Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi. Note the smirk. It will cost you. It will cost us all.
Mr. Lakhvi, the world would love to see you at the receiving end of a drone strike.
There’s a scene from the James Cameron sci-fi thriller Aliens which struck me as a life lesson that some members of the Indian establishment should learn to emulate.
The short sequence comes up in the climactic moments inside the nuclear powered atmosphere processing center on a distant planet, that had been designed to make the atmosphere of the alien planet that humans were colonizing, habitable. The entire structure is about to self-destruct in a massive 40-megaton thermonuclear blast. The time is short and the protagonist, Ripley (played by Sigourney Weaver), goes back into the disintegrating building, to find and save a little girl they had left behind, from being cocooned by the aliens.
Ripley finds the girl and as they is about to make their escape, she notices a passage into a large cavernous chamber. She enters this vast sarcophagus-like room where she finds the queen alien busy laying eggs and that’s when Ripley finds all the exits blocked – the queen’s praetorian alien guards are at each exit and they begin advancing toward her menacingly.
Ripley lets loose a short burst from her flame thrower, her targets – not the alien guards and nor even the queen mother, but the rows and rows of newly laid eggs. A few of the eggs get charred. The queen alien’s motherly protective instinct then takes over. She gestures to the guards to back off and they do, melting away into the background, giving Ripley the chance to attempt her escape.
In that split second, Ripley made a choice – one that would hit her adversary the hardest. More importantly, Ripley was prepared to die making the choice.
I was reading an Indian news headline and suddenly reminded of that scene from the movie.
The headline said – India welcomes UN assurance to take up Lakhvi release issue. It was referring to the release from custody of a vicious terrorist in Pakistan, who is said to be so close to the Pakistani military establishment that it has dissuaded even the Americans from announcing a bounty on his head, since the Americans still view the Pakistanis as ‘partners in the war on terror’.
Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi needs no introduction. For a period of roughly 60 hours starting 8pm on the 26th November 2008, he held India’s financial capital, Mumbai by the testicles, during which time ten of his hand-picked operatives came ashore on rubber dinghies and then, armed with AK-47s, methodically orchestrated the slaughter of 166 innocents, of whom 26 were foreign nationals with even a few Americans among them.
Fatefully, one of them, a twenty-something hill billy from the Pakistani hinterland, chickened out and gave himself up, spilling the beans and singing like a canary. Very soon, recorded cellphone intercepts, of instructions from Lakhvi to the militants while the attack was in progress followed, by courtesy of the US National Security Agency. Quickly a vivid picture of state-sponsored and executed mass murder emerged.
Initially, the government of Pakistan attempted to deny that the attack had been carried out from its soil, but the evidence was too damning. Both it’s courtesans, the US and China, refused to side with it, telling Pakistan in no uncertain terms to nab the culprits responsible for the planning of the attack. One name among them immediately took center stage – Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, Chief of Operations of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, one of the world’s richest and most disciplined terror groups.
Completely isolated, the Pakistan did an about face and conceded in a report sent to the Indian authorities that “the investigation has established beyond any reasonable doubt that the activists of the ‘defunct’ LeT conspired, abetted, planned the logistics and established the communications network required to carry out the terror attacks in Mumbai.”
Great. The world must have been thrilled. Pakistan had been assuring it’s benefactors, the US, that it was cracking down on terrorists and now it had arrested and incarcerated Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi in Rawalpindi’s sprawling Adyala Jail, just as it had promised. India and world were impressed but the awe was shortlived.
Like New Delhi’s Tihar Jail, the Adyala Jail too has a VIP wing. For Lakhvi and his cohorts, a section was sealed off and converted into an opulent suite of well-furnished rooms right next to the jailer’s office and it was this sprawling paradise where they were detained, or more appropriately, hosted. At their disposal, they had mobile phones, TV and internet access. Daily, a parade of visitors entered the premises, dudes who did not even have to register or identify themselves to the jailers, prior to entering the facility.
The latest news of Lakhvi being set free suggests another about face by the Pakistanis. The Pakistani courts have concluded that there is ‘no concrete evidence’ linking him directly to the Mumbai attacks. On April 15, Zaki-ur-Rehman walked out of jail, a free man.
In India, the news was greeted by bland ambivalence in most part. There was just a smattering of coffee-house chatter in the guise of righteous indignation among the literati. Even in most political circles the fact that a mass murderer had just gotten away with the killing of hundreds of their countrymen yet again, was a non-issue, raised once or twice as half-hearted after-thoughts in the parliament. Even the Hindu nationalist BJP government of India has shown this tremendous capacity to just move on. Shit happens, man. It is seven years. The UN will get him, now get a life, I have a cricket match to watch.
Around the world, the release hasn’t registered anywhere at all. That is understandable. The world is suffering from the disease known as TOFFIT (Terrorism Overload Fatigue Fuck-IT). The world is like a crystal meth addict who has to ingest more and more of the deadly drug in order to maintain the high. As the slaughter numbers burgeon, it takes more and more spectacular strikes for the world to take notice. Tell me honestly, don’t you yawn and turn the page or switch channels when you come upon another suicide bombing?
Meanwhile, the bereaved received the princely equivalent of $7900 as compensation. It sure is a lot of money in 21st century India, isn’t it? Vijay Salaskar, police inspector, scourge of the Mumbai Mafia, recipient of the Ashok Chakra, a man who has single-handedly upheld every precept of the law with every one of his living breaths, who came to be revered by the citizens of Mumbai long before November 2008, gave his life on that day. You don’t remember him either, right? I don’t blame you.
Ripley, in Aliens, took a split-second decision and hit the alien where it hurt her the most. In comparison, India has had a time frame that has been considerably longer than a split second – 16 years in fact, since the first fedayeen attack killed 13 Indian Border Security Force soldiers at Baramulla, in northern Kashmir. As for Indian retribution – I am still holding my breath.
