INDIA: Empathy, Grief in Pakistan at Mumbai Mayhem
Analysis by Beena Sarwar
KARACHI, Nov 29 (IPS) - 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 U.S. 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 centre.
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
organisations as well as from the Pakistan government which has
offered "complete cooperation" and support to India to fight the
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 neighbours 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
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
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 criticise 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 Centre 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 home-
grown militant entities "to spread like wildfire" that, according to
South Asia Terrorism Portal, afflicts at least 231 of India's 608
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 Dawood 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."
Dawood 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
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
"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
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 marginalises 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
"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
"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
In the final analysis, what is certain is that there will be no
progress towards peace without determined political will.