Monday, February 15, 2010, Safar 30, 1431 A.H   ISSN 1563-9479
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Opinion Archive
The News International Pakistan

 Mumbai attacks: who dunnit?
By by Ayesha Ijaz Khan
America?s military and economic might forced the world to accept that Osama bin Laden was responsible for the 9/11 tragedy. This may well have been the case, but since the verdict was pronounced five minutes into the heinous incident and never investigated thoroughly or transparently, we will never know for sure and many will continue to harbour doubts. It is also true that think tanks and analysts in the USA had begun talking about replacing the Red Enemy with the Green Enemy soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The invasion of Afghanistan, and later Iraq, fit perfectly into this paradigm.

In her piece in CounterPunch on Wednesday, titled ?From Mumbai to Washington,? Israeli human and women?s rights activist Yifat Susskind writes: ?In the seven years since George Bush put the world on notice with his ?you?re either with us or with the terrorists? declaration, the US has actually managed to fuel support for groups that use terrorism. That?s because the ?war on terror? has led millions of people to conclude that the US is an even greater threat to their safety and freedom than Al Qaeda and other violent fringe groups.?

Yet, the ?you?re either with us or against us? talk scared most countries in the Islamic and non-Islamic worlds alike, and there was global acceptance of America?s version of events. A cursory look at anti-terrorism laws (some of which may be justified but others a flagrant abuse of civil liberties) and media projection of events in most countries, whether one looks at Bulgaria, Bangladesh or Japan, will verify that the American superpower was not to be questioned. Pakistan was no exception. And perhaps few would disagree that Pakistan, being in the thick of it, had little option but to cooperate with the US when it was asked to do so in late 2001. How it behaved subsequently is wholly another matter and open to extensive critique.

Sane American voices, nevertheless, questioned their government?s rhetoric or presented alternative possibilities, but were soon declared unpatriotic. Professors like Steven Jones, who had studied vectors and velocities, concluded that the collapse of the twin towers was best explained by controlled demolition sped by a thousand pound of high-grade thermite. But after his pronouncement was made public he was placed on paid leave by Brigham Young University, where he taught. Though a few others spoke out as well and formed the ?9/11 truth movement,? their voices were marginalised. And although polls suggest that a high number of Americans are suspicious of the official government version of events, and indeed most of my American friends speak with similar skepticism, they nevertheless bought into the official rhetoric enough not to raise their voice against it.

Today, Indian friends are in a similar predicament. Privately, they laugh at their government pointing the finger squarely in Pakistan?s direction well before the siege on the Taj Hotel had ended or the alleged terrorist captured, but do not protest the government?s rush to blame the usual suspect. It is either too convenient to lay blame on ?Islamic extremists? or too harrowing to be labelled unpatriotic.

India, however, is no superpower. And though mainstream western media is predictably close to official stories, the alternative media, which has slowly but surely gained in readership during the drab Bush years, is cautioning India against following in America?s footsteps and asking questions about the evidence.

Christine Fair, a senior political scientist and South Asia expert at the RAND Corporation, was interviewed by several publications regarding the Mumbai tragedy and repeatedly stated, ?There?s absolutely nothing Al Qaeda-like about it. Did you see any suicide bombers? And there are no fingerprints of Lashkar. They don?t do hostage-taking, and they don?t do grenades.?

Wayne Madsen, a Washington DC-based investigative journalist, author and syndicated columnist, who was also a communications security analyst with the National Security Agency in the 1980s and previously an intelligence officer in the US Navy, has written some of the most thought-provoking pieces on the Mumbai incident. The first question he raises is with respect to the so-called security-camera shot of the alleged terrorist, Qasab. ?The angle,? Madsen argues, ?is too narrow for a train station which would have a wider angle and be shot from higher up than the photo being shopped by Indian police.?

Dawood Ibrahim, one of the 20 fugitives on India?s demand list, is someone that Madsen too feels may be involved, however. But Madsen claims that India is trying to boost the Lashkar-e-Taiba?s involvement in the Mumbai attacks while downplaying the role of Ibrahim. The son of a Mumbai police constable, Ibrahim has informants and agents peppered throughout Indian police. Yet, Madsen states that ?there is also evidence that rightwing Hindu elements of RAW were aware of Ibrahim?s hit on Mumbai beforehand but allowed it to play out in order to carry out a ?soft coup? by rightwing Hindu nationalists against the Congress government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Madsen further makes the claim that more than one group may have been involved in the terrorism. On the one hand, Ibrahim and his group may have attacked the Oberoi-Trident and Chabad House, where large numbers of Israelis were present, who may have been working for the Russian-Israeli mafia that was poised to rival Ibrahim?s gangs in their drug and other smuggling operations. Chabad Houses, Madsen claims, have often been used as fronts for money laundering operations. Moreover, ?the Oberoi hostages were shot in the back of their heads, a typical gangland execution method preferred by Ibrahim and not the firing squad method used by LeT,? Madsen explains.

On the other hand, Madsen also believes that some of the terrorists were Hindus, tipped off by RAW officials who sympathise with rightwing Hindus and who learned of the attack beforehand but did not act to prevent it. According to Madsen, the Hindu terrorists killed Hemant Karkare in ?false flag? attacks later blamed on the Muslims. Madsen also believes that the photograph being splashed around in the media of one alleged Qasab is actually one of the Hindu terrorists.

In a sense, Madsen projects a gruesome turf war between rival gangs and transnational mob bosses, fiercely protecting their interests in a spectrum of illicit activity with links and cross-links to most of the world?s noteworthy intelligence agencies. Assuming Ibrahim was in Pakistan (though it has also been said that he currently holds a passport from Mali), would it be wise for Pakistan to hand him over to India, as demanded? Which law would be invoked to facilitate this extradition? And would India reciprocate by extraditing Colonel Purohit (after all three brave men who India had tasked with investigating Colonel Purohit mysteriously died in the 26/11 attacks, namely, Hemant Karkare, DIG Ashok Kamte and encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar)? More importantly, would there be justice for Ibrahim in India? Would all illicit links be uncovered? Would ties to the CIA, MI6, Mossad, RAW and ISI, all be explored? Or would Ibrahim be used only to frame Pakistan as the standalone fall guy?

According to Madsen, Ibrahim has ties that link him to some of India?s most prominent politicians and Bollywood stars, not to mention the extensive connections in Mumbai?s very corrupt police force. If Madsen is to be believed, Ibrahim was also an on-and-off CIA asset, and could potentially uncover very embarrassing ties to Langley.

In the light of this information, the Lashkar may have very little, if anything, to do with the Mumbai attacks. Whether or not that is true remains to be seen. Though any group that targets innocent civilians, whether inside or outside of Pakistan, must be actively curbed by our government. And this should be done of our own accord and not in response to pressure from America, India or any other country. More importantly, it is imperative that the investigation of the Mumbai attacks be as transparent as possible and leads are followed bottom-up instead of trying to link pieces of evidence with many missing dots to establish a desirable conclusion. A joint probe is a good idea, and perhaps the best place to try the culprits may be a neutral forum, such as the International Court of Justice, as opposed to any individual country.

The writer is a London-based lawyer and political commentator. Website:

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