Tag Archives | Osama bin Laden

The safety factor (in Pakistan)

Breakdown of the safety net provided by sporting a beard and a turban.

Speaking at an Ulema convention in Peshawar, the central chief of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Maulana Fazlur Rehman is reported to have said that Pakistan “was passing through the most difficult phase in its history where even bearded and turbaned people were no longer safe.”

Err…and you thought it was only in Afghanistan during the Taliban rule, that beards and turbans were a guarantor of your safety.

Of course, the good Maulana can’t be referring to the violation of safety of Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan because Laden did sport a beard but he got the headgear wrong. Going by the evidence so far, he was wearing only a woolen cap, and not sporting a turban during his stay in Abbottabad.

If Maulana’s theory does hold true, how safe would be the LeT-JuD chief, Hafiz Saeed inside Pakistan then? A quick Google search tells us that despite sporting a beard, Hafiz Saeed isn’t fully safe because he alternates between a turban and a skull cap.

Alas there can be questions about the objectivity of the theory itself —- for a quick glance at Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s picture somehow does raise suspicions about selfish motives of personal safety coming into play here.

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Weekday toons: On US and Pakistan

Some hard-hitting toons.

My colleague Rohan Joshi pointed me to this superb repertoire of toons on US-Pakistan relationship, after Osama bin Laden was eliminated by US military inside Pakistan. Here is my pick of the lot:


All toons from here. Thanks, Rohan.

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A lily-livered Indian briefing

What the hell is the Indian government official saying here?

The two press reports (here and here) of an off-the-record briefing by a senior Indian official provide a fair idea of the Indian government’s position in the aftermath of the US military operation that killed Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan. Here are a few gems from the briefing.

India is in favour of continuing talks with Pakistan. India demonstrated resolve to remain rooted to its current policy of “remaining engaged with Pakistan”.[Rediff]

How about demonstrating the same “resolve” when it comes to getting justice for the victims of Mumbai terror attacks of November 2008?

But the official noted India will put more pressure on Pakistan to “walk the talk” when it comes to cracking down on groups like LeT, which planned and carried out the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008.

The official acknowledged India has “drawn a blank” when it comes to getting Pakistan to extradite suspected criminals, called Pakistan a “never-never land” for terrorists, and described India’s relationship with Pakistan as “complicated” and “conflicted”–saying that’s no different from Washington’s relationship with Islamabad.[WSJ]

And how precisely will “more pressure” be put by India? By invoking the Thimpu Spirit and going back to the composite dialogue (while refusing to explicitly christen it so) with Pakistan, something which was in place before the Mumbai terror attacks! If these policies have “drawn a blank” so far, why are we being so bull-headed about pursuing these failed policies ad nauseam?

India’s relationship with Pakistan may be “complicated” and “conflicted” — as is Washington’s with Islamabad — but the nature of these two “complicated” and “conflicted” relationships is totally different. They are complicated and conflicted in different ways. As @thecomicproject said on twitter, while Osama bin Laden might have been hiding in Pakistan, the likes of Hafiz Saeed roam around freely in that country. This brings out the stark difference in the nature of the relationship that the US  has with Pakistan, and India has with Pakistan.

For all the “conflicted” nature of their relationship, US wields a high degree of influence in Pakistan because it bankrolls the Pakistani military and the economy. India, in contrast, has no influence whatsoever inside Pakistan. Let us not waste any further time in comparing the two.

“We have to deal with reality. Pakistan is a ‘hard’ country. They are not a push-over, and the US will learn that. At same time we are not helpless. There is a reasonable, sober way of dealing with a neighbour,” said the source.[Rediff]

Let us not worry too much about US learning that lesson. We ought to be rather concerned about what we have learnt in our six decades of dealing — in “a reasonable, sober way” — with a ‘hard’ country called Pakistan.

“We can’t ignore the reality. The ‘giant swatter’ is not going to work.” The source insisted, “It is very easy to be hawkish and say bring them (Pakistan) to their knees. But then what? The story won’t end there.”

The source added, “The idea is not to bring Pakistan to its knees. It’s not going to help. History will bear me out.”[Rediff]

India’s geographic proximity to Pakistan, the official said, makes its security calculations different than the U.S. “We exist back-to-back with Pakistan. There is no denying that reality,” the official said. “It’s easy to be hawkish on Pakistan, to say, ‘we’ll bring Pakistan to its knees,’ but then what?”

