The multiple bomb blasts in Dilsukhnagar area of Hyderabad on 21 Feb 2013 are undoubtedly part of a continuing process. Almost 20 such blasts have occurred in various parts of the country in the last decade. A pattern can be gleaned. Each successive blast has been an improvement and more difficult to investigate. It clearly indicates a central brain behind them. In 95% of the previous terror attacks Pakistan was found to be involved, either directly or through its various acolytes. Pakistan’s ISI has created a web of terror groups in India, as in Afghanistan. The foot soldiers of two such groups in India, SIMI and IM, are believed to consist of a number of sleeper cells. Pakistan seems to have lost control over some terror groups but the main one, LeT is still firmly in its grip, to the extent that the leader of another terror group chidingly called it a Sarkari Mujahideen that conducts ISI Jihad and not Allah’s Jihad.
There is every possibility that the terror attacks would further intensify after the US troops pull out of Afghanistan in 2014 and more jihadis become available.
Unfortunately, Hyderabad blasts may not be the last of such terror attacks. The menace has to be tackled on war footing. Right from 1947, animosity with India has remained the mainstay of Pakistan’s national policy, or her Ideology. Every Pakistani endeavour has been driven by that one single idea. It has vast support among its influential people, notwithstanding their soft pronouncements at Aman ki Asha etc. Hostility toward India is a survival necessity for Pakistan. It has no other glue to keep it united; Islam having mostly lost its sheen. Increasingly, Pakistan’s minority ethnic groups see Islam as a tool for the ruling Punjabi clique to colonize and exploit them, as has been happening in many parts of the country.
Pakistan has unsuccessfully tried war many times. It has learnt the bitter truth that it cannot defeat or even significantly harm India in an open armed conflict. However, learning the truth is not the same as reconciling with the reality. Pakistan has now adopted the cheaper option of fighting through terror. A proxy war in J&K and terror attacks in the rest of the country fit in with her oft-repeated philosophy of bleeding India through a thousand cuts. There is every possibility that the terror attacks would further intensify after the US troops pull out of Afghanistan in 2014 and more jihadis become available. Pakistan’s actions along LoC, continued attempts at infiltration, no reduction in terrorist camps on its soil, continued pretexts not to take action against those involved in the Mumbai attack, open support to Hafiz Saied of LeT and integration of the Army with LeT jihadis at unit level, are clear pointers in that intention.
The Pakistani mindset is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future, even if damaging to Pakistan itself. Unfurling the Pakistani flag on Red Fort continues to remain its most cherished national dream, though far fewer leaders may talk about it openly compared to a decade ago. We have to remain prepared for continued hostile acts from Pakistan.
India cannot bank on the US in future and has to evolve its own measures to meet the challenge.
Hyderabad has been a repeat target. It is a big city; fourth largest in the country. Its nearly 68 lac population has a heterogeneous composition. Events such as the recent hate speech by an elected representative, and the enthusiastic response of those present, would feed the perception that terror sympathisers could be found there.
The relative respite since 26/11 has been more due to US pressure, as US citizens were also killed. It cannot be construed as a change of heart by Pakistan. India cannot bank on the US in future and has to evolve its own measures to meet the challenge. Terrorism has to be tackled both domestically and on external front.
Terrorism is a national problem and must not be subservient to party or vote bank politics. It is also a battle of intelligence where pre-emption is the best prevention. There is a need to have a central nodal agency manned by specialists to gather information, process it and disseminate it in real time. Such agency would also maintain a national data bank of likely suspects. Considering the danger terrorism poses to the country, the agency must be dedicated to this subject without the burden of other responsibilities. The proposed National Counter Terrorism Centre, or some similar formation, merits serious consideration, notwithstanding the apprehension, that sweeping powers will render it liable to be misused. The focus must remain on the larger benefits that would accrue from a centralized approach. There is an imperative need for the thinking of the Centre and the States to converge.
We cannot ignore the fact that the real power puppeteers are the Pakistan Army and ISI continues to remain the font of support for all terror attacks in India. It is hurting us. We must retaliate on all fronts; political, diplomatic, economic etc.
The judiciary can play an effective deterrent role. Terrorism is a crime against society and must not be viewed as a mere law and order problem. Terrorists are experts and seldom leave an easy trail. The traditional principle of irrefutable proof for conviction needs a re-look. Even the police version should be admissible as independent evidence. The trials must be under fast track courts and punishments must be swift, severe and certain. The perpetrators must not be able to get away exploiting any legal loopholes in our system. Even the Presidential pardon should be time bound. If mercy is not granted within a fixed time frame, implementation of the court judgment should be automatic.
The police needs our support. The most important link in the fight against terrorism is the SHO. He has personal knowledge of all the trouble makers in his area. He needs to be empowered and not interfered with unduly. Given a free hand the SHOs would have rounded up all suspects. But unfortunately, instead of support, the entire media, minority leaders and the Minority Commission tend to hound the SHOs.
Externally, Pakistan must be confronted head on. For too long have we played a good neighbour, trying to prop up democracy in that country. We cannot ignore the fact that the real power puppeteers are the Pakistan Army and ISI continues to remain the font of support for all terror attacks in India. It is hurting us. We must retaliate on all fronts; political, diplomatic, economic etc. Border controls must be strengthened by high tech surveillance and by tightening the visa regime. Cross border trade should be curtailed. The well intentioned train and bus services between the two countries must be rethought. There must be a curb on cultural and sporting exchanges. The control measures must make a visible impact. Any goodwill gesture must be made contingent on Pakistan verifiably stopping to execute or support terror attacks on Indian soil. Shutting down terror training camps and punishing the perpetrators of past terror attacks should be some of the pre-conditions.
While all domestic measures would help curtail terror, the real solution lies in deterring Pakistan from sponsoring the attacks. A faucet leak cannot be stopped merely by pressing one’s thumb at its mouth; one has to plug the source.