S M Hali
Indian insensitivity towards the Pakistani victims of the Samjhota Express inferno, which claimed 59 Pakistani lives, is deplorable
Over the weekend, the Indian media went berserk at the release of the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, from Adiala jail. A judge of the Lahore High Court (LHC) ordered Lakhvi’s immediate release after suspending his detention orders in response to a petition challenging Lakhvi’s fourth, one-month each, detention order of the District Coordination Officer (DCO) Okara under the Maintenance of Public Order issued on March 14, 2015. The release comes after nearly four months of squabbling over Lakhvi’s incarceration, following a judge granting him bail in December 2014, sparking an angry response from New Delhi. The government slapped Lakhvi with a series of detention orders but judges repeatedly cancelled them. Last week, the LHC ordered his release, conditional on a two million rupees bond.
Numerous Pakistani analysts, including this scribe, were invited by different Indian television channels to participate in discussion programmes focusing on Lakhvi’s release. The television shows were in fact a Pakistan bashing exercise. The Indian media’s grouse was that the government of Pakistan is not serious in punishing Lakhvi while our rationalisation that courts in Pakistan are free and fair, and the case is being tried on merit of the evidence presented fell on deaf ears. On the other hand, Indian insensitivity towards the Pakistani victims of the Samjhota Express inferno, which claimed 59 Pakistani lives, is deplorable. Readers may recall that the Samjhota Express bombings were terrorist attacks that occurred around midnight on February 18, 2007, near the Indian city of Panipat. Both the Indian and Pakistani governments had condemned the attack and it was speculated that the perpetrators intended to disrupt improving relations between the two nations, since the attack came just a day before the Pakistani foreign minister was to arrive in New Delhi to resume peace talks with Indian leaders.
Ironically, on December 30, 2010, the Indian National Investigation Agency presented solid evidence that Swami Aseemanand was the mastermind behind the blasts. Aseemanand had confessed that Saffron terror outfits were responsible for the bombing of the Samjhota Express and the Indian army’s serving Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Srikant Purohit had provided the explosives for the construction of the bombs. Pakistan’s Foreign Office (FO) has repeatedly been asking the Indian government to extradite the perpetrators of the Samjhota Express carnage to Pakistan for trial so that closure can be provided to the relatives of the victims. Pakistan’s pleas to India have been callously ignored.
To add insult to injury, eight years on, the Indian government has refused to issue visas for the city of Panipat to Pakistani couple Rana Shaukat Ali and his wife Rukhsana to visit the graves of their five children who lost their lives in the Samjhota Express. They have been granted the Indian visa only for Noida, thus depriving the couple from visiting the graves of their children to offer fateha and pray for the departed souls. The grieving couple lost their 15-year-old daughter Ayesha, Bilal aged 13, Meer Hamza aged 11, Abdur Rehman age six and Aasma age four in the bloody massacre. The Indian government’s insensitivity to the grief and pain of the bereaved couple is evident from this heartless act. It also raises serious questions about India’s intentions to bring the perpetrators of the Samjhota Express blast to justice.
On the other hand, readers may also recall that Indian coast guard Deputy Inspector General (DIG) B K Loshali boasted in front of the Indian media of blowing up the “Pakistani terror boat”. His exact words, according to a video released by The Indian Express, are: “I hope you remember the 31st December night. We blew off the Pakistan...we blew them of, we did not want to serve them biryani.” On January 1, 2015, the Indian Coast Guard’s patrol vessels claimed to have intercepted “a suspicious Pakistani boat” in the Arabian Sea, thwarting what the Indian security establishment said could have been another attempt to unleash a Mumbai-style terror attack. At the time, Indian officials claimed that four men on board the vessel set it ablaze after an hour-long ‘hot pursuit’ by the coast guard. However, Loshali contradicted the official version, saying he had in fact ordered the boat to be blown up.
B K Loshali’s statement of “not serving them biryani” was a reference to the alleged request of 26/11 Mumbai terror attack accused Ajmal Kasab’s demand for mutton biryani in jail. Ajmal Kasab was later hanged despite pleading that his confession was obtained under duress. Ujjwal Nikam, the public prosecutor in the case, has now stated on record that Kasab’s request for biryani was just a myth and was “concocted” to stop an “emotional wave” that was being created in favour of the militant.
Similarly, Afzal Guru, the alleged mastermind of the December 2001 attack on the Indian parliament building was tried and hanged despite flimsy evidence against him. India needs to shed its insensitivity and cooperate with Pakistan to combat terrorism, which is a common enemy.