Roller Coaster Ride

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Anees Jil­lani Anees Jil­lani is an ad­vo­cate of the Supreme Court of Pak­istan and a mem­ber of the Wash­ing­ton, DC Bar. He has been writ­ing for var­i­ous pub­li­ca­tions for more than 20 years and has au­thored sev­eral books.

The re­la­tions be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan are vir­tu­ally like a ride on a roller coaster: up and down. They were up when PM Va­j­payee took a bus trip to La­hore and down when Gen­eral Mushar­raf de­cided to in­trude into Kargil. They were again up when Pres­i­dent Mushar­raf met PM Va­j­payee in Agra and they were down when the sum­mit failed. They were again up when PM Va­j­payee met Pres­i­dent Mushar­raf while at­tend­ing the SAARC sum­mit in Is­lam­abad which sub­se­quently led to a com­pre­hen­sive com­pos­ite dia­logue but have been more or less down since the cri­sis erupted in Pak­istan over the re­moval of the Chief Jus­tice which led to the even­tual down­fall of Mushar­raf, fol­lowed by the Mum­bai at­tacks. They ap­pear to be on the up­swing yet again af­ter Nawaz Sharif’s com­ing to power and there is talk of In­dia again agree­ing to a com­pos­ite dia­logue to dis­cuss all the is­sues in­clud­ing Kash­mir.

The 2008 Mum­bai at­tacks ac­tu­ally changed the dy­nam­ics of what­ever was hap­pen­ing in the con­text of Indo-Pak re­la­tions as oth­er­wise the dia­logue fol­low­ing the Jan­uary 2004 Mushar­raf-Va­j­payee meet­ing would have even­tu­ally led to a few pos­i­tive break­throughs.

The 12 co­or­di­nated shoot­ing and bomb­ing at­tacks in Bom­bay by mem­bers of Lashkar e Taiba be­gan on Novem­ber 26 and lasted un­til Novem­ber 29, killing 166 peo­ple and wound­ing at least 308. Among the dead were 18 for­eign­ers, in­clud­ing six Amer­i­cans. At least 20 mem­bers of the se­cu­rity forces died. And nine at­tack­ers were killed. The In­dian au­thor­i­ties claimed that Aj­mal Kasab, the only at­tacker who was cap­tured alive, later con­fessed dur­ing in­ter­ro­ga­tion that the at­tacks were con­ducted with the sup­port of the ISI.

The ten young men armed with ri­fles and grenades ter­ror­ized Bom­bay, now Mum­bai: a city of 18 mil­lion, for four days, and turned the city’s prime sites into bat­tle­fields un­til the se­cu­rity forces ended one of the dead­li­est at­tacks in In­dia’s his­tory.

The then Pak­istani rulers acted clum­sily in han­dling the cri­sis and mis­read the in­ter­na­tional mood against ter­ror­ism. PM Gi­lani, soon af­ter the at­tack, promised his In­dian coun­ter­part that his coun­try would send the ISI Di­rec­tor Gen­eral to In­dia. The PM House was quick to even is­sue a press re­lease in this re­gard. How­ever, the rulers failed to re­al­ize that the real power con­tin­ued to vest in GHQ. The In­dian Govern­ment had of­fi­cially not even re­acted to this be­fore Pak­istan Pre­mier’s Of­fice re­tracted its state­ment about the ISI, ap­par­ently af­ter the mil­i­tary au­thor­i­ties ex­pressed their in­abil­ity to com­ply with his un­der­stand­ing with the In­dian Pre­mier.

The In­dian me­dia is gen­er­ally hawk­ish when it comes to Pak­istan; and was even more bel­liger­ent af­ter the Mum­bai car­nage. It is quite free as far as do­mes­tic re­la­tions are con­cerned but for some rea­son toes the Min­istry of Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs’ line when it comes to for­eign af­fairs, par­tic­u­larly with re­spect to Indo-Pak re­la­tions.

As a re­sult, the tem­per­a­ture arose tremen­dously and the re­la­tions were at an all time low. The PPP Govern­ment, in­sti­gated by its In­te­rior Min­is­ter, Rehman Ma­lik, kept mak­ing one prom­ise af­ter an­other to the In­di­ans about con­vict­ing the guilty for their in­volve­ment in the Mum­bai blasts but noth­ing con­crete has so far come out, de­spite a pas­sage of al­most five years.

It is a sad sit­u­a­tion and re­flects quite badly on Pak­istan’s in­ten­tions to fight the men­ace of ter­ror­ism, par­tic­u­larly that which threat­ens the neigh­bor­ing coun­tries. Cases are pend­ing in the Anti Ter­ror­ism Court in Rawalpindi and, like ev­ery­body else ac­cused of a crime, the in­car­cer­ated can be as­sumed to be in­no­cent un­til proven guilty. The ques­tion, how­ever, is that what is tak­ing the ju­di­cial process to come to a con­clu­sion, es­pe­cially when the Anti Ter­ror­ism Courts are fast-track courts and are statu­to­rily bound to de­cide a case within a short time. The sooner this mat­ter is con­cluded the bet­ter it will be for the state of Indo-Pak re­la­tions.

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