March but silently

How many times? How many times they will repeat the same drill? Bomb blasts, pick up Muslims, media rushes in to declare them as “masterminds”, kill a few in “encounters” or they will die a “custodial death.” When police, media, judiciary everyone seems to be stacked up against them, what else Muslims can do except remain silent. Hence these silent marches:

SDPI ‘s silent march in Pune in 2011:

Jamia students and teachers took out a silent march in 2008 in the aftermath of Batla House encounter:

Closer Look: Osama Bin Laden

By Kashif-ul-Huda,,

Whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind. [Surah Al Maeda : 32]

If killing one innocent person is like killing the entire humanity then Osama Bin Laden has killed the humanity many times over. Since his 1998 fatwa against the United States till his death in 2011, the organization that he established or people that he inspired have killed thousands all around the world. Majority of his victims have been Muslims, people that he was supposed to be helping.

Thanks to Osama Bin Laden, Afghanistan and Iraq lay in ruins and Pakistanis are not safe in their own country. Hundreds of thousands of innocents were killed and continue to be killed by either Osama followers or armies in pursuit of his followers. He wanted to do armed jihad to get rid of foreign armies from Muslim countries but ended up causing “fasad” and helping Western media create the impression that followers of Islam are a violent people.

In the post-9/11 world, Muslims became a target of suspicion and victims of harassment. And this was not just inconvenience of airport security or denial of visa. Al-Qaida- inspired terrorism claimed innocent lives from Indonesia to London. Suicide bombing was introduced in Pakistan and Afghanistan by Bin Laden followers and now it has become a weapon of choice of the terrorists causing much mayhem.

In India, what post-Babri Mumbai serial blasts of 1993 could not do was achieved easily after the 9/11 attacks. SIMI was banned in the wake of 9/11 without any evidence of their involvement in any terrorist activities. Western media’s lead on stereotyping Muslims as terrorists was followed enthusiastically by Indian media in cooperation with law-enforcement agencies. Hundreds or perhaps thousands of Muslim youths continue to be arrested and harassed in the name of terrorism and some unfortunate ones killed in cold-blood by what we know as “fake encounters.” Yes, we do fault Indian agencies in killing Indian citizens but the sins will also go in Osama’s amaal-nama (book of deeds) as unintended consequences of his actions and rhetoric.

Osama’s mindset just like his rhetoric was medieval. He did not understand that in this modern world you can win a war but still lose politically. He did understand the power of media but failed to appreciate how the economy can play a bigger role than the fire power. Wall Street investment bankers and speculative traders have done more damage to the United States than what Osama could ever imagine.

A section of Muslims do have soft spot for Osama Bin Laden for what they think was his tough stand against the United States. They think that like Saddam Hussain, he stood up to the American injustice and hence consider him a hero forgetting that in Islam the end does not justify the means. His track record of killing mostly Muslims proves that an enemy’s enemy is not necessarily a friend.

It will be better if Muslim leaders instead of subscribing to conspiracy theories or saying that Osama was CIA creation, which serves no purpose; start dialogue within the community on dangers of extremism and the threat that path of violence poses to the world in general and Muslims in particular.

Closer Look is a monthly column by editor Kashif-ul-Huda. For publication permissions please contact

Delayed Waking Up: Terrorism Investigations

The Ajmer bomb blasts took place on 11th October 2007; these took place inside the holy Shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, killing two people. In the wake of this the central Home minister, in his standard statement said that this is the handiwork of HUJI and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba type groups who are indulging in these activities and this is aimed to disrupt the communal harmony in the country. Three years down the line now a RSS functionary Devendra Gupta and his associates have been accused of triggering this blast and have been arrested. To cap it all there seems to be the connection between this Ajmer blast and the blast which took place in Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad, which took place a few months ago of this Ajmer blast (May 2007).

There is also the news that the Rajasthan police despite evidence delayed the investigation of Ajmer blasts as the leads of investigation pointed towards the involvement of Hindu right wing terror gangs. One also hears that since Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur was arrested in connection with Malegaon blasts, her links led to Swami Asimanand of Dangs, who is the major RSS combine figure of the area. He is absconding since then. And now apart from Maharashtra police Rajasthan police is also looking for him.