The official also said “we are not war mongers” and noted the countries’ shared heritage in the Indian Subcontinent. “Pakistan is a foreign country but it was a part of us at one time,” the official said.[WSJ]

This blogger is unable to figure out what all this means — “denying that reality”, the “giant swatter”, “very easy to be hawkish”, bringing “Pakistan to its knees” and “we are not war mongers”. Surely the concerned official is aware of what has happened in Jammu and Kashmir since 1989, and the attack on Indian Parliament, and of Kandahar hijack, and the terror strikes in Mumbai trains, at Jaipur, Hyderabad and many other cities and in Mumbai in November 2008 — with the Pakistani hand behind all of them.

This official’s sophistry can not cover up for the Indian state’s failure to pursue retributive justice for all the Indian lives lost due to terror, which has been actively promoted and controlled by Pakistani state agencies. Besides securing justice for the tragedies of the past, the purpose of Indian actions with respect to Pakistan should be to deter Pakistani military-jehadi complex from unleashing any terror against Indians in the future, whether on Indian or on foreign soil.

This official needs to remember that appeasement is not engagement, and burial is not the same as closure. While India needs to engage with Pakistan, it need not appease Pakistani military-jehadi complex. What Indians need is a closure with Pakistan, and not a burial that this Indian official is proposing here.

And finally, what the hell does “Pakistan is a foreign country but it was a part of us at one time” mean? Yes, it was. So what!

Update-1: There was another gem too which has been covered by this press report.

They also scoffed at Pakistan foreign secretary Salman Bashir’s stating that the demand for justice for 26/11 was outdated.

“We don’t think it was a serious statement,” said the sources.[HT]

And this blogger thinks that none of the statements made by the senior Indian government official in an off-the-record briefing to the media were serious statements.

Update-2: More chicanery on display, via this report.

“However, we have to understand the logic of history and geography… (even if) we have to eat more bitterness,” the source added.[Telegraph]

But the whole aim of government policy should be to ensure that we don’t have to “eat more bitterness”, whatever be the logic of history or geography. And if you as a government official can’t do that, it is perhaps best that you gracefully exit the scene.

Enough said. No more updates.

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A simple North-East India quiz

Can you identify these states and their capitals?

The helicopter of the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Mr Dorjee Khandu has been missing for four days now. With the newscycle in the Indian media being taken over the story of the death of Osama bin Laden, many well-meaning Indians lament the lack of focus on the missing CM of an Indian state.

Many of us believe that it is because the rest of India is apathetic to the North Eastern Indian states. There are many others who will disagree with that contention. For those who disagree — and even for those who don’t — here is a very simple quiz. Look at the image below and identify the eight North Eastern States and their capitals.

Click on the picture for a larger image

This should be pretty straight-forward. Now score yourself out of 16 and judge for yourself how much you know about that part of the country. You may leave your score in the comments section below.

You can check your answers by comparing it with this map here. For the complete country, you may check this out.

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Did Pakistan cooperate?

Whether Pakistan cooperated with the US or not, India must accept the dark reality.

Osama Bin Laden is dead. The Americans got him inside Pakistan. The official US version says that Pakistan was neither involved nor informed about the raid on the house at Abbotabad. Many others say that Pakistan was involved and it helped out in the military operation but is maintaining silence because of “a possible backlash from Islamist insurgents or Pakistan’s strongly anti-American public”.

Either way, it should be a salutary warning for the Indian Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh who would only consider his job “well done” if ties with Pakistan return to normal before he leaves the office. Despite any lack of movement by Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attack to book, Dr Singh has pushed his government back to the pre-2008 composite dialogue with Pakistan, albeit without specifically christening it so.

So how does Pakistan’s role in the US military operation to get Bin Laden matter for India?

If Pakistan was not even informed of the operation by the US, it shows US’ complete lack of trust in Pakistan army and intelligence agencies when it comes to fighting jehadi terror. In effect, it conveys that the Pakistan army is hand-in-glove with the jehadis. As Pakistan army is the sole repository of that nation’s policy towards India — with its strategy against India predicated on using terror as an instrument of state policy — India can not expect to see any change of heart from Pakistan. The status quo shall thus prevail.

If Pakistan was actually a party to this operation and is unwilling to acknowledge its role, its doesn’t make things any better for India. It means that a large section of Pakistani  society, and perhaps even the rank-and-file of its military, do not consider jehadi terror to be a menace that the Pakistani state should confront. And the Pakistani political and military leadership do not have the courage to tell their people even this truth, let alone convince them. Talking about peace with such a weak state and a duplicitous military will not save India from the wrath of jehadi terror emanating from Pakistan.

This may sound harsh but it is a reality that Indian political leadership needs to confront. There is no glory in pursuing a course of action which is doomed for failure.

Where does the answer lie for India then? To quote Carl Jung, “All the greatest and most important problems are fundamentally unsolvable. They can never be solved, but only outgrown.” India needs to learn to outgrow the problem called Pakistan.

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Weekday levity: the jehadi interview

To die for a jehadi cause.

