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How Mumbai attack played out with common Pakistanis

world Updated: Dec 31, 2008 21:20 IST
Kamal Siddiqi
Kamal Siddiqi
Hindustan Times
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Pakistan is a divided house. There’s no single view on how Islamabad should respond to Indian demands for dismantling terrorist outfits using its territory in the wake of the November 26 terror strikes on Mumbai.

Some believe the crackdown on militant organisations is a blessing in disguise while others argue that not enough proof has been offered to justify the government’s action against groups like the Jamaat-ud-Dawah, a Lashkar-e-Tayyeba front.

Muhammad Ilyas, who runs a grocery store next to the building in Karachi’s Gulshan-e-Iqbal locality where the JuD had its offices, commented that he saw “nothing wrong” with the Jamaat’s activities.

“They were polite people only spreading the word of Allah, I don’t see why they have been labelled terrorists,” Ilyas told Hindustan Times.

The right-wing Jamaat-e-Islami party recently held a conference in the city to condemn the “unjustified attack” on the JuD. The West was targeting Islamic “welfare organisations” helping the poor, argued Dr. Meraj-ul-Huda of the JI.

There are others, however, who see it differently.

Ayesha Siddiqa, a leading defence analyst, felt that the real question is not being asked in Pakistan. “We need to ask ourselves what should we do with these militant organisations who are seen as assets by some and partially supported.”

Dr Siddiqa believed that the debate in Pakistan had not focused on this issue and has been “hijacked by a section of the media” to focus on why the government is cracking down on such groups.

Analysts said a struggle was on between the political government and an “invisible” government. Siddiqa said the “other side has overpowered the political government”.

That may possibly explain the somewhat confused signals of the Zardari government to international demands for action against terror groups.

But there are some who say that Pakistan is waking up to the seriousness of the situation. “I am hopeful. I think Pakistan has reacted in a positive manner and despite all the talk of war, the message on this side has been of peace and calm,” commented former General Talat Masood.

Masood was hopeful that things would improve between India and Pakistan in the coming weeks. It’s a sentiment shared by Aitzaz Ahsan, one of the country’s best-known lawyers and a key member of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party.

The high-profile lawyer said that the deterioration of the relations between India and Pakistan was “exactly what those who conducted the attacks in Mumbai wanted”.