Fedayeen, a term in Arabic which means ‘people who sacrifice themselves’, have since become the hallmark of LeT operations against India. Highly motivated fighters, trained by Pakistan’s ISI, engage Indians on their own territory. They storm a populated high-value soft target and indiscriminately kill as many civilians as possible in what is Stage-1 in their playbook. Stage-2 is when the security forces arrive and they go into a pitched battle, digging in and taking down as many Indian commandos as possible, until every militant is killed. 150 to 200 dead is a figure that the LeT considers a break-even situation, as regards ‘return on investment’.
The LeT takes great pains to assert that the fedayeen are not suicide attackers, since according to Islam, suicide is ‘haram’ (prohibited). After all, there is always a chance, however slim, of a fedayeen making good his escape.
Immediately after that maiden effort, the LeT Chief, Hafeez Sayeed, boasted in front of a 300,000-strong crowd in Pakistan-held Kashmir that henceforth the LeT would not restrict it’s strikes to only Kashmir but acquire the capability to strike deep inside the heart of India. He made good on his threat by mounting a spectacularly successful attack in December 2000 on the Lal Quila (Red Fort) in New Delhi, once the residence of the Mughal Emperors of the past. Filled with symbolism, the attack was to the LeT like a ‘reconquest’ of India. The fedayeen managed to kill Indian soldiers and escape unharmed.
The Red Fort operation proved the adage that nothing succeeds like success. It was the single most significant achievement which enhanced the group’s standing among it’s terrorist brethren all over. Suddenly insurgent wannabes from around the world were flocking to LeT’s training camps. Donations began pouring in, manpower quadrupled and a propaganda arm of the group began staging replays of the attack to packed audiences, in the Gaddafi Stadium at Lahore.
After that there was no looking back. The 2001 storming of the Indian Parliament assured the LeT of a permanent presence in the banned lists of every nation in the world. Except Pakistan of course. Babri Masjid and the 2002 Gujarat riots followed, when the LeT posted pictures of Muslim riot victims and called for an all-out jihad against India. Recruiting Indian Muslims in India became a cinch. The Indian Mujahedeen was born.
The LeT was on a roll. October 2005, two days before Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, a series of bombs ripped through two crowded markets and a packed bus. The carnage was horrendous. This one claimed 62 lives and injured 210. They were unstoppable now. July 2006, seven bombs struck Mumbai’s suburban railway system, killing 209 and wounding 700, making it into the record books as the most grievous attack ever carried out on Indian soil, though it was not as sensational as the 2008 massacre (probably since the dead were mostly poor laborers and low-level railway employees.
Through all this, we have been told that the Indian government, one-third spiritual, one-third dove and one-third wimp, is ‘engaging’ with the Pakistanis. It has not occurred to them that maybe Pakistan just does not want to engage. I find it amazing that a populace so deeply spiritual as Indians have not figured out that evil cannot be ‘engaged’ with.
I am sitting down to write to the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi –
Enough is enough. Stop this pantomime. Recall your ambassador, close down your embassy and sever all diplomatic ties with Pakistan. You know where Pakistan lays it’s alien eggs – it’s terrorist training camps – wipe them out with your cruise missiles, Mr. Prime Minister. Sure, Pakistan will try to retaliate but we all know that India is militarily infinitely more powerful.
By all means, speak to China in advance, to back off. You can let them know that they can have the carcass after you’re done. Trust me, they’ll be happy you’re cleaning up Pakistan in advance of their construction of that ‘Economic Corridor’ bullshit. As for the rest of the Muslim world, India has always maintained excellent relations with most of them, including Pakistan’s closest neighbors, Iran and Afghanistan. So trust me, no one will be too upset. Pakistan really has no friends. The deceit in the so-called Pakistan-China ‘all weather friendship’ is apparent to even a grade school student.
And the nuclear option? It is far easier to build a nuclear bomb than to be able to deliver it to the target and Pakistan’s delivery capabilities are exaggerated. They are not ready yet and besides, Pakistan will be dissuaded by all its allies from using the nuclear option. In the end, India has a far larger landmass. In a nuclear war, there will still be parts of India in the east that will remain unscathed. Pakistan, on the other hand, will most likely cease to exist.
In any case, Pakistan won’t go for a nuclear first strike. Their establishment may be riddled with fanatics but they are not stupid. They treasure their Cayman Islands bank accounts too much to throw it all away.
Sure, on this path of pre-emptive aggression, there will be innocent Indian and Pakistani lives lost, besides military casualties. There will also be a dip in India’s economic health, as Indians begin living life in a perpetual state of high alert, but just look at how the Israelis are managing their state of siege. In the face of an almost constant threat of aggression, they have a vibrant democracy and one of the highest GDPs in the world. They are proof that when you are brave, success follows.
This is a fight you did not start, Mr. Prime Minister and now it looks more and more like it might never really end. And that is natural. When we look back on history, out of the 11000 years that mankind has lived banded together in groups and settlements, 10700 have been spent in conflicts, invasions, massacres and genocides and just 300 went by in peace and tranquility. This is how we humans are made.
Make military service compulsory. Every citizen must learn how to defend himself. You have been the soft underbelly for too long. Shake yourselves out of it. Turn India into a Sparta. And if there is another Kargill, don’t make the same mistake of seeing them off, at the Line of Control. Go in, occupy and annex territory.
I would like to modify Gandhiji’s famous statement – When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers and for a time they have seemed invincible, but in the end they always fell….
I want to add just a few words here…
…especially after you have kicked the shit out of them.
There may be a time to be a dove, even a wimp, Mr. Prime Minister. This is just not it.