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« on: Nov 29, 2008 07:38 PM »


Empathy, Grief in Pakistan at Mumbai Mayhem
 
by Beena Sarwar
KARACHI - The terrorist attacks unleashed in the Indian port city and financial hub of Mumbai continue to reverberate through Pakistan at a personal level and on the media.

The crisis, that began Wednesday night and lasted through Friday, dominates conversation, newspaper headlines, television coverage and Internet chatter on indigenous websites and e-mail lists run by Pakistanis at home and abroad.

As a frontline state in United States' global "war on terror" Pakistan is only too well acquainted with the effects of terrorism, with such attacks in the country having more than doubled and the number of deaths quadrupling from 2006 to 2007, according to a report released in May by the US State Department.

However, even the most high profile attack in Pakistan which destroyed the Marriott Hotel in the capital Islamabad on Sep. 20, that some analysts termed Pakistan's "9/11," pales in comparison to the events in Mumbai that have claimed over 155 lives already, that many are now calling India's "9/11."

A group of at least 25 men armed with assault rifles and handgrenades attacked 10 sites in Mumbai and then barricaded themselves inside two of the city's finest luxury hotels, the heritage Taj Mahal and the Oberoi Trident, as well as a building housing a Jewish center.

By the time commando squads flushed out the buildings, 155 people lay dead, among them eight foreigners. The final death toll may well reach 200, according to officials.

There has been widespread condemnation in Pakistan against the violence in Mumbai, from ordinary people and non-government organizations as well as from the Pakistan government which has offered "complete cooperation" and support to India to fight the menace.

The Mumbai attacks, hitting in the midst of the fifth round of the ongoing composite dialogue between India and Pakistan, are likely to have wide-ranging repercussions for India and Pakistan relations and for the international community at large.

Analysts note that such attacks tend to take place whenever the South Asian neighbors are engaged in talks and peace initiatives. Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had barely started his four-day visit to New Delhi to review the dialogue process when the attacks took place.

Pakistan and India tend to blame each other for terrorist activities within their borders, although over the past year they have been less quick to point fingers. This time too, New Delhi did not immediately blame Pakistan, but later claimed to have arrested a militant with Pakistani links. The Pakistan government has strongly denied involvement.

Commentators in Pakistan point to the huge intelligence failure in India to detect the amassing of arms and training that have enabled such a large number of militants to hold Mumbai hostage for over two days now. They also criticize New Delhi's apparent reluctance to look within India's own borders at its various indigenous insurgencies.

"All of India's intelligence agencies have failed," comments Farrukh Saleem, who heads the Center for Research and Security Studies, an independent think tank in Islamabad, "The most critical element in their collective failure is their overwhelming focus on Pakistan-based militant groups."

He believes that the intensity of this focus has allowed India's homegrown militant entities "to spread like wildfire" that, according to South Asia Terrorism Portal, afflicts at least 231 of India's 608 districts.

These insurgent and terrorist movements include three distinct types, "left-wing extremist, separatist and religious," wrote Saleem in a front page analysis in daily The News on Nov. 28. "In 2006, a total of 2,765 Indians died in terrorism-related violence (that same year, 1,471 Pakistanis died similarly)."

Another analyst, who declining to be named, suggests that South Asian countries band together for joint military operations in the areas known to be breeding grounds for militancy against the guerrilla groups operating in different areas in the region.

In New Delhi, Qureshi stressed that India and Pakistan are both victims of terrorism. He said there was a need to strengthen the Joint Anti-Terror Mechanism and "revisit our strategies for peace and security of the region."

"Terrorism is a global phenomenon. We in Pakistan deal with it on a daily basis," Qureshi said. "We will have to join all our resources to fight the menace."

In an unprecedented gesture, Islamabad agreed to send its intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shujaa Pasha, the new director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to India at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's request.

Pakistan's civilian government in another groundbreaking move has recently disbanded the political wing of the ISI, often blamed for fomenting political trouble in the country and abroad.

"I feel a great fear that (the Mumbai violence) will adversely affect Pakistan and India relations," prominent Karachi-based feminist poet and writer Attiya Daud told IPS. "I can't say whether Pakistan is involved or not, but whoever is involved, it is not the ordinary people of Pakistan, like myself, or my daughters. We are with our Indian brothers and sisters in their pain and sorrow."

Daud said she is still in shock from the events in Mumbai, a city she has often visited. "Such a beautiful city, so many people's livelihoods and so much art and culture associated with it… It is so painful to see what is happening there. I watch the television coverage and remember standing at one of those spots watching street theater..."

Others, like Karachi-based businessman Tahir Siddiqui, believe that events in Mumbai will force greater cooperation not only between India and Pakistan but also between other countries engaged in combating terrorism.

"Pakistan can't afford to open any more fronts," Siddiqui told IPS. "We have to cooperate in this fight. I think any support within Pakistan to militants will decrease significantly now, including in Kashmir."

He added that the situation in Mumbai is "basically the symptom of a larger problem – the imperialist world's continuing support to dictatorial regimes across the Muslim world, from Indonesia to Morocco. This lack of democracy marginalizes people and holds back development. This is a wake-up call to address these issues."

On a personal level, what can citizens do? "Resist fear!" advocated Islamabad-based peace activist Shahid Fiaz in an email to friends in India and Pakistan. "I know how it feels when your cities are attacked. After the Marriot Hotel bombing and continued suicide bombings around the country, people go out less - markets and restaurants have a deserted look."

