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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2764

Mumbai Tragedy whether concocted or genuine

By Asif Haroon Raja

On late evening of 26 November, the world was jolted by an event in Mumbai, capital of Maharashtra. The terrorists attacked ten sites which included two leading hotels Taj and Oberoi Trident, Café Leopold, Victoria Terminal Railway Station, Cama Hospital and Jewish Centre Nariman Bhawan. The inmates of the two hotels were taken hostage by the attackers. Within an hour of the unfolding of Mumbai episode, the highly virulent and biased Indian media and officials started pointing fingers at Pakistan unabashedly. Media hype was created as was seen during Kargil crisis and attack on Indian parliament in December 2001. The US and western electronic media joined the chorus of Pakistan bashing in a coordinated and synchronised manner. Media hype was intensified with each passing hour and media anchors went over board describing fanciful scenarios about the terrorist attacks and equated it with yet another 9/11.

Running commentary was given by the highly charged media-men who put their skills to full use to sensationalise the event to its optimum. All sorts of stories were splashed linking the terrorists with Al-Qaeda, with Lashkar-e-Taiba, with Jaish-e-Muhammad. A Punjabi-like film was shown in which a character namely Chacha Rehman based in Karachi was shown as the mastermind behind the Mumbai attacks. The trend of the media was anti-Muslim and anti-ISI. Astonishingly, there was not a single voice of sanity and maturity. Governed by chauvinism and misplaced Indian nationalism, each one who mattered tried to outdo the other to spew venom against Pakistan to prove his patriotism. They babbled frivolously and non-stop as if speaking from a prepared script. All the media anchor persons and journalists interviewed by Pakistani anchors had a twinkle of malice and mischief in their eyes and each spoke with a sense of arrogance. None gave any room for doubt that there could be someone from within involved in the attacks. All jabbed their pointed fingers at Pakistan in unison and that too without carrying out even preliminary investigation or providing any piece of evidence to substantiate their wild allegations. It was a classic example of yapping tongues going bonkers mandated to conquer Pakistan with war of words. It was a case of coercive interrogation to pronounce the marked accused guilty and making him confess his crime he never committed.

Series of articles appeared in all the Indian, western and American print media on the morning of 27 November when the fire in the two top hotels of Mumbai was still raging and the militants had not been identified and overpowered. Each article pointed accusatory fingers at Pakistan alleging that certain elements in Karachi had helped in despatching armed terrorists to Mumbai. Such a speedy write up with analysis could not have been printed in so quick a time unless these were prepared in advance. The planners of the gory drama seemed in a hurry to declare Pakistan as the chief culprit. After giving a small coverage to the unknown Hyderabad-Deccan Mujahideen having sympathy for the maltreated Indian Muslims, the entire focus was shifted on Pakistan and all other possibilities were discarded. One lone ranger of the Deccan Group who was arrested and disclosed his identity as Ajmal Kasab belonging to Faridkot was picked up as a solid evidence for indictment. Interestingly, he was carrying his passport, credit card and SIM card to ease the job of investigators. Despite his pleading that he belonged to Hyderabad Deccan, Maj Gen RK Huda boisterously declared that he was a Pakistani belonging either to Pakistan’s Hyderabad or Faridkot town in Pakistan and spoke in Punjabi. He is being grinded and soon he will be made an approver and brought before the media to spell out the story fed to him by the intelligence goons. Indians close their eyes to the hard reality that tens of RAW agents are in the custody of Pakistan caught red handed indulging in sabotage and subversion in Baluchistan, Swat and FATA and have given ominous details of where and by whom they were trained, equipped, funded and launched and what objectives they were assigned and their score cards. While blaming Pakistan Indians deliberately closed their minds to hundreds of hardened terrorist groups up in arms against Indian security forces for the last 50 years and having deep-seated animus against the regime and the army. They also overlooked over 15 insurgencies and separatist movements raging in India.

