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Ajmal Amir Kasab: The Story of Pakistan

May 4, 2010

The lone surviving terrorist in the Mumbai 26/11 terror attacks has been held guilty on almost all 80 charges against him – the most heinous was that of waging war against the state. The story of Kasab, the 22 year old baby faced assassin is the story of Pakistan.

Kasab comes from a family of traditional butchers (kasai – butcher, which became Kasab) and his father is a hawker selling boiled eggs and pakoras in the dusty town of Faridkot in Punjab. Kasab grew up in destitution and the meager income from hawking was not enough to feed Kasab and his siblings. The utter poverty that is a hallmark of rural and urban Pakistan is a malaise that runs deep in the society. Kasab told his interlocutors that he saw some other boys riding in open jeeps and motorcycles and wearing expensive watches and wanted to be like them. These boys were from the LeT (Lashkar e-Taiba) and were financed by the Pakistan establishment. Few people in his home town of Faridkot which has a population of 10,000 are literate and Kasab is also analphabetic. For a small town boy to see the glitz of those roaming around in vehicles was too much of an inducement and poverty in the family drove him to those who were on the payroll of the establishment. He joined LeT. The rest as they say is history.

To understand the Mumbai attacks, we need to understand Pakistan. That is where the terrorists are coming from and that is the country that engineered the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts, the Mumbai train blasts and the Parliament attack of 2001, apart from several other such attacks. Many have said that Pakistan is a failed state. I am not going to go as far as pronouncing Pakistan a failed state, but the ground situation in Pakistan is definitely not good. Pakistan could have done better, much better. Western Punjab is perhaps one of the most fertile regions of the world. The five rivers that make Punjab have made the soil rich and agriculture does not need much effort. They have natural resources and have sea ports to ship their goods across the world. They also have people who are hard working by nature – whether it is the Punjabis, the Sindhis or the Pashtuns. They have abundant natural gas in Balochistan.  They grow some of the best fruits in the world and their carpet weavers are so skilled that they have created a niche in the world market. Yet Pakistan has been consigned to being a basket case. Their balance of payment situation was so precarious that were it not for the US forays into the Af-Pak region and their resultant compulsion to give Pakistan aid, they would have defaulted.

Pakistanis have migrated to the Gulf in huge numbers. Pakistan has been reduced to becoming a ‘money order’ economy. The problems facing Pakistan are many. If you talk to any Pakistani he will begin by saying that the biggest problem that the nation is facing is that from the Army. The Army is everywhere – even in commerce and 60 percent of the stocks listed in the Karachi stock exchange are of companies owned directly or indirectly by the Army. Even if there is a civilian government at the helm, as there is one now, it is the army that is calling the shots. The administration is woeful and there is no system in place. The independence of the judiciary is a myth and the nation is run by those in uniform.

Lack of administration and governance has led to a dysfunctional society where things just do not work. Industries are few and far between and Pakistan has to import even small things like pens and soaps and other paraphernalia. Basic industries are missing though there is no dearth of natural resources. This is an aid driven economy. Karachi is one big slum and poverty, gurbat, is rampant.

The pillars of Pakistani ‘prosperity’ if one may call it that are those in the army (which is subsidized by the US), the zamidars who own acres and acres of land (there have been no land reforms) some industrialists and some real estate owners in big towns like Karachi and Lahore. Leave this creamy layer and what one finds is a people who are uneducated, impoverished and living on the edge. An inflation of more than 15 percent makes life utterly miserable for the common Pakistani.

If one goes by the official data, those under poverty line are claimed to be around 38 percent (source: UN) but if one looks closely, the percentage of those under the poverty line easily is anywhere between 60 to 70 percent. This extreme poverty and suppression by the army has seen a people unable to vent their frustration.

The army has its own agenda. They think in regional and global terms. The fixation of Pakistan establishment with India is so extreme that rather than thinking about solving their own problems their energies are diverted to making life difficult for India. Rather than establish institutions like democracy and independent judiciary, they are hell bent on trying to bleed India with a thousand cuts.

Pakistan depends heavily on aid from the west and from some Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia. The aid meant for development is used to buy arms and ammunition. The west while insisting that such monies should be used for the purpose they are meant for can do only so much. If they want another 18 F-16’s – then so be it. The infrastructure is pathetic, the power situation a joke. There are reported power riots in parts of Pakistan and there is power rationing. The few small scale industries are finding it difficult to sustain. Many are closing down. The Obama administration has forced aid for development purposes and most notably for education.  This is a nation that is being force fed to survive.

