Myths from Mumbai

Following the Mumbai terror attacks, politicians, pundits and the press have created many myths, confusions and falsehoods. These deserve to be exposed in favour of clearer thinking.

Myth 1: "When it comes to terrorism, India and Pakistan are now victims of a common enemy."

President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan has expansively promoted this myth and many in the West and some in India embrace it. In an interview on CNN, Zardari said: "The state of Pakistan is of course not involved. We're part of the victims." A week later, he wrote in the New York Times: "Not only are the terrorists not linked to the government of Pakistan in any way, we are their targets and continue to be their victims."

But this is a treacherous claim. True, Pakistan has been subject to several terrorist attacks recently including the one on the Marriott

Hotel that killed more than 50 people three months ago. But India and Pakistan are not victims of the same terror groups. Pakistan suffers at the hands of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda groups whom it is now fighting on the Afghan border alongside the US. But Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) that sent terrorists to Mumbai recently and Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) that attacked the Parliament in 2001 do not terrorise Pakistani citizens.

Instead, they have had a history of receiving patronage from Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI. It is only under intense international pressure that Pakistan has recently arrested the leaders of these outfits. The ease with which the Pakistani army was able to round them up testifies to the cozy relationship between the two.

Myth 2: "Pakistani government bears no responsibility for the recent Mumbai attacks."

Zardari makes this claim calling the terrorists stateless actors. Indian and US officials have also avoided directly implicating the government of Pakistan in their statements. Yet, the statement is substantively false. For some time now, there has existed an "Army-ISI-Jihadi complex" in Pakistan whereby retired officials of the army and ISI routinely participate in terrorist-training camps that jihadi outfits such as LeT and JeM run. In turn, these outfits actively assist the ISI. Therefore, even if there was no official contact between the government and LeT specifically on the Mumbai attacks, the army and ISI bear responsibility in an essential way.

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