By T.V. Rajeswar
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has announced that it is acceding to a request from the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for the revival of matches between India and Pakistan in December this year. The BCCI decided to resume cricketing ties with Pakistan by inviting the Pakistan cricket team for a short series in December 2012-January 2013 while Chennai, Delhi and Kolkata will host ODIs. T-20 matches will be played in Ahmedabad and Bangalore.
It may be recalled that at the meeting of the Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan on July 4 and 5, the Pakistan Foreign Secretary suggested the revival of cricket between the two countries as one of the confidence-building measures. The Indian Foreign Secretary agreed to forward the request to the BCCI.
Home Minister P. Chidambaram stated on July 17 that he saw no objection to the proposed India-Pakistan bilateral cricket series in India. When members of the BCCI met him and asked if the proposed series would be all right, the Home Minister replied that India and Pakistan had been talking on trade relations and other issues like those related to fishermen, etc, and, therefore, he did not see any reason why sporting relations could not be normalised as well, and that foolproof security arrangements could be provided.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) announced that extra-precaution would be taken before issuing visas to Pakistani fans wanting to enjoy the proposed cricket series in India later this year. A senior MHA official said though India had been liberal in granting visas to Pakistanis, but this time stringent measures would be taken before this is done.
During the investigations into the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, it came to light how Pakistani terrorists and ISI operatives exploited the visas in plotting terror attacks against India. During the interrogation of Syed Zabiuddin Ansari it was revealed that a Pakistan Army officer, Major Abdur Rehman, and Lashkar-e-Toiba activist Sajid Mir, who were in “the control room”, had visited on a reconnaissance mission a year before David Coleman Headley visited Mumbai to identify the targets for the 2008 attacks.
It is a matter of serious concern that there are 7,000 Pakistanis still in India after their visas had expired and they are, no doubt, a potential threat to the nation’s internal security. The Home Ministry’s official figure of over-staying Pakistan nationals in India was 7,691 as on December 31, 2009. Though this figure included Hindus and Sikhs apart from Pakistani Muslims, that makes no difference to the fact that they all pose a danger to the country’s security. Any indiscriminate issuing of visas to Pakistani visitors, ostensibly for witnessing the Indo-Pak cricket series in December in India, would be asking for additional headache, to say the least.
It is indeed surprising that the powers-that-be in India represented by the Ministry of External Affairs as well as the Ministry of Home Affairs could ignore Pakistan’s persistent denial of its role in the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai and Pakistan’s failure to take any action against those involved.
It was only Sunil Gavaskar, the veteran cricketer, who made a dissenting note by asking why India should play cricket with Pakistan now. Gavaskar went on to say that he was speaking as a Mumbaikar and that Kasab, the Pakistani terrorist who was caught during the Mumbai attacks, was still alive in jail.
It is the solemn responsibility of India to ensure that Pakistan took action against state and non-state participants who perpetrated the crime on 26/11 in Mumbai. Salman Bashir, who has become the Pakistan High Commissioner and posted in India, had the temerity to describe the various dossiers which India handed over to Pakistan on the Mumbai attacks as mere literature. This time, on the eve of the meeting of the two Foreign Secretaries, Salman Bashir’s successor, Jilani, who is now Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary, met Jammu and Kashmir separatists – the Hurriyat leaders. The Indian Foreign Secretary objected to this meeting, but it was of no avail.
At the meeting of the two Foreign Secretaries, the Indian Foreign Secretary brought up the topic of Syed Zabiuddin Ansari alias Jundal and his role in the “control room” which had been set up by Pakistan near Karachi international airport and the role played by Ansari in the “control room” by guiding the perpetrators of the attacks as they were being carried out in Mumbai.
Pakistan could not possibly deny that Ansari was given a Pakistani passport with a false name of Riyasat Ali and sent to Saudi Arabia. It was after considerable efforts that Saudi Arabia could be persuaded to extradite Ansari to India.
Ansari’s role in the Karachi “control room” was specifically referred to by Home Minister P.Chidambaram. He also pointed out that in the interrogation of Ansari, it was brought out that in the Karachi “control room”, which was coordinating the Mumbai terror attacks, he had met Lashkar-e-Toiba commander Zakir-ur-Rehman Lakhvi as well as two serving Pakistan Army officers, Major Iqbal and Major Sameer Ali. Ansari had also mentioned that Lakhvi was possibly planning further attacks on the lines of the Mumbai attack at some other places in India some time in future and that he was planning them along with Major Iqbal and Major Sameer Ali.
After the Foreign Secretaries meeting, Pakistan High Commissioner Salman Bashir described as incredible and unbelievable the allegations that any Pakistani state agency was involved in the Mumbai attacks. Salman Bashir did not give a direct reply when asked whether Pakistan would take any action against those responsible for the terror attacks in Mumbai on 26/11.
Hard analysis of the events which have taken place since the Mumbai attacks and the revelations of Ansari about the Karachi “control room”, etc, combined with the revelations made by Headley earlier, as ascertained by the National Investigating Agency, would convince anyone that there is no doubt whatsoever regarding the role played by state actors and others like Lashkar-e-Toiba jihadis such as Lakhvi in the 26/11 attacks.
In spite of all the evidence, there appears to be no hope of Pakistan taking any action against the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks. It is nothing but a charade which is being played by Pakistan, and eventually Pakistan would take no action whatsoever against the guilty. Should India, therefore, forget 26/11 and resume relations with Pakistan by hosting cricket teams, to begin with?.
If India resumes cricketing ties with Pakistan in December this year by organising matches at various places, the country should be prepared for more surprise attacks.
(The writer is a former Governor of Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. Currently he is an Advsior to Observer Research Foundation)