Tarek Fatah: Look to Pakistan power struggle for roots of Mumbai murders
November 27, 2008, 4:37 PM
terrorist mayhem in Mumbai had barely subsided when I received the
first e-mail suggesting the attacks had been carried out by agents of
Mossad — Israel’s foreign intelligence agency — masquerading as Islamic
terrorists to give Muslims a bad name.
Alex James of Toronto forwarded a news item claiming, “India’s
Internal Security Police are now holding and questioning an identified
Israeli Mossad agent, who had been in communication with some of the
alleged terrorists in India two weeks before the black-op attacks took
As ridiculous as this may sound, chances are that countless Muslims
are deluding themselves into believing that it is not their
co-religionists who are responsible for the savagery let loose on
India, but some hidden U.S.-Zionist conspiracy against Islam.
If at all there was an intelligence agency whose fingerprints can be
spotted at the crime scene, it appears to be Islamist rogue elements
from Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), which is hell-bent
on disrupting India’s (recently improving) relations with neighbouring
For two decades, the ISI has been the de-facto government in
Pakistan, toppling regimes, aiding the Taliban, giving cover to
al-Qaeda fugitives and running a business empire worth billions of
In July, the new democratically elected government in
Islamabad, led by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, attempted to bring
the ISI under civilian control. Under threat of a military coup, it had
to perform a humiliating about-face within 24 hours.
Then last Sunday, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister announced that the
political wing of the ISI, which is responsible for rigging elections
and blackmailing politicians, had been disbanded, saying, “The ISI is a
precious national institution and wants to focus on counterterrorism
It seems the Foreign Minister had spoken too soon. Within hours of
his announcement, the BBC reported that an unnamed senior security
official had contradicted the statement.
While this tussle for control of the country’s intelligence network
was going on behind the scenes, on Tuesday, the president of Pakistan,
Asif Zardari, threw a bombshell that caught the Pakistan military
establishment off-guard. Speaking to an Indian TV audience via a
satellite link, President Zardari announced a strategic shift in
Pakistan’s military doctrine. He told a cheering Indian audience that
Pakistan had adopted a “no first-strike” nuclear policy.
This apparently did not go down well within Pakistan’s military
establishment, which has ruled the country for decades using the Indian
bogeyman to justify the maintenance of a huge military machine on a
permanent war footing.
Immediately, military commentators
denounced Zardari, with one saying he believed the President was “not
fully informed or completely aware of” Pakistan’s policy on the issue.
To further alarm Pakistan’s own military-industrial complex, Zardari
borrowed a quote from his late wife, Benazir Bhutto, who once said
that there’s a “little bit of India in every Pakistani and a little bit
of Pakistan” in every Indian.
“I do not know whether it is the
Indian or the Pakistani in me that is talking to you today,” Zardari
said, amid applause from his high-profile audience, which included
diplomats, politicians and industrialists.
While most Pakistanis welcomed the new air of peace and friendship
between Indian and Pakistan, the country’s religious right was upset.
Just a month ago, the founder of one of Pakistan’s most feared armed
Islamist groups had accused Zardari of being too dovish toward India,
and criticized him for referring to militants in Indian-held Kashmir as
Then, this week, the so-called Deccan Mujahideen struck against
India with the clear aim of triggering a Hindu backlash against the
country’s minority Muslims — with the obvious attendant danger to
Most security commentators agree that the Deccan Mujahideen is
merely a tag of convenience, and that behind this well-planned terror
attack lies Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a major militant group fighting in
Indian Kashmir — the same group that has recently warned Zardari to
desist from warming up to India.
Time will tell whether these Islamists succeed or whether the people
of India — Hindus and Muslims alike — can see through this provocation
and embrace the hand of friendship extended by President Zardari.
In the meantime, Muslims around the world will also have to decide
whether to enter the 21st century and distance themselves from the
doctrine of armed jihad, or embrace these murderous haters of joy and
Tarek Fatah is the author of Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State (Wiley).
Indian commandos take positions outside "Nariman Bhavan", where the
armed militants are believed to be holed up in Mumbai November 27,
2008. The building has mainly Jewish residents. REUTERS/Arko Datta