Strange things have happened in connection with the investigation of blasts during last few years. The thesis guiding the police investigation for a long time was that terror groups are being promoted by Pakistan and they want to create communal disharmony, that they are putting bombs in places of Muslim worship. It is due to this and the inherent biases of our investigation agencies that for so long and despite clear involvement of terror groups inspired and connected with ideology of RSS were not touched. It was after Hemant Karkare discovered the irrefutable evidence of Sadhvi’s motor cycle used in Maelgaon blasts and her connections with all others, Lt Col. Prasad Shrikant Purohit, Swami Dayanand Pande, Retd. Major Upadhaya etc., that the nexus was discovered. After the tragic killing of Hemant Karkare again the investigation has put on the slow track. In the face of such strong evidences now some of the investigation authorities are forced to wake up to the threat of terrorism done by these groups.

There has been a pattern of these terror attacks done by the likes of Sadhvi, those connected with RSS ideology or remotely connected with organizations floated by the ones’ trained in RSS ideology. This raises lot of questions about the professional competence of our investigation agencies. The blasts took place in the places where predominantly Muslims congregate, blasts took place at times when their numbers was maximum in the places of prayer. The observation was that after the blasts, blinded by the inherent biases, the investigation agencies made it a routine to arrest some Muslim youth. The names of HUJI, Lashkar, and SIMI have been dished out and lapped up by media which has shaped the public opinion.

The problems which we witnessed in this are two fold. One, the innocents were tortured and their lives and careers were ruined by this crass attitude and second the real culprits carried on merrily one after the other, knowing full well that they will be protected because of their religion and because of their organization, which makes maximum noises against terrorism itself.

The pattern began with Nanded in 2006, when two Bajrang Dal workers died while making bombs, in the same city later a Shiv Sena Shaka member died in the go-down storing biscuits, two Bajrag Dal Workers died in Kanpur in 2008 and many such incidents kept going on. The tide in a way turned when the irrefutable evidence of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakurs’ motor cycle being used in Malegaon blast was detected. The immaculate investigation done by Mahrashtra ATS led to the detection of the involvement of other such affiliates (meaning all those organization who subscribe to ideology of Hindu Nation, Hindutva and whose core team is trained in this ideology). Sadhvis’ photo was also seen with the BJP President Rajnath Singh. Surely after the arrest of the real culprits starting from the Sadhvi, the frequency of terror attacks has come down. In Thane on 4th June 2008, two Hindu Jagran Samiti workers were arrested for planting the bombs in the basement of Gadkari Rangayatan, due to which 7 people got injured. The same group was involved in the blasts in Vashi, Panvel also. This group was also involved in the bomb blast in Goa, recently on the occasion of Narak Chaturdashi. This group idolizes Savarkar (Hindu Mahasabha) and Hedgewar (RSS) and indoctrinates its members into hating Christians and Muslims.

Similarly on 24th August 2008 two Bajrang Dal activists died in Kanpur, while making bombs. The Kanpur zone IGP S.N. Singh stated that their investigations have revealed that this group was planning massive explosions all over the state. Indian Express, 23 Oct 2008 reports that those involved in the bomb blast in Malegaon and Modasa (Sept 2008) had links with Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad

Similarly in Tenkasi, Tamil Nadu pipe bomb attack on RSS office (Jan.2008) was projected to have been done by Jehadi Muslims. The investigation revealed many a Hindu names and later the investigations was frozen. In an alleged Fidayin attack was claimed that in the attack on RSS office in Nagpur (June 1, 2006) three of them were killed in the police encounter, as per the police version. Citizens Inquiry report, headed by Justice Kolse Patil doubted the police version in a serious way; the clarifications did not come through from the authorities.

Pained by this attitude of the State and investigating authorities a Citizens tribunal was held in Hyderabad August 2008, the tribunal concluded that, “This fight against terrorism, victims emphasized, has veered more around witch hunting of Muslims rather than curbing terrorism, thus robbing people of their liberty and freedom and making them more insecure than ever before. The real culprits, they said, often roam freely whereas the poor and gullible Muslims are picked up and thrown into jails at whims and fancies of the powers that be. Victims after victims, who have undergone harassment and torture without any evidence permissible in the court of law against them, deposed before the tribunal — comprising country’s eminent personalities including former judges, lawyers and renowned social activists – and narrated their tales of woes to the shock and anguish of hundreds of audience.”

