Tuesday, December 2, 2008

In denial?

Today I read an article in The Dawn, Pakistan, called The misplaced hype about Faridkot. It illustrates many points I've been trying to make.

First of all the article is written in a clear and non-loony tone much as any article in the mainstream Indian press. Its main thesis is that there is no evidence, much less proof, that the captured terrorist came from Faridkot.

I agree with some points made in the article but not with others. But again, the level of logic, while not meeting my stringent standards, is hardly lower than that of much that's written in the best Indian papers.

(i) The article observes that there are several towns/villages named "Faridkot" in Pakistan as well as one (or more) in Indian Punjab. Therefore merely naming "Faridkot" does not demonstrate anything. I agree with this. An apparent certainty conveyed by the mention of this name has not stood up to scrutiny.

(ii) The article points out that the Indian media doesn't even know if the captured person is called "Ajmal Amir Kamal, Muhammad Ajmal, Muhammad Amin Kasab, Azam Amir Kasav or Azam Amir Kasab". This is also true. The Hindu used the first form yesterday while the third and the fifth are the most common. The names are not minor variants of each other. If they can't get the name straight, can we trust that they have got other more important details straight?

(iii) The article also goes on about how people in a particular Faridkot are "secular" and "peaceful". This is interesting, note that secular is held up as a positive value in The Dawn (while a number of Indians in mainstream politics deride "secular" as something terrible to be, much like "liberal" in the pre-Obama US). But as a proof that no terrorist could come from there, this is really no good. Character certificates for villages don't tell us if a terrorist originated there or not.

(iv) The Dawn quotes the Economic Times of India as saying "We can tell you who this man is and how he has become the vital link for investigating agencies to crack the terror plot". This is the kind of thing that bothers me from the Indian media. If they can tell us, why don't they tell us?

(v) Finally, noteworthy for what is left unsaid, The Dawn article has focused only on the origin of the terrorist. Much more important, as I've said previously, is where he was trained and armed. This is a key issue and one on which they have nothing to say.

I also want to mention here that any reader of my blog who followed the link to The Dawn (the link was broken yesterday but I've fixed it now) would have seen several other Ed and Op-Ed articles which are far more accommodating about the possibility of Pakistani involvement in some form. That sounds fair enough to me, after all we can't expect a Pakistani newspaper to come out shouting "Yes we did it" any more than we can expect Indian media to come out bluntly exposing some things our government has done in Kashmir in the past.

But at the end of it, the big question is, when will the Indian government provide us (i.e. Indians, Pakistanis and the world at large) some convincing evidence of Pakistani involvement at the training and arming stage, which I strongly believe to be likely? That's far more important than the name or village of origin.


Anonymous said...

Been a silent reader here mostly.. but thought I will mention this geotv show. Much like the print media articles, one may disagree with some of the comments (esp. hamid mir choosing a lunatic star tv report as sample) - but I think a general degree of openness to investigate comes through.

Anonymous said...

This is the article that appeared in the same Dawn newspaper of Pakistan which you hold in high repute.

It just goes on to show what sort of a phoney newspaper Dawn is!

Sunil Mukhi said...


The Editorial that you refer to expresses the fear that Obama may be encouraging India to attack Pakistan. And in the Editor's words, "He may be doing so to gain India’s trust or because of his suspicions regarding the role of Pakistan’s spy agencies in making trouble for India, but his statement will only encourage pro-Taliban parties and promote extremist sentiments in Pakistan."

Notice that nowhere is it denied that Pakistan's spy agencies could indeed be making such trouble. The key worry of the Editor is that an attack by India will encourage extremist sentiment in Pakistan, and there is little doubt that this is true.

As for the original premise of the article, whether Obama is actually encouraging India to attack, that is somewhat dubious. But there's little doubt that Obama and Bush are united in greatly preferring India to Pakistan. For Pakistanis, used to having the U.S. as an ally for many decades, the loss of face and hurt feelings are understandable.

So I wouldn't call the editorial "phoney", though it's based on a perception that I don't completely share.