Saturday, December 06, 2008

Prank Call Nearly Causes War Between India And Pakistan; Quick Thoughts On The Peshawar Bombing

I wish I was making this stuff up. This report in Dawn reads like an Onion story:

Nuclear-armed Pakistan went into a state of ‘high alert’ last weekend and was eyeing India for possible signs of military aggression, after a threatening phone call made to President Asif Ali Zardari by someone from Delhi who posed himself as the Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

Whether it was mere mischief or a sinister move by someone in the Indian external affairs ministry, or the call came from within Pakistan, remains unclear, and is still a matter of investigation. But several political, diplomatic and security sources have confirmed to Dawn that for nearly 24 hours over the weekend the incident continued to send jitters across the world. To some world leaders the probability of an accidental war appeared very high.

It all started late on Friday, November 28. Because of the heightened tension over the Mumbai carnage, some senior members of the presidential staff decided to bypass the standard procedures meant for such occasions, including verification of the caller and involvement of the diplomatic missions, and transferred the late-evening call to Mr Zardari. The caller introduced himself as Pranab Mukherjee and, while ignoring the conciliatory language of the president, directly threatened to take military action if Islamabad failed to immediately act against the supposed perpetrators of the Mumbai killings.

As the telephone call ended many in the Presidency were convinced that the Indians had started beating the war drums. Within no time intense diplomatic and security activity started in Islamabad. Signals were sent to everyone who mattered about how the rapidly deteriorating situation may spiral out of control. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was advised to immediately return to the capital from Lahore, and a special plane (PAF chief’s) was sent to Delhi to bring back the visiting Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi early in the morning on Nov 29 even when he was already booked to return by a scheduled PIA flight the same evening.

Go read the whole thing.

On the issue of the Peshawar bombing today, I just have a few quick questions: where are the candlelight vigils for these victims? The intense diplomatic activity? The promises to apprehend the perpetrators? Nowhere.

This brings to light an issue that AKS tangentially touched upon in his post: despite facing seriously high levels of political violence against its citizens, Pakistan - and Pakistanis - are not looked upon as victims of militancy. Imbued in American calls to "do more" during the Musharraf era and the saber-rattling by the Indian state following the carnage in Mumbai is the sense that Pakistan, and Pakistanis, are sponsors and supporters of death and destruction, not its victims. From Benazir's assassination to the near-weekly suicide bombings in 2007 to the escalation in the war against the Taliban this year, Pakistan and Pakistanis have suffered enormously. This is not to say that the state of Pakistan has not done its share in sponsoring violence in the past, but to say that the civilians and citizens of Pakistan deserve the same sympathy that victims of political violence get in the "good guys" set of countries of the world.



I won't hold my breath.

Photo credit: AP/Mohammad Sajjad

15 comments:

AKS said...

And so it begins:

"Shahrukh Khan and debutant Anushka Sharma starer Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi will not release in Pakistan." (this was to be the first Shahrukh Khan movie to be simultaneously released in India and Pakistan)

"Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi will not hit the theatres in Pakistan on December 12 the day it releases in India and may not release ever across the border. A source in Yash Raj Films have said that they are looking at all the possibilities. The sources added that since the government is planning to scrap all bilateral ties with Pakistan it will make no sense in releasing a movie there."

"Both Shahrukh and director Aditya Chopra are aware of the fact that releasing the movie in Pakistan at this moments might hurt the sentiments of people in India. The only losers in all this will be the Shahrukh fans sitting across the border."

Source: http://entertainment.oneindia.in/bollywood/news/2008/rab-ne-release-pakistan-051208.html

This seems to be the hot story of the day and three people have mentioned this to me. One of them had made plans to go to the movie with a big group of people.

Its important to put this in context: its Bakra Eid (Abraham sacrificial lamb story) on Tuesday, and there are three official holidays. Most people are busy with the mandatory ritual sacrifice, therefore its the weekend after on which most people go out and about town. The movie was being released on that weekend and people were really looking forward to it. But now the movie is no longer being released and the news ticker reads:

"Shahrukh Khan movie to be released worldwide on 12th December, except Pakistan."

Apartheid?

AKS said...

The common sentiment here regarding the hoax is that it would never have happened if Musharraf was in power.

Well okay, maybe. But I'd be more scared if it had happened with Mush in power. I'm not sure that he would restrict his actions to a complaint with Condi; I'm not sure if he'd call Condi at all. It's possible that he would've told the fake Mukherjee to hide under a rock and sent troops over Kargil.

The Luscious one! said...

Its time to stand up to the Indians. This weak civilian government needs to grow some balls.

Ahsan said...

TLO:

That's a terrible idea. Thinking with balls rather than brains leads to stuff like WWI and Iraq II.

