Questions about Mumbai attacks unanswered

Sunday, December 7, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CST

Loory: Mumbai, once known throughout the world as Bombay, is one of the five largest cities in the world, with a population of 19 million. But 10 young terrorists held virtually the whole city in thrall, killing more than 170 and injuring hundreds of others. At the same time, there was sectarian fighting between Christians and Muslims in central Nigeria that resulted in the deaths of over 300 people in a dispute over who won a provincial election. In Nigeria, some reports say that mercenary troops from neighboring Niger and Chad were brought in by the Muslims to fight the Christians. Who was responsible in Mumbai? Some reports say that the Pakistani state intelligence agency experts trained the terrorists for a Muslim terrorist organization, Lashkar-e-Taiba, to carry out the Mumbai attack. Is that why Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen visited Pakistan?

Irfan Malik, assistant editor, Dawn, Karachi, Pakistan: They visited Pakistan to defuse tensions, but there is absolutely no evidence the Pakistani state was involved. Nobody denies that Pakistan is rife with terrorism and has training grounds. But to equate a Pakistani, and even that is not proven yet, with the Pakistani state is a leap of faith. One reason is out of grief; another reason is that the Indian state is defensive because of the incredible intelligence and security lapse. Now, they feel it necessary to do something and are lashing out at any direction.

Loory: What do you have to say about that?

Manoj Joshi, comment editor, Mail Today, India: One person has been captured alive, Asam Amir Qasab. The FBI has also interrogated him; the American authorities will make their own conclusions. Qasab is saying a lot of things about the ISI (Pakistan's intelligence agency). We have the names of the trainers, and the places where they were trained. Internet addresses lead all the way to the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate. I think the U.S. knows more from its intense surveillance in Pakistan, particularly Karachi Harbor, where all NATO and American supplies to Afghanistan go through.

Malik: I am no supporter of this Pakistan government, but there is no hard evidence. The Pakistani government continues to ask for hard evidence from the Indian government.

Susan Taylor Martin, senior correspondent, St. Petersburg Times, St. Petersburg, Fla: Steve Coll wrote in The New Yorker that he has spent a great deal of time with Lashkar. He points out that this organization has operated openly as a humanitarian agency and charity in Pakistan, with at least the tacit acknowledgment of the Pakistani government. It is an organization much like Hamas, where it has a humanitarian wing, but it also has a terrorist wing. I think modern history shows that elements of the Pakistani intelligence services have supported these groups and that even retired members go on to join them.

Loory: There has been virtually nothing written around the world about what happened in Nigeria, yet by numbers, more people died than in Mumbai last week. What happened there?

Prince Charles Dickson, editor, Leadership, Jos, Nigeria: In Jos, Nigeria, elections were held on (Nov. 27), the ruling party was losing the election, and there was an attempt to manipulate the result. The opposition got wind of that and set about to correct it in court. Nigerian democracy is barely nine years old. The Nigerian presidential election itself is still a subject of litigation; nothing seems to be moving. There is a history of low education and lots of people in the lower classes. So, it is easy to manipulate people. What oftentimes is a political disagreement between parties will snowball into religious issues between Christians and Muslims. (On Nov. 30), I attended a mass burial with 375 bodies. If you include those bodies that have not been found, were buried elsewhere or are still in the morgue, over 500 people are dead. The BBC and CNN did try to cover this story.

Loory: What are the implications of Mumbai for the war in Afghanistan? There are concerns the Pakistan military will take forces from the northwest, home of al-Qaida and terrorist leadership, and transfer it to the Indian border. Is that going to happen?

Malik: It is a case of one-upmanship. India keeps raising the ante, so Pakistan has to come up with some answer. There is absolutely no point in Pakistan and India engaging in a conflict. I do not think that is going to happen.

Loory: From the Indian point of view, will there be any conflict between India and Pakistan?

Joshi: There is no military mobilization here. The aim of this whole terrorist attack on Mumbai was to get the Pakistani army off the hook. The present chief of the Pakistan army was the chief of the ISI. The Pakistan army is desperate to get out of the northwest frontier. They do not want to be fighting there, in a deeply unpopular war, but they have been pushed to fight by the Americans. They have had 900 army desertions in the past year. I feel that someone has engineered this incident; the Pakistanis want the Indians to mobilize militarily. They want to convert what is a terrorist issue to an Indian/Pakistan issue.

Malik: This argument would apply very well between 2003-05, even up to the end of Pervez Musharraf’s regime, but things have changed dramatically. There has been a concerted military effort after Musharraf left; he was completely gypping the West.

Loory: Is the U.S., in some part, a creator of this problem?

Martin: Pakistan and India are both important allies to the U.S. interest, albeit for different reasons. The main focus in the U.S. is stabilizing Afghanistan; there is concern that diverted attention of the Pakistani military to India’s border will heighten problems in the tribal areas. The U.S. is trying to persuade Pakistan that Islamic extremism is more a threat to their country than to ours, and it is in everybody’s best interest to do something about extremist elements along the Pakistani/Afghan border.

Malik: Pakistan has borne the brunt of homegrown terrorism. With the exception of the very small right-wing lunatic fringe, everyone was in complete sympathy with what happened to the people of Mumbai. We know what terrorism does to families, what terrorism does to the psyche of a nation; it destroys your self-confidence. Both India and Pakistan need to get together and tackle this problem together, otherwise it will be counterproductive. Since Musharraf left, some advancement has been made.

Loory: Will India and Pakistan be able to work together?

Joshi: This conversation took place between the prime ministers of India and Pakistan, both saying let’s cooperate. The Pakistani side offered to send the director general of the ISI to look at the evidence here, then the army put pressure and the whole thing got canceled. We have no quarrel with the civilian government of Pakistan or with the Pakistani people. The problem is how much control the civilian government itself has in the Pakistani system.

Loory: What is the feeling here in the U.S. about whether what happened in Mumbai was a conflict of religions?

Martin: That is seen as the underlying current, but it can’t be seen in starkly religious terms. It has come out that these attacks were not targeting any specific religion and also killed Muslims.

Producers of Global Journalist are Missouri School of Journalism graduate students Jared Gassen, Chris Hamby, Sananda Sahoo, and Hui Wang. The transcriber is Pat Kelley.

Like what you see here? Become a member.

Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.