The strength of the terrorists was initially quoted as 8, which jumped to 12 and then to 25. Finally it was scaled down to 12. The army was brought in and given control of the city. Glum-faced Manmohan Singh appeared on the TV and handed out a warning to neighbours that there will be a cost to pay by those who provided a haven to anti-Indian terrorists. He said that the attacks were well-planned and orchestrated to spread panic by choosing high-profile targets and indiscriminately killing foreigners. He had refused to meet our Foreign Minister who was on an official visit and the meeting was scheduled. On his return Qureshi was handed down a letter written in threatening language disregarding norms of decency and diplomacy. Pakistan was directly accused of having a hand in the episode. Our PM tried hard to contact Manmohan and finally when he got in touch with him, he made the obnoxious demand of sending DGISI to New Delhi to exchange intelligence. It was a trap to humiliate Pakistan and Gilani unwittingly ceded in his eagerness to assuage the anger of Indians. Mercifully wisdom prevailed because of scathing backlash from home audience and our leaders rescinded the order of sending him.

The counter actions taken by the Indian military and its elite commandoes which involved para-dropping were covered by the videos and zoom lens in minute details; as if a film full of horror and sensation was being filmed.. Close-ups of panic stricken foreigners were flashed repeatedly and interviews of those who were rescued taken. To glorify the military, the so-called bunch of terrorists was described as well-motivated, well-organised and well-laced with weapons and to add spice to the story the convenient scapegoat Pakistan was linked. By the time the commandoes cleared the troubled spots and freed the hostages, more than 200 lay dead and over 300 injured including five Jews and ten westerners. Over a dozen security men including the anti-terror chief and two senior police officials as well as all the militants got killed.

The way the so-called terrorists achieved total surprise in entering the Port City and attacked multiple targets almost simultaneously should have logically bamboozled and paralysed the state machinery for at least 8-12 hours if not more. To ascertain what had happened, how it happened, who were involved, how many actors involved, who else were in backup support, whether the assailants were gun-totting terrorists or suicide bombers, what was the motive and their demands, whether explosives were implanted in the targeted places - these and many other puzzling queries should have sprouted up within the thick fog that enveloped Mumbai on the night of 26th. However, the security forces encountered no such fog and came into action instantly.

It was astonishing that the attackers opted to sneak into commercial hub-centre loaded with guns and ammunition after disembarking from two ships, allegedly belonging to Pakistan Navy (Alpha and Al-Kabir), and steered their way to the shores of Mumbai in dinghy boats undetected. This was an outstanding feat achieved by the militants and should be an eye opener for the highly trained and skilled marine commandoes of the world navies who should learn lessons to improve their combat skills to carryout beach landing. As per Indian version, the terrorists made their way into the commercial city after hoodwinking the entire security apparatus of India comprising Indian Navy, Coast Guard, Port Authorities, Police and the intelligence agencies. If true, the terrorists should have rejoiced at their grand success and quickly melted into the city populated by over 15 million people of all hues majority of whom are extremely poor. Logically, they should have been received and guided to safer places to be able to plan and conduct covert operations stealthily.

The ideal places for the terrorists and insurgents to operate are the dense jungles, rugged mountains or cosmopolitan cities. Denser the cities, easier it is for the terrorists to get submerged in the sea of humanity and perform their acts undetected. In Pakistan, Karachi provides greater opportunities to terrorists to indulge in terrorism. In India, Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi are soft cities where with little effort much bigger damage can be inflicted. Instead of cashing on this advantage, the weird militants opted to emulate Rambo by demonstrating their terrorist skills overtly. They decided not to perform their task stealthily but to avail the facility of so-called Pakistani ships belonging to Pakistan Navy and the latter readily obliged. (The two ships are not on the catalogue of Pakistan Navy. After the army and ISI, is navy also being put in the firing line?). The terrorists fingered sensitive spots and deliberately put their heads in the hornets nest to get stung to death.

If the purpose was to cause fear and panic, this objective could easily have been achieved through several other safer means without getting detected. The targets they selected were not military targets but soft targets and did not require dare-devil physical attacks. This impact had been achieved through series of bomb blasts in Bombay in 1993. The selected targets could have been blasted with the use of time-bombs or the usual method of ramming explosive laden vehicle. Whenever suchlike raids have been carried out, the perpetrators plan infiltration and ex-filtration meticulously and surprise and deception is the key to the success of operation. I reckon, the terrorists had followed the principle of Tariq bin Zayyad who had burned all his ships after landing at Gibraltar. They got so carried away by their successful entry that they threw caution to the wind and started to empty their loaded guns at whatever came their way, got themselves confined to the two hotels and waited for the Indian security forces to come and kill them one by one.