One of the major hurdles which have obstructed the truth coming out is that the investigation of the blasts cases is not easy and a lot depends on the investigation authorities’ attitude and bias. In these cases media generally laps up whatever is dished out by police and not much of independent voice comes up. Those doubting the police version are dubbed as anti national and media keeps itself at safe distance from those who care to pick the holes in theory put out by police. Usual norm of journalism should be to doubt the state version also and not to dismiss those who have alternative version. In cases of terror attacks this norm is kept aside. It is because of this that so far the investigations do not get the corrective direction, and many a times are totally fallacious, as the truth coming out from Ajmer case and other similar cases show us. One hopes that professionalism prevails over biases and independent voices are not stifled in such matters if we want to reach the truth, if we want to ensure that such attacks do not repeat themselves.

Remembering 26/11

One year.

It is easy to be cynical on the first anniversary of Mumbai terror attacks. UPA government was voted back to power in elections where 26/11 wasn’t even a major issue. The non-performing Congress-NCP alliance won Maharashtra third time in a row. Vilas Rao Deshmukh – then chief minister of Maharashtra – is back as a Union minister. RR Patil – that “small incident” guy – is back as the home minister of the state. Sainiks – though nowhere in sight during the 60 hour ordeal – are often on streets terrorizing fellow citizens. As if Shiv Sena was not bad enough we have MNS to contend with now.

Two of the three accused on trial for the attacks were in police custody before the attacks and intelligence agencies had some prior information about the impending attacks. However there was a communication breakdown between various agencies and even though it is hard to say if the attacks could have avoided – certainly some lives could have been saved. The Headley-Rana connection wasn’t probed even after the attacks until the duo was arrested by American authorities. We don’t know if things are run any differently now.

9/11 led to a high-powered bipartisan commission that assiduously probed the circumstances surrounding the attacks. 26/11 led to the Ram Pradhan committee report just to investigate the “police response”. The report became a political punching bag and its contents are still unknown. The top brass of Mumbai police is busy fighting among themselves publicly. So are our MPs. And the truth – it seems – will never come out on 26/11.

Meanwhile South Mumbai didn’t come out to vote this time either. In  related news, it rained again in Mumbai during monsoons and the roads got clogged.

And our media still hyperventilates.

But then there are reasons to be hopeful too.

India didn’t forget. 26/11 was not reduced to just another terror attack in the country. The main objectives of the attacks – to sow communal discord among Indians – failed. To force India or Israel to re-evaluate their relationship by killing Jewish hostages failed too. Last I checked Shashi Tharoor was at Nariman House for an international commemoration of the event.

The response of the Indian government was resolute and for the first time Pakistan was forced to recognize the identities of the terrorists and the fact that the attacks were planned from its territory. Yesterday the Pakistani government indicted Zakiur Rahman Lakhvi and 6 others for the attacks. Ajmal Kasab is being tried in an Indian court and his arrest along with decayed bodies of his 9 accomplices – without promised bodily scents or halo – would serve a grim reminder to youths looking for a shortcut to heaven.

National Investigation Agency has been formed and P Chidambaram has replaced the ineffectual Shivraj Patil as the home minister. By keeping up the diplomatic pressure on Pakistan India has successfully managed to prevent any major attack for a year. This allowed the Indian government to focus its efforts on tackling the Maoist terrorism in vast swathes of the countryside. In 2008 alone over 900 people were killed by Maoist terrorists.

Steps have been taken to better respond to such attacks. Force 1 has been constituted in Mumbai whose teams can deploy anywhere in the city within 20 minutes. NSG has now deployed its Special Response Units in the major cities of India. Sophisticated arms and equipments are being procured and better monitoring capabilities incorporated. There seems to be a certain realization within the establishment that we can’t fight a 21st century menace with 20th century mindset.

The relationship between India and United States has grown stronger with the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, being invited as the first state guest of the Obama administration. The joint statement released during the visit has terrorism as it major plank and calls the Indo-US partnership “indispensable for global peace and security”. India has finally managed to get rid of the hyphenation between itself and Pakistan. The new coinage – AfPak – obviously didn’t needed one. The words of condemnation from the international community for terrorism in India are no longer accompanied with calls to resolve disputes with Pakistan.


A government is as good and as responsible as its citizens. MJ Akbar recently wrote, “The politician will only be as resolute as the citizen, and our sensitivities have been dulled by a culture of complacence.” If we want a more secure India – we have to be a part of it. Our response to terrorism can’t be piecemeal. We need to fix the system. If we uncover some unsavory truths along the way – let it be. But never again.


