page story soon after the attack about the European and US connection to the attack by disclosing that two SIMs used in the mobile phones carried by the terrorists were bought in Vienna and New Jeresy. Was there or was there not any European and US connection?

If we start seeking answers to the question like the above-mentioned ones skeletons might start tumbling out of our own cupboard. We are so obsessed as a nation with nailing down Pakistan that we are loosing objectivity. A.R. Antulay is looked at condescendingly when he raises a question. We can reach the truth only when we explore all possibilities of how things might have happened.

The response of the Indian government amidst a frenzy demanding action to gear up its laws and beef up the security, with possibly US and Israeli help, is ignoring the basic issues. Which laws and security have been able to stop people on suicide mission? If the terrorists in Mumbai were given another chance would they care for a stricter Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the newly created National Investigative Agency or better equipped Indian security forces?

We did not face such terrorist threats when we were a non-aligned nation. The problems for India began with the demolition of Babri Masjid. The first bomb blasts took place, in Mumbai, soon thereafter. With India going nuclear and the right wing Indian government unilaterally declaring after the September 11 attacks that India would join US in the 'war against terror,' the terrorists incidents in India have increased. As we went closer to US and Israel we began loosing friends in the Muslim world. It will be in our interest to reverse this entire process.

Actually, to feel secure from Pakistan there is only one option. To end the animosity with Pakistan . All outstanding issues must be taken up with the government of Pakistan and amicably resolved once and for all. The nuclear weapons possessed by India and Pakistan are the biggest threat to the people of South Asia . People giving a war cry in moments such as after the Mumbai incident forget the tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki . True security can prevail only when there is disarmament and withdrawl of military from both sides of the border.

But for this to happen conducive situation must exist in Pakistan . The democratic government must assert its control over the military, ISI and the terrorist outfits. This is not going to happen overnight and will require lot of effort. Are we prepared for the long haul? It is almost like rebuilding the Taj, Oberoi and the Nariman House as the best response to the terror attacks. We need to build friendship and peace with Pakistan and not create further enmity.

The author is a Ramon Magsaysay Awardee (2002) for emergent leadership and heads the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM). He did his PhD from University of California, Berkeley in control theory which is applicable in missile technology. He taught at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, before devoting his life to strengthening people's movements in early 1990s. He can be contacted at,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Shining (Shameless) India, Vibrant (Violent) Gujarat!