Who is speaking the truth — Pakistan or India?August 2, 2009
Saturday, August 01, 2009
By Amir Mir
LAHORE: It is statecraft with a dash of magic-realism, rendering impossible for most to distinguish between truth and falsehood, fact and fiction. But the high-voltage, headline-grabbing Indo-Pakistan drama continues: Did Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani hand over a dossier to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt, detailing the role of India in the secessionist movement in Balochistan and terror activities elsewhere in Pakistan? No such dossier has been handed over by Pakistan, Dr Manmohan Singh has insisted, more recently reiterating this line in a debate in Indian Parliament on July 29. However, a fortnight from the Sharm-el-Sheikh meeting, well-informed sources in the Pakistani Foreign Office still insist that a detailed dossier containing evidence of Indian involvement in subversive activities in Balochistan, Swat and Waziristan regions was handed over by Gilani to Dr Singh at Sharm-el-Sheikh. These sources claim the Indian prime minister had assured his counterpart of investigating the Pakistani claims and taking corrective action, if necessary.
They say the evidence of the Indian activities contained in the Pakistani dossier listed the safe houses that Indiaís premier intelligence agency RAW (Research & Analysis Wing) has in Afghanistan, where terrorists are trained and launched for subversive missions in Pakistan. The lengthier part of the dossier dealt with Indiaís link with the insurgents in Balochistan, particularly Brahamdagh Bugti, the rebel grandson of the deceased Baloch nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and his rebel commanders.
The Pakistani dossier is said to contain documentary evidence of Brahamdagh and his comrades meeting RAW operatives deployed in Afghanistan. The dossier claimed that the Indian consulates in Kandahar and Jalalabad and their embassy in Kabul assist clandestine activities inside Pakistan in general and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and Balochistan in particular. The sources say the dossier further mentioned a RAW-funded terrorist training camp in Kandahar, where insurgents belonging to the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), particularly those from the Bugti clan, are allegedly trained and provided arms and ammunition for carrying out terrorist activities in Balochistan. Interior ministry sources in Islamabad say Pakistan had expressed concern over the activities of the Indian intelligence agency in Balochistan in the past, but this was for the first time (on July 16, at Sharm-el-Sheikh) that it was encapsulated in a dossier and handed over to India. In fact, while addressing an in-camera sitting of the Senate on April 23, 2009, Interior Minister Rehman Malik had accused India of backing the Balochistan Liberation Army, which is accused of fanning unrest in the province. The prime aim behind the in-camera session of the Upper House was to show members of Parliament that foreign agencies were involved in a concerted conspiracy against Pakistan — especially Balochistan. The state-run news agency Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) – quoted Malik telling the Senate, ìThe BLA was raised and funded by Russia during the Soviet-Afghan war when Pakistan was supporting Afghans and now India is backing its activities…. The BLA remained dormant since the Afghan war ended but it was reactivated after the killing of Akbar Bugti, whose grandson Brahamdagh Bugti, has openly sought Indian support for independence of Balochistan in a recent interviewî. He further claimed in his deposition to the Senate that the Indian consulate in the Iranian city of Zahedan, bordering Balochistan, was involved in financing subversive activities in the troubled province — a charge first made by Christine Fair of RAND Corporation in the Foreign Affairs, an American magazine.
Rehman Malik, subsequently, reiterated these charges in an interview with a French television channel on July 27, saying India was interfering in Balochistan by supplying weapons to terrorists there through Afghanistan, though it was for the first time a Pakistani prime minister had thought it fit to raise it with his Indian counterpart. However, there are those who wonder at the credibility of the Pakistani allegations against Indiaís role in Balochistan, arguing that it makes greater sense for New Delhi to target Punjab or Sindh, the two most important of Pakistani provinces. But Pakistani analysts point out the pertinent fact that Balochistan is replete with mineral resources and with the development of the Gawadar Port, it could prove to be countryís key junction, connecting the rest of the world with Central Asia. It is primarily because of multiple strategic benefits, they further say, that the United States intends to control Balochistan as an independent state, contain China and subdue Iran. Subsequently, they argue, the United States and India are backing Baloch separatists to complete their hidden agenda. Balochistan apart, the sources say the Pakistani dossier also included pictures of several non-Muslims (all of them uncircumcised), who had been killed during the ongoing Pakistani military action in the Swat valley. In addition, proof of Indian involvement in terror financing in Pakistan has also been provided to New Delhi, along with the names of Indian agents who had crossed the border to link up with militants on the Pakistani side of Wagah. In other words, India is accused of not only fishing in troubled waters of Balochistan, but destabilising a large swathe of Pakistan. The dossier reportedly reveals details of the Indian hand in the attacks on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore on March 3, 2009 and on the Manawan police training academy attacks. It is claimed that the authorities have identified the RAW operatives who were in touch with the perpetrators of the two terrorist attacks, that proof of their interaction has been attached with the dossier handed over to New Delhi. Some, though, say these claims appear feeble – the Pakistan police had earlier concluded that the attack on the Lankan team was carried out by a sectarian Sunni group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), which actually wanted to hijack the bus to seek the release of their arrested chief, Akram Lahori.
The Punjab police had first accused the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) for having carried out the 3/3 attack in Lahore. It seems unlikely, some feel, that India would back an obscurantist Sunni militant group known for its hatred towards India. In the March 30 attack on the Manawan police training academy Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Lahore Pervaiz Rathore had talked of Indian involvement, claiming that the perpetrators were pro-India Afghans. When his attention was drawn to Baitullah Mehsud claiming responsibility for the Manawan attack, the Lahore police chief had said: ìIt is a well-known fact that Baitullah Mehsud is paid for terrorism and he can do anything for the sake of moneyî. Well-placed Foreign Office sources in Islamabad even claim Pakistan has shared the evidence of the Indian involvement in terrorist activities on its soil with the US Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke and the ISAF chief Lt Gen Mc Chrystal. They added that Pakistan had provided documented and video evidence to them about Indiaís covert links with the Tehrik-e-Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud through its various consulates in Afghanistan. Holbrooke had reportedly assured Pakistan that he would take up the matter with India at the diplomatic level. Therefore, the million-dollar question is — who is speaking the truth — Pakistan or India, Prime Minister Gilani or Prime Minister Singh?