Basera-e-Tabassum (Kashmir)

The love affair started tenderly: a warm hug, a lightless night, a dim lantern, the resonating trickle of streams and whispers of footfalls. I had reached Peth-Bugh tired, after two long and extremely hot journeys. The cool still air was a respite. As I stepped out of the car, a strange good feeling set in. Someone hugged me. My bags were taken. Four or five hands gently caught my wrist- some strongly holding me, responsibly; others, shyly, just touching. Some more hands slowly joined in. Someone ahead held the lantern, so I could see my feet and some more feet. There wasn’t any electricity and so there weren’t any faces. Soon I started getting comfortable in this strange lightless, faceless walk of sounds and touches. I too caught their hands, letting down my guard – trusting them to guide me through the damp mud and unsteady planks that served as footbridges over the trickling water.

As we reached Basera-the home, gaslights were put on, some more candles and lanterns were lit and the world became a place of faces again. The magic did not dissipate. In fact, the enchantment only grew. Twenty brilliant curious faces and forty gleaming eyes slowly appeared and disappeared behind veils, curtains, doors, leaving behind them images of giggles and faint sounds of smiles.

The days that followed, went by wondering, working, observing, discussing and doing a whole lot of things in the midst of smiles and hugs and kisses. The last time when work was rewarded like this, I cannot remember. Everything seemed more integrated. It was as though the self was binding with and diluting within the larger, more comprehensive whole of the place. The sense of individuality seemed comfortably less significant. Even the heart and mind seemed to suddenly get along well. The concerns of the place seemed real and worry-deserving.

In Kashmir, there seemed to be a sense of solace and purpose in everything, even in worrying…

(The above are some impressions I put down on returning from Kashmir. I had been there in June to visit Basera-e-Tabassum. In conventional terms one would describe it as an orphanage, but I felt like a city girl visiting a long lost family in a native. It is a place for girl orphans, whose parents have been victims of the terrorism in Kashmir. Despite the seeming bitterness of their lives, these children are perhaps the most affectionate ones I have ever come across. I’m grateful I went there, perhaps some of my share of love was destined to come from a hundred children in Kashmir)

Baffling Supreme Court Judgment On Beards

Bearded Muslim

In Mohammad Salim versus Nirmala Convent Higher Secondary School, a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice R V Raveendran decided that the plaintiff has to abide by the rules and regulations of educational institutions especially if it is a minority institution. The judgment, while correct in its spirit, is debatable in its implications. Private educational institutions do have a right to make their own rules and regulations but if it results into an infringement upon their fundamental right to freedom of religion of students then it is borderline unconstitutional. Continue reading Baffling Supreme Court Judgment On Beards

The Threat Of Political Islam

The trail of terror continues with cricketers as the latest target. The Mumbai and Lahore attacks, public executions and the murder of over a thousand civilians in the Swat valley by Taliban style terrorists are horrifying examples of atrocities committed by militant groups thriving on political Islam. Global Muslim communities require urgent measures in condemning the agenda of political Islam that distorts religious scriptures to legitimise violence. This ideology of Islamism is threatening to replace a moderate and spiritual Islam, leading to the destruction of society, particularly oppressing women and minorities.

Muslims have a moral responsibility to engage in the social, political and economic development of the societies they live in. Global Muslim societies would do well in following the exceptional efforts of the Indian clerics in denouncing terrorism and de linking it with Islam. Sincere moral outrage needs to be expressed at Taliban atrocities in Afghanistan and Pakistan, political kidnappings and assassinations, militancy in Kashmir, Shia Sunni killings in Iraq and Pakistan, fatwas that condone suicide bombings in the Israel Palestine conflict and other such atrocities that effect innocent lives. Muslims require the consensus of the international in combating extremism but our credibility is lost when we demonstrate selective outrage as in the aftermath of the Danish cartoons.

Political Islam draws its lifeblood from the ideology of fighting the oppressor, but has clearly become the oppressor. Even though some Islamist groups have renounced violence and accepted the principles of democracy, marginally improved their stand on women and minority rights, they remain socially conservative. In Jordan, the Islamist party does not support the rights of women to file for divorce. In Kuwait the Islamists fought against the right of women to vote. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood will not allow a woman or a person from a minority community to become head of state. Unfortunately, militant Islamist groups thrive in the political vacuum created by oppressive regimes in most Islamic countries.

Muslims must stop blaming the problem of extremism on catastrophic foreign policies for two wrongs simply do not make a right. Islamism is primarily a Muslim problem, threatening both Muslim and non- Muslim societies. We need to acknowledge there is a problem of theology when extremists talk of going straight to heaven after taking innocent lives.

