The terrorist mayhem in Mumbai had barely subsided when I received the first e-mail suggesting the attacks had been carried out by agents of Mossad — Israel’s foreign intelligence agency — masquerading as Islamic terrorists to give Muslims a bad name.
Alex James of Toronto forwarded a news item claiming, “India’s Internal Security Police are now holding and questioning an identified Israeli Mossad agent, who had been in communication with some of the alleged terrorists in India two weeks before the black-op attacks took place.”
As ridiculous as this may sound, chances are that countless Muslims are deluding themselves into believing that it is not their co-religionists who are responsible for the savagery let loose on India, but some hidden U.S.-Zionist conspiracy against Islam.
If at all there was an intelligence agency whose fingerprints can be spotted at the crime scene, it appears to be Islamist rogue elements from Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), which is hell-bent on disrupting India’s (recently improving) relations with neighbouring Pakistan.
For two decades, the ISI has been the de-facto government in Pakistan, toppling regimes, aiding the Taliban, giving cover to al-Qaeda fugitives and running a business empire worth billions of dollars.
In July, the new democratically elected government in Islamabad, led by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, attempted to bring the ISI under civilian control. Under threat of a military coup, it had to perform a humiliating about-face within 24 hours.
Then last Sunday, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister announced that the political wing of the ISI, which is responsible for rigging elections and blackmailing politicians, had been disbanded, saying, “The ISI is a precious national institution and wants to focus on counterterrorism activities.”
It seems the Foreign Minister had spoken too soon. Within hours of his announcement, the BBC reported that an unnamed senior security official had contradicted the statement.
While this tussle for control of the country’s intelligence network was going on behind the scenes, on Tuesday, the president of Pakistan, Asif Zardari, threw a bombshell that caught the Pakistan military establishment off-guard. Speaking to an Indian TV audience via a satellite link, President Zardari announced a strategic shift in Pakistan’s military doctrine. He told a cheering Indian audience that Pakistan had adopted a “no first-strike” nuclear policy.
This apparently did not go down well within Pakistan’s military establishment, which has ruled the country for decades using the Indian bogeyman to justify the maintenance of a huge military machine on a permanent war footing.
Immediately, military commentators denounced Zardari, with one saying he believed the President was “not fully informed or completely aware of” Pakistan’s policy on the issue.
To further alarm Pakistan’s own military-industrial complex, Zardari borrowed a quote from his late wife, Benazir Bhutto, who once said that there’s a “little bit of India in every Pakistani and a little bit of Pakistan” in every Indian.
“I do not know whether it is the Indian or the Pakistani in me that is talking to you today,” Zardari said, amid applause from his high-profile audience, which included diplomats, politicians and industrialists.
While most Pakistanis welcomed the new air of peace and friendship between Indian and Pakistan, the country’s religious right was upset.
Just a month ago, the founder of one of Pakistan’s most feared armed Islamist groups had accused Zardari of being too dovish toward India, and criticized him for referring to militants in Indian-held Kashmir as “terrorists.
Then, this week, the so-called Deccan Mujahideen struck against India with the clear aim of triggering a Hindu backlash against the country’s minority Muslims — with the obvious attendant danger to Pakistan-India relations.
Most security commentators agree that the Deccan Mujahideen is merely a tag of convenience, and that behind this well-planned terror attack lies Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a major militant group fighting in Indian Kashmir — the same group that has recently warned Zardari to desist from warming up to India.
Time will tell whether these Islamists succeed or whether the people of India — Hindus and Muslims alike — can see through this provocation and embrace the hand of friendship extended by President Zardari.
In the meantime, Muslims around the world will also have to decide whether to enter the 21st century and distance themselves from the doctrine of armed jihad, or embrace these murderous haters of joy and peace.
Tarek Fatah is the author of Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State (Wiley).