Sunday, November 30, 2008

Mumbai drama - Part 2

Indians are incensed at what has happened to their major city and a popular destination. They cannot imagine that 15 young men - whoever they were - could hold ransom the entire mega city. Railway was closed; stock exchange was empty; all offices and schools remain closed the next day.

It is very clear that the protection of mega cities like Mumbai and Karachi cannot begin in the city itself. It needs to begin at a deeper level and much before the city itself. Once terrorists are close to you the only thing you can do is fire back. And when you are unarmed, as was the case with Taj's security, you can do nothing except run away.

But even when all this drama was going on one could sense that fire fighting capabilities of Mumbai were thoroughly inadequate. And the complexity and hugeness of the hotel itself added to the confusion - a really good reason why only 4 terrorists were able to hold back India's elite commandoes for 65 hours at a stretch. And, as Times of India relates in one of the stories, NSG took 9 hours to reach Taj Hotel for the assault. Adding to the confusion, various intelligence agencies, police men and other elite forces were fighting side by side. Although I am no expert in counter terrorism I can say with surety that only one coordinated force should be allowed to fight one particular group of men. As was evident on our TV channels, Sub-continental confusion was everywhere around the Taj.

Now, some questions.

For one thing, someone really important within the hotel is involved in all this. Else, how can you take so much extra ammunition into the hotel? And, why were those heavy RDX bags (8 Kg each) were not detected? I cannot also understand how could have these terrorists lived for so long without ever getting tired or sleepy while they were battling some 400 odd Indian forces? I also am answer less on how Indians have managed to successfully get all the answers they wanted to hear within 24 hours of capturing the only terrorist alive, Mohammad Ajmal Mohammad Amin Kasab.

Indian investigators, never so smart but always brutal, need to answer these tough questions. We can believe them when they tell us that every boat cannot be checked. We can also believe them that in front of AK-47s no one can stand especially if the shooter is a skilled man. I also cannot understand the Indian media response regarding these attacks. They are completely clueless and are only saying what their hawkish govt. is suggesting: That Pakistan may be involved, that it is the work of ISI (sic), that Pakistan should be taught a lesson (exactly what BJP wanted), and so on.

After the mayhem which killed over 200 men and women, guests and staff members, we need answers. But it is no answer to blame Pakisan or Pakistani ISI for all their own flaws. They need to go deeper and see the rifts which are tearing down India across its seams. Indians need to get more practical. By playing blame games they won't find any answers or solutions.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mumbai drama - Part 1

Watching the firing event live at late night I was confused about what was happening. Then I clicked open BBC channel and it was being reported via some Indian channel (not accessible in my home) that firing squads have appeared at Taj Mahal Hotel and Nairam House and that shootings have taken place at railway as well. I slept over it as high-profile, rich customers were pouring out of the iconic hotel along with white clothed staff members. Something was dreadfully wrong with India, I told myself.

Next morning it was apparent that Mumbai was facing some real terror which was not only improvised but appeared to be a handiwork of an organization with intricate knowledge of not only the hotel but overall security apparatus.

It was game on.

In Karachi, everyone was talking about RAW being behind the attacks. And if you go by the record, many BJP inspired men have killed Muslims. The burning of train from Pakistan is one good example. Therefore, bloggers or no bloggers, it is commonly believed here that this work is being carried out to further malign Pakistanis and Muslims of India. That would allow security setup in the country to reject even more visas to Pakistanis; it would allow unconditional checking of Muslims within India on spurious charges (a la USA); it would divert media attention from Indian Occupied Kashmir where Muslims are being killed daily by Indian Special Forces. And so on.

And in any case, Pakistanis don’t really believe what Indian media tells the world. No one, for instance, believes Indians that a terrorist has claimed that he is from Pakistan. No one really buys your side of argument.

But we feel some of the rage which a common Indian might be feeling. But get it right. In Pakistan we face such problems on daily basis and how many Indians really feel our issues? Maybe a few. So in reality many Pakistanis are really not feeling any rage at all. Maybe Zardari and maybe Gilani. But not much.

This blog entry was specially written for my Indian friend, Mayank Singh (Delhi walla).

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Earthquake memories

When I heard about earthquake in Ziarat, Baluchistan, I instantly recalled Kashmir earthquake in 2005 early morning. Atleast 75,000 people died; many school going kids were either attending classes or where waiting to attend one. People were busy in markets and everyone was doing something. Only few people were sleeping. According to conservating estimates around 73,000 perished that day or due to that earthquake. Here, I am pasting some earliest news alerts which appeared at that time on Dawn website:

Confirmed death toll in quake passes 1,800: officials ISLAMABAD, Oct 8 (AFP) The confirmed death toll in Saturday's massive earthquake, which rocked India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, has passed 1,800, officials said. "The death toll is between 550 and 600 in North West Frontier Province and it is likely to rise," Riffat Pasha, the provincial head of police said. Some 250 people were confirmed dead and thousands more injured in Muzaffarabad,a government official said adding that "there is a massive devastation in the city.” "Village after village has been wiped out" in Azad Kashmir, an army relief official said from Muzaffarabad said. "The Neelum River has been blocked because whole villages have fallen into the water," the official added. (Posted @ 20:35 PST).