The roots of all modern militant Islamic movements can be traced to one man called Abdul Wahab from Nejd in the Arabian Peninsula. He set out to ‘purify’ Islam, believing that Muslims had drifted away from true religion. Wahab’s followers destroyed many sacred sites he considered idols. Attacking the arts for being frivolous and dangerous, Wahab sanctioned the rape; murder and plunder of those who refused to follow his injunctions. He was considered a heretic by most, for Makkah and Madinah were then centres of contemplative Islam, inhabited by Sufis from all over the world.

In 1774-5 Wahab negotiated a deal with the then nomadic tribe of Saud, forebears of the current royal family in exchange for support in their quest for political domination. Most Saudi’s reject the name Wahabbi; they either call themselves Muwahuddin- Unitarians- or Salafi, refering to salaf, the venerated companions of the Prophet. In this blinkered view, no other version of religious truth can exist. This new face of Islam has nothing to do with Sufis, music, poetry, miracles or the countless devotional customs of Muslim cultures across the world.

Under the patronage of the Saudi Arabia, Wahabism went from strength to strength. Abul Ala Mawdudi, a journalist who translated the Quran outside the paradigms of classical propagated the Wahabi ideology. He founded the political party Jamaat e Islami in Pakistan, making jihad central to Islamic discourse. Addressing non-Muslims as infidels, he grouped Muslims into ‘partial’ and ‘true’ Muslims. Mawdudi’s ideas of Islam as a revolutionary doctrine to take over governments and overturn the whole universal order deeply influenced Syed Qutub of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. These groups have been motivated by political upheavals and the rejection of traditional scholars. Syed Qutub’s brother happened to be among the teachers of Osama bin Laden.

The extremism now found in Makkah and Madinah, the heartland of Islam, is the Wahabi ideology that the Saudis have spent millions in promoting through their outreach programs. There is no tolerance for Shias, Sunni Sufis or other Muslim traditions, leave alone non -Muslims. Unfortunately, there is no collective Muslim protest against the Saudi regime for bulldozing graveyards, destroying cultural and religious heritage in the holy cities, imposing a certain sexual segregation of the sexes inside the Prophets mosque at Madinah, radical sermons, or the distribution of radical literature outside Saudi mosques, many of them issuing calls for death to whoever they view as infidels or innovators of Islam. The problem of Muslim extremism began in the Muslim world and the responsibility of resolving it lies with us.

The inability to present a picture of Islam as a peaceful religion is a collective failure of global Muslim communities. We could begin with increasing the decibel in condemning violence, sectarianism, standing up for the rights of women, stop demonising the other as kufaar (infidels) and show increased support for democratic movements in Muslim countries. It is time for the devout, silent peace-loving Muslim majority to speak for Islam. Let us become louder than the radical voices that claim to represent us.

Sadia Dehlvi is a Delhi based writer and author of the forthcoming book, “Sufism: The Heart of Islam” published by HarperCollins India.

Response To A Pakistani View Of Indian Muslims

Indian Muslims Protest Against PakistanDubai-based Pakistani writer Rabia Alavi in a column in Khaleej Times on 1 March 2009 charges that Indian Muslims are hell-bent on portraying Pakistan as a terrorist hub. However, the entire world is now witness for what really Pakistan stands for. Danish Ahmad Khan responds to Rabia Alavi’s article.

“Why have Indian Muslims, most whom seem well-educated and demonstrate sound judgment on all other matters under the sun, suddenly lose sight of their bearings (and manners) when it comes to attacking all things Pakistani, be it the country’s politics, culture, food or fashion. Why are they hell-bent on defying common sense when it comes to writing off a whole country as being a terrorist hub?” This statement from a Dubai-based Pakistani writer Rabia Alavi whose half of extended family are Indians, is really shocking indeed. I don’t know how this Pakistani woman gathered the gumption to dub we, Indian Muslims, as nonsensical and the ones who are ‘hell-bent on defying common sense when it comes to writing off a whole country as being a terrorist hub’. I just wonder why doesn’t this Pakistani writer – who is seemingly possessed with a squint and blinkered vision – see to it that it is Pakistan which is in fact proving to be no less than a terrorist hub when it comes to attacking all things Indian. My dear Ms. Rabia Alavi have you forgotten the 26/11 Mumbai attacks which claimed several Indian lives irrespective of the religions these martyrs belonged to. Which country did these ‘Islamic heroes’ nay ruthless inhuman killers belonged to? Can you deny that these ‘Jihadis’ did not belong to Pakistan? Your Pakistani government has itself publicly acknowledged that these goons hailed from Pakistan, whom it firstly tried to portray as non-state actors. Are YOU a MUSLIM or not? Are the rulers of Pakistan MUSLIMS or not? Does Islam ask to settle political scores by slaughtering human beings whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims? Is this what is JIHAD you Pakistanis call or think so? What kind of Islam are you Pakistanis propagating? You Pakistanis first of all need to get lessons regarding the true teachings of Islam. We, Indian Muslims, really don’t need to take lessons from you all. Your kind of Islam has miserably failed you all no ends, and Pakistan, which was formed in the name of Islam, is fast approaching to don the status of a failed state. Just cite me a single reason as to why we, Indian Muslims, shouldn’t acknowledge and proclaim Pakistan as a terrorist hub.

