26/11: A view from Pakistan
To me, Mumbai is very special because it is no ordi- nary city. Its sheer energy, rhythm, drive, glamour and joy of living infect you. It is a city where anything
is possible, whatever the odds. Between its shanty townships and swinging nightlife lies the essence of ‘Incredible
India’ — a city mired in poverty yet soaring across the
world. On many visits to Mumbai, almost to a man — or
woman — Indians never mentioned the ‘K’ word —
Kashmir. They talked of steaming ahead. And almost
everyone talked vaguely about ‘being one’ — with Pakistan
— in tones bordering on nostalgia.
Here, in Pakistan, the ‘K’ word is like a well-intoned
mantra, and the Indian nostalgia for ‘being one’ finds no
supporters. It is partially why every peace or normalization
initiative gets bogged down. There are other factors too,
namely the Pakistan army’s ingrained but seldom admitted
paranoia of becoming irrelevant in the event of a peace
deal. Ditto with the nutty hawks and right-wingers, who
dream of hoisting the green and white flag over the Red
Fort in New Delhi.
Then there are the ‘jihadis’ with their crazed agenda. It is
a bubbling, frothing cauldron and no one knows what’s
cooking inside. Thus, even a whiff of relation normalization
is immediately followed by a feeling of euphoria and just as
immediately — and sadly — by disappointment.
Mumbai is no stranger to terrorism. Between 1993 and
2011, almost 750 people in the city have lost their lives to
terrorist attacks, and thousands have been injured. When
26/11 happened, there was widespread shock in Pakistan.
But as evidence clearly indicated our involvement, voluntary or otherwise, there was denial. This was followed by
The attackers were all from Pakistan, yet this fact did not
dampen the enthusiasm of Pakistani officials to deny all
responsibility. The carnage that was beamed nonstop,
worldwide, instead induced the ostrich syndrome in us. We
sought shelter behind notions like attributing to the attackers the status of mercenaries acting in their personal capacity — non-state personnel, or at the bidding of shady outfits, some here and some across the border in India.
Even Zionism, Pakistan’s favorite whipping-state, was
thrown into the cauldron of blame, as was the United
Pakistan’s Punjab, establishing
Ajmal Kasab’s Pakistani identity.
There was much fuss over the
Indian-compiled report on 26/11
that had been delivered to the
Pakistan government. As India
waited with increasing frustration, Pakistan officialdom sat on
the fence looking for thumbs to
twiddle. Weeks later, the interior ministry went as far as to
claim that it was still ‘examining’ the document.
The Indian government was convinced that the delay was
deliberate to ‘buy’ time. Most assumed that the 26/11
dossier was the size of Everest. It wasn’t. It could have been
read in minutes and answered within a week at the most.
But no one was that interested. It was more important to
develop a ‘posture’ than an answer. The farce continued.
The truth was and is that the act was committed by
Pakistani militants trained in Pakistan. Senior military persons maintained then and now that this act did not have
the support of the Inter Services Intelligence or any other
organ of the Pakistani government. These terrorists evidently belonged to the banned outfit called Lashkar-e-
Tayiba and were responsible along with the ISI in fomenting trouble in Indian Kashmir. It and many of the banned
outfits roam freely here.
Possibly the first senior official of the Pakistani government to directly get in touch with the Indian government
then was the national security adviser, retired Major
General Mahmud Ali Durrani, who offered to send
Pakistani investigators to Mumbai to work alongside the
Indian investigating team — a thought echoed much later
by Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.
The Indians, especially the media, had already gone
berserk. The Indians accused the ISI of being involved,
Logical in a twisted way, perhaps. Convincing, no.
With India accusing Pakistan,
the latter changed positions from
silence to denial to going on the defensive. An offer to help
and the prime minister’s promise to send the ISI chief to
India (didn’t win the prime minister any brownie points
with the army and eventually he did not go) did not result
in the crisis abating. Even if the ISI was not involved, there
is no doubt that it brought the strained relations between
the two neighbors to the lowest level and set back any slender chances of peace.
Instead, war at one point was imminent. The NSA who
revealed to a Pakistani TV channel that Kasab was very
much a Pakistani, was sacked. Later, on January 7, 2009,
the minister for information, Sherry Rehman also said
the same thing, but escaped a sacking — though she later
quit. A month later, Pakistan’s minister of interior,
Many Pakistanis were shocked and saddened at the carnage and killing of innocent people — but not all. Today most Pakistanis no
longer seem to have any interest in the case
Rehman Malik, not the most discreet man in Pakistan,
admitted Kasab’s identity and said “parts of the attack
were planned in Pakistan.” Arrests here and abroad of
many Pakistanis and foreigners linked to Mumbai continued, the Le T was charged formally. But nothing further is
known of that move, buried as it is in tons of reports and
In India, the finger has pointed at various outfits — the
Indian Mujahadeen, the Mumbai underworld, Kashmir
militants, Islamist groups and Students of Islamic
Movement of India, the last of which allegedly planned the
attacks with the LeT. There is a mind-boggling amount of
data and nothing is still clear. With the imminent hanging
of Kasab, the sole survivor after the rejection of his
February clemency plea, this chapter too will close. Kasab’s
charge that the attacks were conducted with the support of
Pakistan’s ISI will never be proved.
Average Pakistanis were shocked and saddened at the
carnage and killing of innocent people — but not all. Today
most Pakistanis no longer seem to have any interest in the
case. From the front pages to the back, then inside and now
small snippets tucked away, it has lost out in the aftermath
of other terrible events that steadily continue to rock us. It
will revive briefly if and when Kasab is hanged. Then like
him, it too will cease to be.
As for the rest of us, we live on uneasily with so many
known and unknown outfits freely going about their black
business — the current flavor of the month is the Haqqani
Group with the US braying for its blood. In such murky
times, the truth becomes an easy target and for government
spokespersons to take cover and assign blame where it cannot be verified, simply becomes manageable.
Only more people-to-people contact will begin to overcome the history of mistrust between Pakistan and India.
When both governments ban that silly ceremony at the
Wagah border, it will mean more than we can think.
But when will this happen?
Your guess is as good as mine.
Masood Hasan is a Lahore-based columnist and the
author of the book The Doggone Years
By arrangement with Gateway House