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Fifth column

February 17, 2020

False flag

Opinion

February 17, 2020

‘Ganga to Pulwama: India’s False Flag Operations’ by Junaid Ahmad and Ibnul Hasan Rizvi, launched just weeks before the first anniversary of the Pulwama Attack, offers a timely reminder of the dangers that abound the region due to festering wounds of the partition and its aftermath that is kept alive by the burning Kashmir issue.

It is an exhaustive volume that documents eight ‘false flag’ operations that caused wide-scale strife in the region. This includes the Indian parliament (2001), Godhra (2002), Samjhota Express (2007), Mumbai (2008), Pathankot (2016), and Uri (2016) attacks. The main argument of the book is that the Indian establishment supported by the government of the day has always initiated false flag operations against Pakistan to extract strategic benefits and subjected Pakistan to unprecedented pressure.

This is captured by the authors in their long introduction: “After every false-flag, Pakistan’s offer to investigate jointly is rejected by India. [The] Pressure is put on Pakistan to accept the Indian accusation from countries aligned to India for commercial and other interests. Pakistan’s narrative has no takers”.

In his preface to the book, Ikram Sehgal, well-known businessman and writer, comments: “India has a proven penchant for false-flag operations and is always busy hatching conspiracies to damage Pakistan not only from the east but also from the west through its Afghan proxies. Never accepting the existence of Pakistan as an independent sovereign state, its foreign policy remains anti-Pakistan centric.”

While discussing these terror atrocities, the authors blame the leadership of the time – from General Musharraf to Zardari and Yousuf Raza Gillani to Nawaz Sharif – for failing “to rebut the Indian propaganda” or not doing enough to expose “India’s actions in the local and international forums and the media”.

About the Mumbai attack, the book blames the PPP government at the time for it “buckled under the Indian pressure and went to the extent of offering to send the DG ISI to India”. While the offer of sending a serving spy chief to an enemy country at the height of an extreme escalation would simply sound bonkers and cast aspersions on the judgement of the political leadership, the authors fail to appreciate that such a response showed a total disconnect between the security establishment and the ruling politicians that have often worked in parallel realms.

The book calls the civilian leadership of the recent past as “compromised” and suggests Imran Khan is better at responding to the Indian accusations. It hails Imran Khan as “a true follower of the Pakistan-first ideology” because he countered the Indian narrative effectively.

What is missing from the book is a thorough analysis of the situation with the help of a deeper engagement with Pakistan’s security establishment, the traditional guardians of Pakistan’s dealings – overt or covert – with India. Their perspective as to why the country has continually failed to prevent or challenge India’s covert operations in a timely and effective way to support a counter-narrative from Pakistan is badly wanting. Besides, it would be extremely illuminating to explore if any lessons have been drawn in the past forty years of dealing with such operations.

The book raises pertinent questions about the legacy of terrorism that blights the region and how it is wantonly used to discredit genuine political movements such as the Kashmiri struggle. Its appeal lies in its compilation of archival materials that should guide and interest researchers and commentators.

The book would benefit from a professional editor to reduce its swollen size due to its lavish and verbatim borrowing from various sources to make it more appealing and readable.

Twitter: @murtaza_shibli