I simply look askance when Rabia Alavi daringly asks: “But why do Indian Muslims trouble themselves with Pakistan’s worries anyway? Don’t they have enough of their own? Need I remind them how uncomfortable their minority status is for them? Are they not second-class citizens in their own country? Are they not troubled by the countless assaults on the country’s minorities, the destruction of Babri Masjid or the slaughter of Muslims in Gujarat? Don’t they worry about the Modis and Sadhvi Pragyas of their country?” This is simply ridiculous. For your kind knowledge Ms. Rabia Alavi, we, Indian Muslims, don’t ever care about Pakistan or its worries. But, isn’t it a fact that Pakistan is constantly after us trying to create troubles whenever it’s possible. And, 26/11 Mumbai attacks is just another add on in its long list of crimes. Rabia would do well to at least acknowledge the fact that we, Indian Muslims, never sought help from Pakistan or any other country for that matter to take care of our problems. We, Indian Muslims, are ourselves strong and capable enough to tackle our own problems whenever need be. I don’t buy your theory that we, Indian Muslims, are second-class citizens in our own country. Let me state that we, Indian Muslims, are thankful to the Almighty Allah and our country’s system of governance that we exercise our democratic rights on our own free will without any sort of coercion or favour whatsoever. Whenever need be we, Indian Muslims, have changed governments at the Centre and in the states that failed to deliver either in terms of development or providing security to lives of people. Yes, I do acknowledge that communal riots did take place. But, these are now becoming things of the past. Rabia, but what about democracy in Pakistan. Just see how the Pakistani Generals trample your democratic rights at their own free will. It is pitiable that even after 60 years of independence you all are struggling to let democracy prevail in Pakistan in true sense of the term. Isn’t it a sorry state of affairs for your beleaguered country? Don’t you have your own problems? What about Jiye Sindh movement, Mohajirs and NWFP? Aren’t these grave problems for Pakistan which it has squarely failed to handle? What about Pakistani Muslims who are being slaughtered daily by Talibani jihadists. Aren’t you seeing this? Don’t you have the courage to take these Talibani jihadis head on. I know you are meek and a coward. You won’t even dare to write or talk about the tribals in North West Frontier Province of your country Pakistan. If you ever dare to do so, well you know your fate? DEATH at the hands of NWFP Talibani jihadis! Ms. Rabia, I’m sorry to state that YOU are not a real Pakistani as you are writing sitting pretty well ensconced in secure confines in Dubai. And, just look at me. I’m writing my comments sitting in my own homeland. Just look how much guts you possess and what I possess. This is enough to prove that I’m not a second-class citizen, while I just feel sorry about your status at this critical juncture which your country is presently in.

Ms. Rabia Alavi, do you know that the foundations of the so-called Islamic Republic of Pakistan was laid by an aristocrat Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who wasn’t concerned with Islam at all except being a namesake Muslim. By the way, don’t you know that fact that your Qaid-e-Azam Jinnah profoundly enjoyed alcohol, never entered a prayer hall or Masjid except for his marriage with Zoroastrian Rutten Bai. Jinnah loved consuming pork flesh and extracted its soup. Don’t you know that consuming pork and alcohol are forbidden in Islam? And, you still revere this Pork eating and wine consuming Mohammad Ali Jinnah – your GREAT Quaid-e-Azam!! Please don’t take my comments as otherwise. I suppose this is what you really asked for while initiating needless debate regarding actions of Indian Muslims vis-à-vis Pakistani Muslims.

