Mumbai attacks derail Indo-Pak peace process


LAHORE: The recent Mumbai carnage and the Indian allegations of a Pakistani hand in the deadly attacks have stuck yet another cog in the peace-talk machinery between India and Pakistan.

The official government circles in Islamabad say the Mumbai terror episode and the subsequent jumped at conclusions by the Indian government have surely thrown a spanner into the works of the peace process. The blame game that has long been part of the Pak-India relationship has begun once again now that the terrorists chose the very day to spur off attacks when Pakistani foreign minister was in New Delhi holding talks with his Indian counterpart and Indian home secretary was in Islamabad holding talks with his Pakistani counterpart. The official circles in Islamabad say the Indian government seems to be carried away by the hype the Indian media had created regarding the alleged involvement of Pakistan in the Mumbai attacks.

Despite an absence of intelligence findings, the finger pointing at Pakistan is termed ’absurd’ by many in the Pakistani government circles, saying that India knows fully well in the past when Pakistan was in a knee-jerk reaction blamed for the 2007 Samjhota Express blasts and 2008 Malegaon Maharastra blasts, it later transpired, much to the embarrassment of India that an Indian army official Colonel Prasad Purohit was the mastermind behind them both. Pakistani op-ed pages in newspapers have strongly reacted to the blame game about to begin. The News editorial, ’The blame game’ dated November 30 reads: “New Delhi would do well to desist from childish finger pointing antics. If indeed it comes up with evidence of any kind of cross border involvement, this must be shared with Pakistan. The two nations have after all agreed now to step up co operation against terror while Pakistan’s foreign minister currently in India offered all possible assistance in the Mumbai violence probe hours after the mayhem that engulfed the city broke out.”

While the Daily Times editorial dated December 1, ’Pak- India ties: time to tread carefully’ the same day is on a more futuristic tone: “Pakistan has already condemned the attacks and has warned that ’jumping’ to conclusions wont help either side. Pakistan has issued statements from the president and prime minister in a tone that clearly indicates sympathy and collaboration. President Zardari who took the risk of crossing the traditional nuclear redline by offering not to exercise the “first use” option will be put on the back foot if hostile rhetoric now rising in India takes over.”

Excerpts from ’Fighting terror jointly’, the editorial for Daily Dawn dated December 1 state: “Without a sensible approach from the Indian side, (it will be) sparking a new round of blame and counter blame. Following the attacks on the Indian parliament in December 2001 the cycle nearly ended up in a catastrophic war between the two countries. The only winners in the event of an escalation in hostility between India and Pakistan will be the terrorists in both the countries. But Pakistan cannot afford to be smug as India suffers. The attacks in Mumbai are a grim reminder of the endless possibilities of terror.” Conclusively, the Daily Times editorial reads, “The past may have been problematic but the present clearly shows both countries afflicted by the same disease. Both need to co operate and must stop their proxy war.”

With Indo-Pak tensions keep rising after the Mumbai attack, two leading militant commanders fighting with the Pakistani military in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan have offered a ceasefire, which the army is leadership is seriously considering, despite reservations of the civilian government of the PPP. The militant commanders on the Pak-Afghan border have contacted the government through their intelligence connections and have offered a ceasefire, provided the army also stops its ongoing operations in the Waziristan and Swat areas. Well-informed military circles in Rawalpindi say there is a possibility of the army deciding to accept the ceasefire offer and move its troops from the Pak-Afghan border to the Indo-Pak border to counter any troop buildup on the Indian side.

The Pakistan army spokesman has already responded to the ceasefire offer in a friendly tone during a media briefing, by describing the Waziristan-based Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Baitullah Mehsud and the Swat-based chief of the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) Maulvi Fazlullah, as patriotic Pakistanis. The suicide bombers as well as the fighters of the two militant groups had been fighting with the Pakistan army for the last four years. However, in the aftermath of the Mumbai carnage, they have suddenly decided to extend a hand of friendship towards the army, which has instantly reciprocated the gesture by declaring them as patriots. A senior military official told a group of senior journalists in Islamabad recently: “We have no big issues with the militants in the Pak-Afghan tribal areas. We only have some misunderstandings with Baitullah and Fazlullah which could be removed through dialogue.”

Military sources say the army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, has made it clear to President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani that if India escalates tensions, then Pakistan has to move its troops from the tribal areas to the eastern borders, and it would not be possible to continue the war against terrorism. Top military officials conveyed the same message to media representatives in Islamabad during a classified briefing. Despite assurances by Zardari on sending an ISI director to India to aid investigations in Mumbai, Islamabad has decided not to do so for the time being, under pressure from the military leadership which was furious over taking such a crucial decision without even being consulted by the government. The Pakistani army chief General Ashfaq Kayani reportedly maintained during a meeting with Pakistani President that neither the ISI chief not any director level officer should be sent to India simply because the Indians want him to be there. Subsequently, the official circles in Islamabad say the Pakistani government has taken a decision not to send any of the ISI representatives to India.

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