Pakistan Perspective On Mumbai Attacks

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India says that "elements from Pakistan" were responsible for the attacks in Mumbai last week. Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid says Pakistanis do not accept that the attackers came from Pakistan. He tells Steve Inskeep that Pakistanis are rallying around the nation's government.


Indian authorities have blamed the attacks on, quote, "elements from Pakistan." Investigators say the attackers came from there. And one surviving attacker is a Pakistani national, we're told. So let's get a view from a prominent Pakistani journalist, Ahmed Rashid, whose most recent book on his homeland and surrounding countries is called "Descent into Chaos." Mr. Rashid, welcome back to the program.

Mr. AHMED RASHID (Pakistani Journalist; Author, "Descent into Chaos"): Thank you.

INSKEEP: Do Pakistanis accept that the attackers came from your country?

Mr. RASHID: No, they don't. There's been a very strong rallying round the government. You've got all the opposition leaders who've met with the prime minister. They've been meeting with the president. They've been offering their support. They've been condemning the Indian accusations. And the most extraordinary thing is that in the tribal areas where the Pakistan army is fighting the Pakistani Taliban, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, has actually offered a cease-fire to the army if they have to move from there to the Indian border to confront the Indians.

So it's generally being seen as, you know, the country rallying round the government at this particular time. And there's very little discussion about, you know, whether a Pakistani group was involved, or anything like that.

INSKEEP: I want to understand if people don't even accept India's version of the basic facts. When India says these attackers came by boat from Pakistan, and when India says one survivor is a Pakistani national, are Pakistanis just saying, nope, not true, don't believe anything you say?

Mr. RASHID: No. No, no, no. I think what the majority of Pakistanis believe is that it's quite possible that Pakistanis are involved in this. After all, we've been having a spate of terrorist attacks inside Pakistan too. But the insinuation that the government is somehow involved, or that the army or the intelligence agencies - which India has not flatly said, but has insinuated in so many words, and certainly the Indian media is saying it quite clearly - I think that's what the Pakistanis are objecting to. I think people are very fed up with terrorism, and they sympathize with the Indians on that count. But it's the insinuation that somehow the government is involved, I think, is - and certainly no proof has been offered by the Indians - that is what is in question.

INSKEEP: Is it felt at this time that Pakistan's government is making a credible effort against terrorists, whether they're striking within Pakistan or within India?

Mr. RASHID: Personally, I don't think it is. I think there are - the roots of terrorism are very, very deep. They go back 20, 25 years. And there are many of these terrorist groups whose leadership is still living quite freely at home. For example, the group accused by India, Lashkar-e-Toiba, their leaders are living in Lahore. The fact is that, you know, many of these groups who were once fighting in Kashmir, who were fighting in Afghanistan, now seem to have been linked up with al-Qaeda and with the Pakistani Taliban. So where one begins and the other ends, one doesn't really know.

INSKEEP: Mr. Rashid, we know that relations between India and Pakistan were improving before these attacks. And now we hear you saying that even the Pakistani Taliban have offered a cease-fire if Pakistan's army, which is fighting them, has to go away and fight a war against India. That does raise a question. Do you think this has increased the chances of a war at some point between India and Pakistan?

Mr. RASHID: Well, I think it all depends on India's reaction, because if India directly accuses Pakistan, if India mobilizes its forces, then there's going to be a mobilization in Pakistan by the army. And that then, of course, you're into a spiraling, upward spiral, of escalation and counter-escalation and mobilization and counter-mobilization, which is exactly what we went through in 2002 when there was an attack on the Indian Parliament. The world can't afford another escalation like that, another year's worth of diplomacy, when the situation is so critical and the terrorists are gaining ground.

INSKEEP: We found Ahmed Rashid in Madrid, Spain. He's a Pakistani author - author of several books about Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia, the most recent of which is "Descent into Chaos." Thanks very much for your insights.

Mr. RASHID: Thank you very much.

INSKEEP: And you heard him on Morning Edition from NPR News.

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