Looking For The Moderate Taliban

Ever since Obama admitted the US was not winning in Afghanistan and broached the possibility of reaching out to the “moderate” Taliban, there has been a flurry of responses weighing in his odds on both sides. Obama bases his approach on the apparent success of peeling away the moderates from the extremists in Iraq. I say apparent because his assumption ignores the ethnic cleansing of Shias which led to “peace” in the much touted Anbar province [where the surge “worked”] as well as the accelerated ethnic cleansing of Sunnis which took place in Baghdad. In the words of Tom Ricks, military reporter: “And yes, another reason Baghdad is quieter is that ethnic cleansing has been completed in much of the city.”

Then there was the fake sheik who represented the “moderate” elements and the duplicity of the preceding administration, which was talking to dead people while fighting fictitious enemies. Nevertheless, the novel notion of a dialogue to achieve resolution cannot be underscored enough. The UN Envoy to Afghanistan is open to the idea but recommends talking to all the Taliban as it is his opinion that a fragmented approach will fail. This validates Rory Stewarts articulate presentation of the reasons why the Iraq approach is doomed to fail in Afghanistan: “The Taleban… do not have mass movements behind them. When we talk about driving the Taleban to the table, we forget that these groups are more insubstantial and fragmented than we acknowledge. The Kabul Government lacks political depth or legitimacy; the Taleban is elusive…”

Afghan opposition leaders, analysts and writers have also expressed their skepticism, maintaining that as long as Karzai’s government appears weak and ineffective, such approaches would lead nowhere

“I don’t know of a single peace process that has been successfully negotiated from a position of weakness or stalemate.”-Ashraf Ghani, former finance minister

“Obama’s comment resemble a dream more than reality,” said Waheed Mozhdah, an analyst who has written a book on the Taliban.

“Where are the so-called moderate Taliban? Who are the moderate Taliban?” asked Mozhdah, who was an official in both the Taliban and the Karzai governments.

Gen. David Petraeus, inflated by his “success” in Iraq would nevertheless like to apply the same strategy in Afghanistan and “has been a strong supporter of the strategy of trying to divide the Afghan insurgency by offering money and jobs to those willing to accept the government in Kabul. He has said that his strategy of outreach to what he has described as “reconcilables” among the insurgents in Iraq might be applicable in Afghanistan as well.”

While the US administration muddles around the possible outcome of adding more arms to the turmoil, the Afghan government, alongwith Saudi Arabia and Pakistan is already holding talks with the Taliban. Ironically, Taliban officials blame the US government and NATO for impeding these talks and inhibiting resolution between the Taliban and Afghan government.

A former top Taliban official says Afghans blame NATO and the U.S., not Taliban insurgents, for the mounting civilian deaths. And, says, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the international forces should step aside to let the Kabul government and Afghan military negotiate a settlement to the war with the Taliban. Mullah Zaeef, who became the public face of the Taliban regime as it collapsed in late 2001, says the Afghan government wants to reach a peaceful solution to the ongoing fighting with the Taliban and other insurgents, but is not being allowed to do so as NATO and the U.S. are firmly in control of military operations. “They have no power, they have no independence to negotiate,” said the mullah, a former confidant of Taliban leader Mullah Omar. “The foreigners should let the people of Afghanistan decide. If they want to talk to the Taliban, the foreigners should not interfere.” Mullah Zaeef spent almost four years in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay after being arrested in Pakistan in January 2002. He was released at the request of the Afghan government, which is trying to work with “good Taliban” as part of a reconciliation program.

In all this hoopla, the real victims of the war continue to suffer and joke about their helplessness in the face of the events over which they have little or no control.

“Knock, knock.”

“Who is there?”

“It’s U.S. Special Forces.”

“What do you want?”

“We are looking for Mr. Moderate Taliban to talk to our leader, Mullah Obama.”

“There is no one here but us, the real Taliban; we are bearded, armed, and we don’t allow our girls to go to school or go outside.”

“It’s ok, he still wants to talk to you if you only oppress your own women and don’t attack us.”

So whats the solution? Is there a way out of this cesspool? Shazia Rafi offers a way to locate the “moderate” Taliban. Here criteria? Treatment of women. Based on the premise that the quality of a country is determined by the way it treats its women, she has offered a list of recommendations by which the Obama government can successfully locate moderates to deal with.

