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Family of the Heart - DIALOGUE & DISCUSSIONS 

The Daily Star
Tuesday, December 1, 2009 

One Year after Mumbai: Some unresolved Issues

Burning questions remain. Photo: Impact LAB.com
 
Taj Hashmi

 
ONE year after the sensational attack on Mumbai, most people only know how many people got killed while the city was under “siege,” unbelievably by "ten gunmen," for 72 hours between November 25th and 27th. People know very little about who were behind the attack and what led them to do so. While the masterminds are still nameless entities, their motives have remained as mysterious as before.
The attack has generated debates among experts as to who were behind it; how the terrorists could come all the way from Pakistan undetected; if they had local supporters or sanctuaries; if the Pakistani government and ISI or Kashmiri freedom fighters linked with the proscribed Islamist Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) were the main actors; or if some local terrorists, Hindu militants or drug dealers in collaboration with outsiders orchestrated the carnage. There is hardly any convergence in the identification of the most likely masterminds of the attack.
From the testimony of the lone surviving gunman Ajmal Kasab, it appears that their only purpose was to kill as many people as possible, indiscriminately. The Indian government and media seem to rely on Kasab's testimony to implicate the LeT as well as Pakistan. However, "typical" terrorists would not indulge in such a nihilist attack. Nothing short of total insanity would cause the newly elected Pakistani government to send gunmen just to bleed and provoke India.
Meanwhile, there is no doubt about LeT's direct involvement in the attack as several detained leaders of the outfit have already confessed about their role in it. They have, however, denied getting any support from the Pakistani government and ISI in recent years. While India is persistently asking Pakistan to do "more" to de-fang the Islamists, Washington is relatively more accommodative to the Pakistani position that neither its army nor the ISI high command had anything to do with the attack, although it continues applying some pressure on Islamabad to delink junior ISI officials from the proscribed LeT.
Although the assault had all the features of a well-coordinated terrorist attack; stealth and precision of a small number of combatants to cause enormous damage to the enemy; yet, some elements of "typical" terrorist attacks are missing here. Since terrorism is a means to an end and not an end in itself, and is a "weapon of the weak" in support of an avowed political ideology or goal, the "ten gunmen" neither put forward any demands nor did they reveal their motives or identity, despite having access to the media via cell phones. Instead, during the early hours of the attack, they proclaimed their association with an imaginary terrorist outfit from south India, the Deccan Mujahedeen. Intriguingly, while one gunman was talking to an Indian journalist over phone, when asked about their motives or demands, he could not come up with any answer.
Nevertheless, the gunmen behaved like nihilist killers. India had experienced this sort of attack several times before; anonymous gunmen and bombers had neither put forward any demands nor championed any cause to justify their act. This is an ominous development. Turning nihilist, Islamist terrorists are no longer fighting for an attainable goal or cause; they want to destroy whatever they consider "un-Islam" first, before attaining their "Global Caliphate" through jihad. One may cite scores of examples of such mindless attacks, from Nine-Eleven to the Bali bombing; and the London bombing to terrorist attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere. It seems that elements within Islamist groups are being drawn to nihilist/anarchist reasoning.
Consequently, it does not matter any more if the "mainstream" of terror networks does not subscribe to nihilism while the grassroots are fast discarding conventional terrorist tactics of using terror as a means to an end. From the "weapon of the weak" terrorism is turning into the "weapon of the desperate." Then again, for various baffling to mysterious factors, the Mumbai attack is no longer explainable in terms of an LeT-led terrorist attack. The LeT is no longer an Islamist front for the liberation of Indian-occupied Kashmir. It has links with various transnational terror networks in the world. The complexities of Mumbai baffle experts. Christine Fair finds "absolutely nothing Al Qaeda-like" in the attack, and "no fingerprints" of the LeT as "they don't do hostage taking, and they don't do grenade."
The most striking aspect of the attack is not the indiscriminate killing that took place at the Taj Hotel and elsewhere. Some analysts suggest that while LeT provided some foot-soldiers, they are not sure if all the ten gunmen belonged to the LeT and if there were more than ten of them. They point out some "target-killing" as well. Some Hindu militants are said to be in league with Indian and Pakistani Islamist and narco-terrorist rings. Another important but mostly ignored factor in the carnage is narco-terrorism.
It seems that Dawood Ibrahim, the Indian fugitive drug-lord who operates from Dubai and Karachi, and his transnational drug-lord partners were the masterminds of the massacre. A large portion of Afghan drug, worth several billion dollars, is smuggled through Mumbai and Karachi to Dubai, the "drug capital" of the world; and Dawood's men killed his rivals, including a couple of Russians and Israelis at Nariman House and Oberoi Hotel, in "typical gangland execution method, not the firing-squad method of the LeT," to convey the message to their rivals.
From the taped telephone conversation (courtesy Fareed Zakaria GPS, CNN, November 15, 2009) between a gunman and his sponsor (presumably in Pakistan) at Nariman House, it appears that the sponsor ordered the gunmen to "take care of themselves" (commit suicide) after shooting the hostages "at the backs of their heads." Gunmen killed the hostages at the Oberoi Hotel in the same manner.
The Dawood Ibrahim factor adds a new and very important dimension to the problem. His men hired Islamist gunmen, who killed both innocent people and, without knowing, Dawood's drug-lord rivals. The innocent victims were nothing more than Dawood's red herrings. In sum, one cannot explain the ongoing terrorism and insurgencies in Afghanistan and Pakistan without understanding the drug-Islamist nexus. The Mumbai carnage should have been an eye-opener for countries within and beyond South Asia. India and Pakistan cannot remain in peace without addressing nihilist neo-terrorism issue and its dangerous liaison with narco-terrorism.

Dr Taj Hashmi is professor of security studies at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

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