82 people pulled out alive from Islamabad’s tower blocks ISLAMABAD, Oct 8 (Reuters): In Islamabad, 82 people were pulled out alive from two multi-storey apartment blocks that were reduced to rubble. But a government official said that rescuers also found the bodies of 10 people including seven Pakistanis, an Egyptian and two Japanese, one of whom was a two-year-old child. (Posted @ 23:35 PST)

200 Pakistani soldiers among quake dead ISLAMABAD, Oct 8 (AFP) Around 200 Pakistani soldiers died in a major earthquake that struck the region on Saturday, the military said. "Some 200 army men have died in the earthquake," a military spokesman said. Military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan gave the same figure to a local private channel. Most are believed to have died in Azad Kashmir, where Pakistan has tens of thousands of troops stationed along Line of Control. (Posted @ 22:50 PST)

About 400 Pakistani school children dead in quake PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Oct 8 (Reuters) About 400 school children were killed in north-western Pakistan when a quake struck the region on Saturday and their schools collapsed, police said. "Three-hundred-and-fifty school children have been killed in a school in Mansehra district and 50 were killed in another school in the same district," said provincial police chief Riffat Pashar. "The situation is very bad, the figure has gone to about 1,000 feared dead in North West Frontier province," he said. (Posted @ 22:05 PST)

1000 killed in Azad Kashmir; 300 killed in occupied Kashmir ISLAMABAD, Oct 8 (Reuters)

Relief Cell established in Prime Minister House ISLAMABAD, Oct 8 (APP): "Earthquake Relief Cell" has been established in Prime Minister House. It will work round the clock and will receive complaints from the earthquake affectees. The phone numbers are: 9213891 or 9222999. Earthquake Relief Cell has also been established in the Ministry of Interior.(Posted @ 16:15 PST)

President's relief fund established for earthquake victims Islamabad, Oct 8 PPI

China sends 50-member rescue team to Pakistan ISLAMABAD, Oct 8 (APP): China has rushed to Pakistan a 50-member strong search and rescue team to assist in search and rescue operations in the earthquake affected areas of Pakistan. The team also comprises of paramedics and is carrying the latest equipment for rescue operations. (Posted @ 23:10 PST)

Ireland pledges million euros in earthquake aid for Pakistan DUBLIN, Oct 8 (AFP) The Irish government Saturday pledged an initial one million euros (1.2 million dollars) to assist with immediate needs to deal with the aftermath of the earthquake in northern Pakistan. The initial funding will be available for the Red Cross and Red Crescent organizations. (Posted@20:39)

Massive earthquake jolts Bannu district BANNU, Oct 08 (APP): The massive earthquake jolted Bannu district at about 8.51 am Saturday morning and the tremors continued for about one minute. Officials said no report of any damage to life or property had so far been received from any part of the district.(Posted @ 16:15 PST)

Earthquake jolts Sialkot SIALKOT, Oct 8 (APP)- Strong earthquake jolted Sialkot and its adjoining areas on Saturday at 8.52 a.m. People came out from their homes and work places and ran out for safety.. No loss of life or property has so far been reported from any part of the district.(Posted @ 11:15 PST)

Earthquake jolts Sheikhupura city SHEIKHUPURA, Oct 8 (APP): An earthquake of severe intensity jolted Sheikhupura at about 9 a.m. on Saturday and caused damage to a number of buildings including the upper portion of the historic Sheikhupura Fort. People rushed out of homes, offices etc. A number of telephone and electricity poles were uprooted.(Posted @ 11:15 PST)

Earthquake jolts Joharabad JAUHRABAD, Oct 8 (APP)- An earthquake of severe intensity jolted Jauhrabad city and its adjoining areas at 8:52 a.m.Saturday. The tremors continued for about one minute. So far no loss of life or property was reported from any part .(Posted @ 11:10 PST)

Earthquake rocks Sargodha city SARGODHA, Oct 8 (APP): An earthquake of severe intensity struck the town and its adjoining areas at about 9.00 a.m here Saturday.According to reports, tremors continued for about 2 minutes but no casuality has so far been reported from any part of the city.(Posted @ 11:10 PST)

Earthquake jolts Lahore LAHORE, Oct 8 (APP)- An earthquake of great intensity jolted the Provincial Capital on Saturday at 8.51 a.m. and lasted for about one minute. The strong earthquake forced the people to come out of their houses and office buildings. Damage to buildings has been reported from some parts of the city but details are awaited. The government has ordered all agencies to get into top gear to face emergency.(Posted @ 11:08 PST)

Massive earthquake jolts Multan, Vehari MULTAN, Oct 8 (APP): A massive earthquake jolted the Multan city at about 8.54 a.m. Saturday . The tremors continued for about one minute. Civil Defence officials told APP that so far no report of any damage to any property or loss to life had been reported from any part of the city.Tremors were felt at 8.54 a.m. and continued for 55 seconds, officials said.(Posted @ 11:05 PST)

And, finally, with a touch of irony, one report said this:

No earthquake in Balochistan QUETTA, Oct 8 (APP): No tremors were felt across Balochistan on Saturday morning, Director Met Office Quetta Zia Khan told APP.(Posted @ 14:00 PST)

Well, now a 6.4 Ritcher scale earthquake has arrived...