Fiaz, who is on the National Council of the Pakistan-India People's Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD), the largest people-to-people initiative between the two countries, told IPS that fear is what the terrorists want to achieve. "We need to come out and resist and tell terrorists that these are our cities, we own our cities and we are not scared!"

"We in Pakistan understand and share the pain, anger and grief of the people of India, as we are also victims of terrorism including daily suicide bombings in one part of the country or the other," said Iqbal Haider, co-chairman of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and a former federal minister for law and human rights.

"Instead of accusing each other, which will only help the real terrorists, the need of the hour is unity and understanding among the people of our region. We need to make concerted efforts to defeat the nefarious aims of these terrorists and eradicate these extremist religious militants or mafias from every nook and corner of South Asia."

In the final analysis, what is certain is that there will be no progress towards peace without determined political will.

(Inter Press Service)
 
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« Reply #1 on: Dec 01, 2008 05:10 PM »

Muslims condemn Mumbai attacks, worry about image

      RAMALLAH, West Bank – Muslims from the Middle East to Britain and Austria condemned Sunday the Mumbai shooting rampage by suspected Islamic militants as senseless terrorism, but also found themselves on the defensive once again about bloodshed linked to their religion.

Intellectuals and community leaders called for greater efforts to combat religious fanaticism.

Indian police said Sunday that the only surviving gunman told them he belongs to the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba. The group is seen as a creation of Pakistani intelligence to help fight India in the disputed Kashmir region. Another group, Jaish-e-Mohammed, has also operated in Kashmir. Both are reported to be linked to al-Qaida.

Ten gunmen attacked 10 targets in the three-day assault including a Jewish community center and luxury hotels in India's commercial hub. More than 170 people were killed.

Many Muslims said they are worried such carnage is besmirching their religion.

"The occupation of the synagogue and killing people in hotels tarnishes the Muslim faith," said Kazim al-Muqdadi, a political science lecturer at Baghdad University. "Anyone who slaughters people and screams `Allahu Akbar' (God is Great) is sick and ignorant."

In Britain, home to nearly two million Muslims, a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, Inayat Bunglawala, said that "a handful of terrorists like this bring the entire faith into disrepute."

A previously unknown Muslim group, Deccan Mujahideen, claimed responsibility for the attacks. The name suggests origins in India.

Pakistan has denied involvement and demanding that India provide proof. In Pakistan, Jamaat-ud Dawa, an Islamist group believed to have ties to Lashkar-e-Taiba, denounced the killing of civilians.

In Islamic extremist Web forums, some praised the Mumbai attacks, including the targeting of Jews.

A man identified as Sheik Youssef al-Ayeri said the killings are in line with Islam.

"It's all right for Muslims to set the infidels' castles on fire, drown them with water .... and take some of them as prisoners, whether young or old, women or men, because it is one of many ways to beat them," he wrote in the al-Fallujah forum.

In the Gaza Strip, the territory's Islamic militant Hamas rulers declined comment. Hamas has carried out scores of suicide attacks in Israel, killing hundreds of civilians in recent years. However, Hamas has said it does not want to get involved in conflicts elsewhere.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad referred to the attacks as terrorism, but added that the violence is rooted in "unjust policies" aimed at destabilizing the region. He did not elaborate.

India is seen by many in the Arab and Muslim world as a Western ally. For example, Israel has become an important arms supplier to India, angering Muslim Pakistan.

Saudi Arabia said in a statement carried earlier this week by the Saudi Press Agency that it "strongly condemns and denounces this criminal act." An editorial Friday in Saudi's English-language Arab News said that "no civilized person ... can be anything but revolted and sickened by the terrorist attacks in Mumbai."

However, Jonathan Fighel, an Israeli counterterrorism expert, said Saudi organizations have been funneling money to Muslim militants in Kashmir.

"This demonstrates exactly the double game and, I would say, the hypocrisy of the Saudi regime," said Fighel of the Israel-based International Institute for Counter-Terrorism.

Throughout the Muslim world, the attacks set off soul-searching.

"I think that Muslims should raise their voice against such actions. They should forge a coalition to fight such phenomena, because it harms them and damages their image," said Ali Abdel Muhsen, 22, a Muslim engineering student in the West Bank city of Nablus.

Muslims and Arabs must confront the violence "that is taking place in our name and in the name of our (Islamic) tenets," wrote Khaled al-Jenfawi, a columnist for Kuwait's Al-Seyassah daily.

"Unfortunately, we have yet to see a distinguished popular condemnation in the traditional Arab or Muslim communities that strongly rejects what is happening in the name of Islam or Arab nationalism," wrote al-Jenfawi.

___

Reporters across the Middle East and Europe contributed to this report.
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« Reply #2 on: Dec 01, 2008 06:35 PM »

Assalamualaikum

I take back what I said in the other thread .. a Pakistan-India war does not bear thinking about, and will encourage more terrorist activities. It seems everything is turned into a way for the US government to do what it wants to do (namely, in this case, more attacks on Pakistan).

On a side note, is it just me or does anyone else find the term "so-and-so's 9/11" irritating? I mean come on, SO many more innocent people have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine etc. but the media are still stuck on 9/11 and use it to evoke more emotions and reactions for killings in some countries rather than others.

Wassalam


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