  • Any leader whose own daughters are being educated without restriction on grade level or subjects: a moderate;
  • Any leader whose mother, sisters, wife are educated without restriction on grade level or subjects: a moderate;
  • Any leader who is willing to take the women and girls of his family to a male physician if he is the doctor on duty at the hospital/clinic: a moderate;
  • Any leader whose female family members have paid employment or are self-employed: a moderate;
  • Any leader who has killed or advocated killing of individuals or groups that disagree with his viewpoint: not eligible for moderate status.

And if you think thats not important, take a gander at what RAWA has to say here and here, or the following video

HT Paid For Shoddy Journalism

Yes, you read it right, Hindustan Times paid for a shoddy piece of journalism. But I do have to give credit to HT for inspiring the title of this post. Source of inspiration for this post and its title comes from a very creative piece of journalism as exemplified by an HT story titled ‘Yahoo! paid for Peerbhoy’s training to hack networks

In case you are wondering why should you care about this news and why is this a news anyway? First line of the story brings you upto speed:

“Mohammed Peerbhoy, the alleged media chief of the Indian Mujahideen (IM), has told investigators that an Italian expert taught him hacking.”

Now that you have been briefed, let’s read the second line:

“The 31-year-old’s employer had apparently sponsored him to learn cyber security skills against hacking from the Internet security expert in Hyderabad two years ago, but Peerbhoy instead used his acquired expertise to hack Wi-Fi networks to send terror emails.”

whoa, whoa, wait a minute is HT suggesting that Yahoo! actually facilitated terror activities in India? Will they also blame the schools where he learned English because terror emails were written in English?

Let’s keep reading:

“Peerbhoy, a former principal software engineer with Yahoo! in Pune, had learnt the “hacking skills” at a six-day course on information security in Hyderabad in May 2007.

The course was organised by Internet security provider E2 Labs and Yahoo! had paid them around Rs 70,000 for Peerbhoy’s training.”

Actually, there is nothing extraordinary in this training, ethical hacking is a training provided to Information Technology experts to identify vulnerbilities in the network that can be exploited by a hacker so that the network and systems can be secured and protected.

“Peerbhoy was attending the course when a blast took place at Hyderabad’s Mecca mosque on May 18. “Peerbhoy visited the blast site at the mosque and got very disturbed and upset to see the damages and deaths,” said the investigator.

By then, Peerbhoy was allegedly already a part of the IM, having been “recruited in Pune by an IM spotter as a computer wizard”, and would interact directly with the terror group’s main controller Riyaz Bhatkal. “After learning hacking skills, Peerbhoy told Bhatkal that he was capable of hacking unsecured wireless networks to send terror emails and the IM utilised his skill after realising the dangers of using cyber cafes,” he added.”

Ok so Peerbhoy happened to be in Hyderabad when Mecca Masjid blast happened, since the investigator is confiding in HT reporter that Peerbhoy was already a member of the IM, it is safe to assume that Mecca Masjid blast was not done by IM. Of course, any sane person after seeing the devastation caused by terrorism will get distrubed, but apparently that was not the cause for Peerbhoy turning to terrorism.

More about hacking unsecured wireless networks later.

“Peerbhoy is currently in Mumbai with a Special Cell team. He has been taken there to confirm how he hacked an unsecured Wi-Fi network there (in Chembur) to sent IM’s email on September 13 before Delhi blasts, according to cell’s deputy commissioner Alok Kumar.”

So Peerbhoy is identified as the man who sent the terror emails sent minutes before the Delhi blasts, and the investigators want to know he is able to hack into an secured Wi-Fi network to send the email. If you still remember the title of this news story then you got it right, this is the conclusion that yahoo! actually paid money that helped in a crime. But wait, there is more:

“His modus operandi was simple: he, along with arrested accused Mubin Sheikh and Asif Sheikh, would move across Mumbai in a car to detect unsecured Wi-Fi connections to send e-mails.”

ah! so this is how they “hacked.” Any dummy with a wi-fi enabled laptop knows how to do it, I am not sure why anyone will need training to do that, let alone pay Rs. 70k for this.

This is an attempt to create a news story where there is no story exists. Yahoo! should take action to this and register protest with HT for this kind of journalism. Indirectly HT has tried to link Yahoo! to terrorism and in the process made a joke of themselves.

I am not sure what is the process of fact checking in Hindustan Times but talking to their own IT department would have saved them from becoming a laughing stock.

Publication: Hindustan Times
Journalist: Abhishek Sharan
Date: March 9th, 2009.