Pakistani perplexities // AnalysisIndia: Pakistani Army colonel was involved in Mumbai attacks

Published 27 February 2009

Using information partly supplied by the FBI, Indian police says the ten Islamist militants who rampaged through Mumbai spoke to their handlers in Pakistan during the attacks via mobile phones connected to Callphonex, an Internet telephony provider based in New Jersey; communication was facilitated by Col. Saadat Ullah of Pakistan Army’s Special Communications Organization (SCO), an offshoot of the signals corps

In an analysis we offered a few days ago, we suggested that “Pakistan” — the state, the notion — is an abstraction, not a reality. Yes, Pakistan has a flag and a national anthem; it has embassies in world capitals and a very good cricket team. At the UN and other world bodies, well-meaning — and very well-educated — Pakistanis sit behind plaques bearing their country’s name and make speeches. On the ground, however, there are many Pakistans, and outsiders, as they seek to advance their own interests, may choose which of the different Pakistans they wish to deal with (see Ben Frankel, “New U.S. Strategy Begins to Take Shape in Pakistan,” 24 February 2009 HS Daily Wire). We should quickly note two things:

  • Pakistan is not unique in this regard (except that it has a few dozen nuclear weapons, and the capacity to make many more). Countries such as Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sierra Leone, and quite a few others have all the external trappings of a state, but these countries are not much more than hollow shells. Other countries — for example, Colombia, Nigeria, Uganda, Afghanistan, to mention but a few — may have central governments which are slightly more robust than those of Pakistan or Sierra Leone, but large parts of the territory and population of these countries are not under the control of the central government, instead being ruled by various war lords and rebels.
  • More specifically to Pakistan, and more ominously: It is not only the case that Pakistan is divided along ethnic, religious, and geographic lines. The very bodies of the central state — chief among them the military and the ISI, the Pakistani secret service — are themselves divided and fractured. The result is an unsettling and dangerous situation: we have what we would call “Pakistan’s foreign policy,” “Pakistan’s defense policy” — and by that we would mean what policies the elected government in Islamabad promulgates and follows, what agreements it signs, etc. Then we have the foreign and defense policies pursued — independently and brazenly — by factions in the military and ISI. At times there is mere tension between the former and the latter, and times there is an outright contradiction.

The latest report from India bears this out. Police in Mumbai have accused a serving officer in the Pakistan Army of being involved in the terrorist attacks on the city that killed more than 170 people in November. The move represents the first time India has accused an