Monday, October 02, 2006

The Mumbai blasts, continued

The more I've thought about it, the more I realize that what I wrote yesterday was wrong. Well, half wrong. The three possibilities I laid out aren't mutually exclusive, and that's an important point. I do think that everything the ISI does is not under the purview of Musharraf and the top brass of the military. But the more I think about it, the more I doubt Pakistan, or any Pakistan-based group, could be directly responsible for the attacks.

First, let's talk about the ISI. I think most people in Pakistan regard it as a pretty shadowy organization, even allowing for the fact that it's a spy agency. I for one do not believe that the government exerts 100% control over its activities. For instance, not too long ago, a kid got into a fight with another kid, who happened to be the son of a bigshot in the ISI. You can guess what happened. Some ISI thugs went over to the other kid's place, beat his grandfather up, messed around with his mother, kidnapped him, kicked him around for a bit, and left him on a road. Usually, that would be the end of the story, because the ISI is answerable to no one. Slight problem this time, though. The grandfather happened to be a retired brigadier and the mother was married to an air force officer. Musharraf had to personally call and apologize to the brigadier.

Fine, you say. That's a regular PUBU (pick-up-and-beat-up...yes, I will invent terms when I feel like it), something completely routine for the ISI. But a terrorist attack is a much bigger deal. Musharraf not knowing about little things like PUBUs does not preclude him from knowing about bigger things, like 7 bombs in 15 minutes. That would be a completely valid point. Except, I remember reading a Herald cover story a few months ago (it might have been last summer, but don't quote me on that). It talked about these terrorist training camps being set up in Punjab, under the watchful eye of the ISI. Let's remember, Musharraf banned all of these organizations (let's assume for the time being he meant to ban them, and that it wasn't just a PR stunt). So if Musharraf banned them, and the ISI is helping them, something is amiss, yes? I really don't buy the notion that Musharraf is not serious about combatting terrorism. Let's remember, they tried to kill him, on more than one occasion. So the argument that Musharraf is somehow "in on it", and that it's all big one conspiracy to fool the West and the Indians, it's just one I don't buy. Ergo, if these organizations are receving help from the ISI, then Musharraf (a) doesn't know about it or (b) can't do anything to stop it. Either way, I think the ISI is way too powerful for both its own, and our, good. I think it is perfectly plausible that they were involved but Musharraf didn't know about it. That doesn't mean I think they were involved, I just think it's plausible.

That said, let's look at the details of this case. The Indian police say 15 people have been arrested in the case, 11 of whom are Pakistanis. One of the other four, the alleged "mastermind", repaired shoes for a living in Calcutta. His family had lived there for four generations. He used to hang out with the cops in his area, joking around with them. His brother (fine, not the most reliable source) said that he hadn't even visited Mumbai this year. But apparently he confessed to helping people cross the border (not the one you think...the Banladeshi border). Another one of the main men (just one question: have you ever heard of anyone involved in a terrorist operation not being referred to as the "main culprit" or the "mastermind"? Is there ever a non-essential person involved?) was apparently dating - and from the sounds of it, fucking - a bartender. A Hindu bartender. So to recap, we have a guy who fixes kolapuris in Calcutta and an Islamic extremist fucking a Hindu bartender masterminding one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in recent history. Does any of this make any sense?

Wait, there's more. The police apparently used electronic surveillance during the investigation. That's great, you say. How high-tech. The two email addresses under scrutiny? and Smellofflower? Really? Are these terrorists 7 year-old girls? And here's the kicker - the password for the account was Jannat. For both accounts. Jannat. Does this strike anyone else as slightly contrived?

Look, I'll be the first to tell you that I don't know the first thing about intelligence. But just like the alleged airplane attacks this summer (you know, the one where almost none of the perpretrators had tickets or even passports), something doesn't smell right here. Again, that doesn't mean that the Indian police is wrong. It could well be that they're 100% on the mark, and that terrorists routinely use usernames like smellofflower. I really wouldn't know. All I'm saying is, it sounds strange, that's all.

For our part, we're of course denying it to the tilt, saying the allegations are baseless and all that jazz. That, in and of itself, doesn't mean anything of course. We've denied our role even when we have been involved, like the attack on the Indian parliament a few years ago. The Indian government is saying they're going to give us proof, and then expect us to act. I guess we'll just have to wait and see on this one. So, loyal readers, I hope that was worth waiting with bated breath for 24 hours for. "I guess we'll just have to wait and see" is truly brilliant analysis, of the type you simply cannot get elsewhere, which is why I know all 5 of you will keep coming back for more.

Update: As per a request from a reader, here is a link detailing the lack of real evidence for the British airliner "attacks". You can find them in most newspapers, but this guy has nicely summarized everything. Former UK ambassador, by the way.


Faraz said...

"But just like the alleged airplane attacks this summer (you know, the one where almost none of the perpretrators had tickets or even passports)"


Farooq said...

Hey faraz.