Faisal Kasab applies to the Taliban for its jehadi fellowship. The Quetta shura conducts an interview.

“Jehadi Faisal Kasab, do you smoke?”
“Yes, I do a little.”
“Do you know that Osama bin Laden does not smoke and advises other jehadis not to smoke?”
“If Osama bin Laden says so, I shall cease smoking.”

“Do you drink?”
“Yes, a little.”
“Osama bin Laden strongly condemns drunkenness.”
“Then I shall cease drinking.”

“Jehadi Faisal Kasab, what about women?”
“A little….”
“Do you know that Osama bin Laden strongly condemns amoral behaviour?”
“If Osama bin Laden condemns, I shall not love them any longer.”

“Jehadi Faisal Kasab, will you be ready to sacrifice your life for the cause of the jehad?”
“Of course. Who the f*** needs such a life?”

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No halo around this Ghandy’s head

Kobad Ghandy… less of a Buddha, more of a Bin Laden.

The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they come from lack of understanding. ~Albert Camus

Kobad Ghandy’s is a story tailor-made for today’s mainstream media and the Indian media has gleefully obliged. Reams of articles — from old interviews and shallow psychoanalyses to political judgements — have been written and spoken about the Naxal ideologue. As the modern media barons never fail to remind us, this is a “human interest” story which justifies the extensive coverage; as if all the other stories are broadcast or printed to interest the Martians.

Why this pique against the “human interest” stories? The stories that take a clear political position on Kobad Ghandy are fine — as in a Tehelka or a Pioneer piece — but these humanistic portraits are insidious — usually inadvertently — in their messaging. This Sunday Express piece containing portrayal of regular guys-turned-Naxal ideologues makes for a perfect example. This politically indifferent portrayal — with huge dollops of romanticism — makes Ghandy out to be a kind of an ascetic, a spiritual person devoted to his cause, a dedicated soul who sacrificed all good things of life to pursue his chosen path. More dangerously, moral high ground has been yielded to him by not only humanising him, but rather bringing him out as someone way above other mere mortals, someone who could make those difficult choices that others cannot. In fact devoid of the political context, Kobad Ghandy comes out as some kind of a modern day Gautam Buddha, who willingly kicked away all materialistic pursuits and a family legacy to choose a life of constant deprivation and impoverishments for his cause.

But it is this cause which makes Ghandy what he is — evil and pernicious in his influence and actions. Ghandy and other Regular Rebels — to borrow the Express terminology — have provided ideological and intellectual nourishment to the violence perpetuated by the Naxals (or Maoists or Left Wing Extremists, whatever you wish to call them). It is these english speaking, regular middle class people who have provided a respectability to mass murderers and terrorist violence in the name of an outdated ideology. No one denies that there is poverty, under-development and inequality in certain parts of India but that is no justification for organised violence attempting to overthrow the state. It will offend many bleeding liberal hearts but once you put Ghandy’s life in this context, he resembles Osama Bin Laden in most respects, far more than he can ever resemble a Buddha.

Bin Laden, who also belonged to a wealthy business family with close ties to the Saudi Royal family, left a life of comfort to join the Mujahideens and further became the chief ideologue and world-wide symbol of al Qaeda. His followers, and supporters — and he has many, far more than Kobad Ghandy has — often invoke Osama’s courage in making the tough choice of leaving a life of comfort to pursue his cause in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Replace the Salafist-Qutubism ideology of Bin Laden with the Maoist ideology and the green colour of jehad with the red of the Left, and there is little difference left between Ghandy and Bin Laden.

Human interest or no human interest, the media cannot tell the tale of a Naxal ideologue in soft focus by covering only his personal life story. There is a social and political context to his actions which determine the legal and moral tenability of his positions. Rather than the halo being inadvertently placed around his head by the media, it is the halter which would perhaps fit this Ghandy better.

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Al Qaeda hates Iran-US rapprochement

India must avail of this opportunity.

This blogger’s take on India not striving hard enough to find common ground with Iran and the US, and facilitate a rapprochement between the two countries, has got a boost from an unlikely source. Osama bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri has posted a video to mark the sixth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq and 30 years of peace between Egypt and Israel. His criticism of Iran was harsh and the rhetoric should be pleasing to many ears in India and the US.

Al-Zawahri also warned the Obama administration against any cooperation with Iran in both Afghanistan and Iraq. “The more you cooperate with Iran, the more hatred you will generate from Muslims,” he said.[Yahoo News]

How about India making a grand coalition with Iran and the US — with an immediate focus on AfPak region– while simultaneously continuing its close cooperation with Israel? With the threat of Taliban moving in to Xinjiang province, such a broad-based alliance is certainly going to get even a sceptical China interested.

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