City Notes

The militants have been hit particularly hard in the last week, though there are all sorts of currents and undercurrents to be negotiated at the same time. Malik Ishaq, one of the founders of the dreaded Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, was killed in a gunbattle with fellow militants, as he was being taken with policemen from one place to another. Yeah, right. The story of how he and eight others, including two sons, were killed smacks of the good old ‘police encounter’. If it was an encounter of the traditional sort, the police should be heartened, because there was a lot of opinion expressed that it was a good thing, to execute people without trial, because ‘everyone knows’ they are militants.

Malik Ishaq was guilty of many things, and may have been guilty of many crimes, including murder. But the fact is that he had not been convicted of one at the time he was killed. Even if he had been, he was supposed to have been executed according to certain prescribed procedures, by prescribed officials. He and his companions were not. If it was an encounter, it was coldblooded murder. Malik Ishaq may indeed have been behind the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009 which has led to us having to host our matches in Dubai, but that is not a capital offence, no matter what cricket fans might think.

Those who think he founded the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi because he thought the Sipah Sahaba too mild are incorrect. LJ was connected to Afghanistan through Riaz Basra, who had fought there. However, the anti-Shia militants have become the backbone of the Tehrik Taliban Pakistan, which means that his killing was a loss to the Taliban too.

And his was not the only militant death whose circumstances are uncertain. Not many, if any, know exactly how Mullah Omar passed away, but not only did the Afghan government make the claim of his death, but the Taliban confirmed it, and announced that new leader, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, had been elected. The death announcement meant the postponement of the government-Taliban talks that Pakistan was hosting.

It was then announced that Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani had also died some time ago. He was the titular head of the Haqqani network, but had handed its control to his son Nasiruddin. He had served in Mullah Omar’s cabinet, among other things. If ancient deaths are to be announced, maybe it is worth mentioning that the original protagonists of the Soviet invasion, Leonid Brezhnev and Noor Muhammad Tarakki, are dead. Or are we building up for an announcement about Hamid Karzai? And I noticed that both Mullah Omar and Haqqani were buried in their native areas. What does that say about the state of affairs in Afghanistan? I suppose it means that you can rebel all you want, but if you die, all is forgiven.

I don’t suppose ex-Indian President A.P.J. Abul Kalam was a militant, but he too passed away last week. There was nothing mysterious about his death. He was very old, but still active. He had a heart attack, and keeled over. Narendra Modi was forced to attend the obsequies of a Muslim, and that too one he had not massacred. Well, India still managed to snag a militant, or rather someone it said was a militant, hanging Yakub Memon, one of the accused in the Mumbai blasts in 1993. Well, even though there might have been flaws in the process, at least he got a trial, which is more than Malik Ishaq did.

Nobody knows whether A.P.J. Abul Kalam died of disappointment at the attack on a police station in Gurdaspur, in which 10 people were killed, including an SP, or the capture by Pakistan of an Indian drone. As an ex-President, Kalam was probably more concerned about the attack, but as a missile scientist (he was the father of the Indian missile programme). Of course the Indian media and authorities blamed Pakistan for the attack, not the Sikh nationalists who probably carried it out. How could the officials admit that there were any Sikh nationalists alive? Especially when the National Security Adviser, Ajit Doval, was involved in suppressing the Sikh uprising which started after Operation Blue Star. No one is allowed to say he has failed, not while he holds office. As a former missile scientist, Kalam was probably more interested in the drone. Of course, we don’t make our scientists President. However he was as a President, Kalam at least can look back to Indian missiles with pride as his legacy. When, like us all, Asif Zardari passes away, what will his legacy be? Well, at least Asif has Bilawal to show. What does Mamnoon Hussain?

Well, at least Zardari and Mamnoon have roofs over their heads, which cannot be said about the katchi abadi residents in Islamabad whose eviction has roused all sorts of people into action. It is not a good time to be an Afghan refugee. If at all you are alive (unlike Mullah Omar or Jalaluddin Haqqani), you could be unhoused if you were in Islamabad. There must be some easier way of sending Afghans home.