Whenever there is a terrorist attack anywhere in the world, the first reaction of all Pakistanis is, ‘Hopefully we had nothing to do with it’. It is too early to say with any certainty who is behind the Mumbai bomb blasts of July 13 that killed over 20 people, but early suspicions are focusing on the Indian Mujhaideen, a group that had previously struck in Pune and Delhi. Terrorist attacks are always traumatic, particularly since this one took place in a city that suffered badly in the 26/11 attacks of 2008. In that case, the Lashkar-e-Taiba was behind the attack so it would have not been unexpected had India chosen to make Pakistan the scapegoat this time round. That they have chosen to not cast any blame yet is to their credit.
The timing of the Mumbai triple-attack would suggest that there may have been a Pakistan angle. After three years of progressively worsening relations, there had been a slight uptick in recent months. Later this month, the foreign ministers of the two countries are supposed to meet in Delhi. If Pakistan is implicated in any way in the attack, it could lead to the meeting being cancelled and the recent thaw would surely be reversed. Even if a home-grown group is responsible for the attack, it will have to be established that Pakistan in no way aided them.
The only people who will win as result of such attacks are the hawks on both sides of the border. The right-wing in India does not need any proof to set off another round of Pakistan-bashing and we can certainly expect the BJP to launch further tirades against us. Similarly, the military establishment and its lackeys in Pakistan will accuse the Indians of conspiring against us. It is essential that calm leadership from both sides thwart these retrograde forces. The initial signs are positive, with both President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani unequivocally condemning the attacks. If we can emerge from the attacks without damaging our relations with India, it will be the first sign that we are ready for peace with our neighbour.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2011.