Prank Call Nearly Causes War Between India And Pakistan; Quick Thoughts On The Peshawar Bombing
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Prank Call Nearly Causes War Between India And Pakistan; Quick Thoughts On The Peshawar Bombing

By Ahsan

I wish I was making this stuff up. This report in Dawn reads like an Onion story:

Nuclear-armed Pakistan went into a state of ‘high alert’ last weekend and was eyeing India for possible signs of military aggression, after a threatening phone call made to President Asif Ali Zardari by someone from Delhi who posed himself as the Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

Whether it was mere mischief or a sinister move by someone in the Indian external affairs ministry, or the call came from within Pakistan, remains unclear, and is still a matter of investigation. But several political, diplomatic and security sources have confirmed to Dawn that for nearly 24 hours over the weekend the incident continued to send jitters across the world. To some world leaders the probability of an accidental war appeared very high.

It all started late on Friday, November 28. Because of the heightened tension over the Mumbai carnage, some senior members of the presidential staff decided to bypass the standard procedures meant for such occasions, including verification of the caller and involvement of the diplomatic missions, and transferred the late-evening call to Mr Zardari. The caller introduced himself as Pranab Mukherjee and, while ignoring the conciliatory language of the president, directly threatened to take military action if Islamabad failed to immediately act against the supposed perpetrators of the Mumbai killings.

As the telephone call ended many in the Presidency were convinced that the Indians had started beating the war drums. Within no time intense diplomatic and security activity started in Islamabad. Signals were sent to everyone who mattered about how the rapidly deteriorating situation may spiral out of control. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was advised to immediately return to the capital from Lahore, and a special plane (PAF chief’s) was sent to Delhi to bring back the visiting Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi early in the morning on Nov 29 even when he was already booked to return by a scheduled PIA flight the same evening.

Go read the whole thing.

On the issue of the Peshawar bombing today, I just have a few quick questions: where are the candlelight vigils for these victims? The intense diplomatic activity? The promises to apprehend the perpetrators? Nowhere.

This brings to light an issue that AKS tangentially touched upon in his post: despite facing seriously high levels of political violence against its citizens, Pakistan – and Pakistanis – are not looked upon as victims of militancy. Imbued in American calls to “do more” during the Musharraf era and the saber-rattling by the Indian state following the carnage in Mumbai is the sense that Pakistan, and Pakistanis, are sponsors and supporters of death and destruction, not its victims. From Benazir’s assassination to the near-weekly suicide bombings in 2007 to the escalation in the war against the Taliban this year, Pakistan and Pakistanis have suffered enormously. This is not to say that the state of Pakistan has not done its share in sponsoring violence in the past, but to say that the civilians and citizens of Pakistan deserve the same sympathy that victims of political violence get in the “good guys” set of countries of the world.

I won’t hold my breath.

Photo credit: AP/Mohammad Sajjad