In this backdrop there is an army that is playing with the religious sentiments of the people. They cannot give the common Pakistani bread so they give them orthodoxy (Allah). That is the solace of a lopsided state – the hatred for a neighbor, a people. They dish out blatant lies and caricatures of a Hindu India and spew venom. They believe that the raison de etre of their nationhood is their complete rejection of India. They are satiated if they see India stumble rather than ensure they do well themselves. Their fixation with India is a diversion for the awam from their own shortcomings.

Religion has become a tool in the hands of Pakistan establishment. What was started by Zia ul-Haq has been taken forward by the subsequent leadership. Benazir Bhutto, whose family own acres and acres of land in Larkana, Sindh was the one who gave Nasrullah Babar, her interior minister the charge of creating militants from among the youth in madrasas on the Afghanistan –Pakistan border region – a force that later came to be known as the Taliban. Innocent tribal Pashtuns have been radicalized and what we see is mayhem and strife not only in India and around the world but now these same forces are strong enough to challenge the writ of Pakistan establishment. There have been at least six attacks, big and small on the ISI offices in Islamabad.  A simple tribal people have been turned into a rabidly orthodox militant outfit that has become a law unto themselves’ and are dispensing justice in parts of Pakistan.

Much is being made of the amendment to the constitution that will supposedly give more powers to the Civilian government headed by Yusuf Raza Gilani. The army remains all powerful. They will not let civilian administrators order them around. Gen Kiyani remains the undisputed head of the Islamic State of Pakistan.

The priorities of those in power in Pakistan are upside down. Pakistan needs to get over their India-fixation. They need to work on building institutions and infrastructure that will lead to development and prosperity in this nation of immense possibilities. They need to begin by dismantling the terror infrastructure that they so gleefully use against India time and again and which their army looks at as a strategic asset. They need to use the meager resources for the betterment of the lives of ordinary Pakistanis. The army would do well to go back to the barracks and leave the running of the country to an elected government. The focus should be education and turning the madrasas into modern schools. The focus should be on creation of jobs and opportunities and a modern progressive society that can rub shoulders with the best of the world. The world has been magnanimous with Pakistan because of its geo-strategic situation. They can still leverage this to get a lot from the western world and use it for the benefit of their people. The priorities need to be changed. The mindset needs to be different. A prosperous, progressive Pakistan is essential for world peace. India would love to see a confident, forward looking Pakistan. Then there will be no need to send Kasab’s to Mumbai to create mayhem and perhaps then we can think of open borders where people can move freely between the two countries. The people of Pakistan deserve better, the people of India deserve to live in peace.

This is an attempt at understanding the reason why Pakistan has become a hotbed of terrorism and not an apology for Kasab. This is not to justify what Kasab did, but to understand that the genesis of this problem of terrorism emanating from Pakistan is a deep seated one and this cannot be wished away. The Times Square incident also involves a naturalized American of Pakistani origin, Faisal Shahzad who is just 30 years of age. It is clear from this incident that the educated elite of Pakistan have not remained untouched by radicalism, and this has been proved time and again. The world needs to ensure that Pakistan takes the path of peace and prosperity and rejects radicalism and terrorism as a state policy. This India has been saying for more than two decades, but now the time has come for the world to ensure that Pakistan chooses the right way. In today’s times of shrinking distances and porous borders, we need to think beyond countries and as global citizens. Were we to fail in weeding out this malaise the future generations will be the sufferers!!

Update 6.05.2010: Ajmal Amir Kasab has been sentenced to death for his role in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. His sentence was a fore gone conclusion. Suffice to say that the Indian state insisted on giving a fair trial and tax payers money was spent to make a special cell and a special court within the jail premises.

The Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad is also from Pakistan. Investigations are going on and it is reported that this naturalized American citizen was in North Waziristan for five months last year and was imparted training by the Taliban. The role of the Taliban is increasingly becoming clear in the TS failed bomb attack.

For the ordinary Pakistani on the street, there is a feeling of being victimised and they believe that the west and India are out to give Pakistan a bad name. This state of denial is not going to help at all. Rather than acknowledge the malaise that afflicts Pakistan they have a feeling of being a victim of the machinations of India and the west. Till such time the leadership comes forward and makes it clear that they shall not tolerate terrorism emanating from Pakistan and stop supporting all terror outfits, things will not change. They need to do some serious rethink about the expenditure being incurred on a bloated armed forces – they cannot afford such extravagance. They need to focus on developmental, educational and health issues, otherwise I am afraid Pakistan will spiral down into chaos.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 1, 2010 7:33 am

    Great piece of facts that you’ve obtained on this web site publish. Hope I will get some much more of the stuff in your weblog. I will appear again.

  2. jagadeesh yadav permalink
    March 25, 2011 11:30 am

    we want to kill kasab


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