And even if "standing up to the Indians" was a halfway smart idea (which it is not), how would you propose Pakistan do it? Economically, militarily, and diplomatically, India holds all the right cards.

Cooler and saner minds need to prevail.

Cally said...

The government needs to grow brains,not balls.
Seems to me they are gonna need all the brains cells they have to handle this situation.
Check out Bruce Riedel's comment about Pakistan in a New York Times article
"All of the nightmares of the 21st century come together in Pakistan,”

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/07/weekinreview/07weiner.html?_r=1

Nikhil said...

That's unfortunate bro...waiting for your op-ed post.

supersizeme said...

the relief was overwhelming when i found out about this whole being a 'prank'.
it's still dodgy though, how can it explain eyewitness reports of the indian army forming on their side alongside the border if they were 'unaware' of pakistan's high alert state?
it's that mukherjee he's really dodgy, i've been reading up on him these past few months what with my interests (and family) in kashmir.

really tough on peshawarites, how long can the people of that region continue to live in a warzone, victimised yet seen as the ''enemy''? i also feel we fellow pakistanis have isolated them in this time where solidarity between us is key and dont quite see why they're the ones who are having to pay such a heavy price since 9/11.

Anonymous said...

Some people in the Pakistani media said 9/11 was a plot from the US to garner support of the world against Muslim countries!
Just visited few Pakistani blogs discussing Mumbai terror issues, most of them seem to agree to this, naturally it can be clearly made out from their language how uneductated and uninformed they are, mostly the discussions are in Urdu or in poor English.

How uncivic these people could be even in their thinking. God help them with good education and sanity so they can be able to sense the denial state would bring doom to themselves in Pakistan.

Here is a link to a blog from a third party, worth to have a look:

http://www.juancole.com/2008/12/pakistani-reaganism-must-end-new.html

Ahsan said...

Cally:

Thanks for that link.

Nikhil:

I don't think I'm going to be able to get to that piece for lack of time. But I am planning something relatively new and fresh. Stay tuned.

SSM:

You're completely right. The fall of Peshawar from one of Pakistan's most liveliest and bustling cities to a war-zone is nothing short of tragic. It's not their fault they live there, and they certainly did not ask for this.

Anon819:

America? I thought it was Israel. Didn't all Jews stay home from work that day?

Also, we linked to the Juan Cole piece a couple of days ago, I think. But thanks anyway.

Anonymous said...

Some people in the Pakistani media said 9/11 was a plot from the US to garner support of the world against Muslim countries!

Just visited few Pakistani blogs discussing Mumbai terror issues, most of them seem to agree to 9/11 opinion aired in Pakistani media, naturally it can be clearly made out from their language how uneductated and uninformed they are, mostly the discussions are in Urdu or in poor English.

How uncivic these people could be even in their thinking. God help them with good education and sanity so they can be able to sense the denial state would bring doom to themselves in Pakistan.

Here is a link to a blog from a third party, worth to have a look:

http://www.juancole.com/2008/12/pakistani-reaganism-must-end-new.html

Anonymous said...

Jews stay home from work that day? Why we waste time more on conspiracy theories than mainstream report? There is clear reportage 12% killed were Jews. Naturally there is so much of hatred towards Jews and other community by Muslims but cannot we have different methods adopted to solve the problem. The current trend is lose-lose for all parties concerned.

Ahsan said...

Anon749:

It is quite disturbing that you took me seriously. To be clear, it says more about our society than it does about you that you actually believed that I was being serious.

Anonymous said...

The wrong information is spread in Pak media and thier leadership about Kashmir. To avert attention from main issues of country development and their inefficiency, they are projecting Kashmir to be their main area of concern there by creating hatred towards India. In the recent election in Kashmir with around 60% voting which is widely covered by international media, most of the people who participated in election said they on their own came forward to elect the candiates.

unknowndickhead said...

The Pakistani nuclear program is a wonderful thing.

Pakistanis need to stand up to their enemies and not be cowards.

A nuclear exchange with India would solve so many problems.

Anonymous said...

Y’day Imran Khan said Indian cricket tour cancellation was unfortunate and said India didt give enough evidence blah ..and said terrorists main aim is to win HEARTS AND MINDS OF PEOPLE ! and they would never target cricketers !

When the world’s reputed media and leaders themselves are convinced about Pakistani role what is the need to share the evidence with the offender (government/ISI). There is no thing like HONEST OFFENDER ! Naturally they will get defensive when you give them evidence.

Probably Imran Khan summarized it all, in Pakistan orphaning 2 year old kid, killing 80 year old innocent people would win HEARTS AND MINDS OF PEOPLE !!