If one goes by the second version of India that the terrorists had come a month earlier and carried out extensive preparations, it implies they had a secure base, guides and guaranteed suppliers of munitions. If so, should they have pooped off their entire ammunition in one go, or done it systematically in bits and pieces to achieve better and lasting effects? If they planned to capture the city, the strength was too small and selection of targets poor. Most intriguing part of the drama is that the so-called unknown Mujahideen undertook this suicidal mission to get Deccan liberated without preparing the people of Deccan for such recourse and without creating sufficient grounds for it. One wonders what happened to tens of organisations fighting war of liberation to liberate Kashmir including the Maoists in central India and seven sister states in the northeast for years and rendered immense sacrifices. They all must have admired the dare-devilry of this group and felt ashamed as to why they could not think of such a venture.

The Indian Navy having attained deep-sea capability and laced with latest state-of-art weaponry and early warning system prides itself to be the predominant naval force in the Arabian Sea and claims itself to be the sole contender of Indian Ocean. In conjunction with Coast Guard it guards Indian 250 nm exclusive economic zone (EEZ) round the clock and even a foreign origin stray fishing boat dare not sail into it. In collaboration with US Navy, the duo has achieved unchallenged supremacy over the sea lanes of Indian Ocean with rights to check any ship on the plea of checking nuclear proliferation. Indian Navy has also developed capability to affect a sea blockade to deprive any littoral state from receiving shipments from elsewhere. It sounds bizarre that with all their latest gadgets and protective measures two ships managed to sail from Karachi port to Mumbai port travelling a distance of 450 nm, off-loaded the terrorists along with their baggage at Mumbai coast and came to know only when the city started to joggle because of unstopped rattle-tattle of guns and the ships were on their return journey and apprehended off the coast of Gujarat.

If Mumbai episode was invented, it was done so in an absurd and shoddy manner and only its partners in the crime would have lauded it. It should be condemned in strongest of words since too many precious lives got wasted. If it was not concocted and was real, it speaks of a huge breakdown of state intelligence and failure of Indian Naval Intelligence and seven other intelligence agencies and security departments. Considering the high rate of deaths of innocent Indians including foreigners and loss to the property, it was a failed military operation and in no way can be gloated over as a successful operation. When commandoes are employed for rescue operations, the purpose is to achieve the objective with least amount of casualties. The perpetrators of the crime are overpowered skilfully by stalking and other tactics in a lightening operation; or besieged, exhausted, terrorised and made to surrender; or terms negotiated through dialogue.

Only a dozen terrorists managed to keep the elite Black Cats at bay for three days and eventually the assistance of Israeli commandoes was sought to overpower and kill them. Had it been normal infantry, it would still have been fighting. Indiscriminate cross firing resulted in killing of 200 innocent people including 80 Muslims and over 300 injured. The figure is too high; it is a massacre which cannot be condoned. Another thing which is quite intriguing is that except for one all other terrorists were not only shot dead but their faces deliberately mutilated beyond recognition. Why so! Cold blooded murder of Mumbai Police Chief and two other police officers who had unearthed an extremist Hindu network in which serving officers were also involved also raises eyebrows. Video footage showing two terrorists with rucksacks entering the hotel were RSS Hindu members and not Muslim militants.

India might have had reasons to feel offended had Pakistan showed lack of concern and refused to cooperate in finding the culprits. On the contrary Pakistan’s President and Prime Minister went out of the way to extend a hand of assistance. India had no reason to jump the gun without carrying out preliminary investigations and arrogantly asking PM Gilani to despatch DG ISI to New Delhi. These unpalatable actions have revealed their ill intentions and unmasked their true colours. Instead of looking inwards and putting their systems in order, the Indians have started to indulge in blame game which will prove counter productive. Mumbai blasts were manufactured to establish a terror link with Karachi and find a pretext to destabilise Karachi. Steps in that direction have already been initiated since last three days to make the MQM battle the Pashtun settlers and religious groups based in Karachi. It is time for all the patriotic elements to rise to the occasion, shun their petty differences and face the challenge boldly and collectively to frustrate the evil designs of our adversaries. It is time for pro-India political parties to become pro-Pakistan only.

Asif Haroon Raja is a researcher and a security analyst based in Rawalpindi.

- Asian Tribune -

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