Mehsud’s death will remain a mystery
Is Baitullah Mehsud’s a case of a dead man telling no tales? Could well be if he’s really no more. The haze around what happened at Zangarha, where the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief was reportedly blown up in a US drone attack, only shows that getting at the truth is always a big challenge in Pakistan where intelligence organizations are a law unto themselves.
If the hellfire shots that took out the Tehrik-e-Taliban leader were triggered by a Pakistani tip-off, the reality shall forever remain buried under the wrecked house of his in-laws.
Why? Well, overtly the civil-politico-military establishment has been crying hoarse over the violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty in the North West by the American air incursions targeting Al Qaida and its Taliban supporters. They are at their wits’ end whether to welcome or protest the attack, the target this time being a man whose suicide bombers had left thousands of innocent Pakistanis dead across the country’s four provinces. By the establishment’s own admission, the TTP leader was Pakistan’s enemy number 1.
His hand was suspected in Benazir Bhutto’s assassination—currently under a UN probe— and a string of bombings in Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar and elsewhere. At one stage, he was even accused of acting at the behest of Pakistan and India.
Any official admission or confirmation of his death in the drone attack would give the lie to accusations of his links with India and the US. At another level, it would bestow upon the dreaded killer a martyr’s hallow he doesn’t deserve. The US involvement in the region is the subject of hugely partisan debate that cannot ever lead to a consensus, regardless of Mehsud’s actions and assaults on the Pakistani State.
Those willing to accept as “necessary evil’ the American intervention in areas bordering Afghanistan, where governmental writ is non-existent, are still in a minority, their voices getting drowned in popular, nationalist fervour.
The world therefore will never get to know as to what really happened to Mehsud, his wife and in-laws. Pakistanis are still awaiting a word on who killed Benazir or for that matter even the 1988 midair explosion that rid Pakistan of the scourge called Zia-ul-Haq.
Before signing off, I reproduce my impressions of a famous Peshawar street I had penned some years ago during the Indo-Pak friendship cricket series.
Story tellers’ street
In Peshawar, there’s a storytellers’ street, the Kissa Khawani Bazaar, where professional storytellers would once narrate tales of war and love to throngs of traders, soldiers and tribesmen. Nick-named the ‘Piccadilly of Central Asia’, it was home also to Prithviraj Kapoor, whose family migrated to Mumbai to trade memorable tales in Bollywood’s celluloid bazaar.
As India played Pakistan at Arbab Niaz Stadium, I was reminded of my 1993 visit to the Kapoor Khandaan’s ancestral haveli in one of the many bylanes behind Kissa Khawani’s Kahwa-shops decorated with large brass samovars, teapots and teacups. The men who sold Kissas (stories) over cups of tea had long vanished. But romance lingered at high noon in the bazaar’s cool, tree-lined ambience so appropriately captured by a local bard: Kissa Khawani dey bazaar ajab lehar hondey hai, thandi thar iddey tikhad dopahar hondey hai. My own bag of stories from Pakistan has to it an assortment of human encounters. It’s a mix of the good and the bad, the foremost among them being the one related to me by the great Lata Mangeshkar.
The Lata story figures high on my list for it tells so much about the rivalry between the sub continental neighbours. At a reception for the team which toured Pakistan in the early Eighties, the then BCCI Chief, N.K.P. Salve, walked Sunil Gavaskar up to Mallika-e-Tarannum Noorjehan: “Have you met the great Sunil Gavaskar?” Barely had Salve turned to Sunny than the lady, known for her myriad moods, declared: “No, Imran (Khan) is the only cricketer I know. “
“Oh!” muttered Salve. “But Sunny, you must have heard of Noorjehan….” Never one to let snobbery go unpunished, Gavaskar was quick to dispatch the Noorjehan googly to where it belonged: “No, the only singer I’ve heard of is Lata Mangeshkar.”
A decade later, Gavaskar, whom the Melody Queen couldn’t or didn’t recognize, was hailed across Pakistan for having wagered on Imran Khan’s squad despite its early defeats in the 1992 World Cup. One wonders whether Noorjehan was invited. But Sunny was the guest of honour at a tea party the then Pakistan Premier, Nawaz Sharif, hosted for Imran’s boys.
The spectacle now on display in Pakistan isn’t just cricket. It’s a Maha Kumbh that took almost 15 years to happen. From Lahore, the Indians have traveled through Karachi, Rawalpindi and Peshawar without a stone being pelted or a Pepsi bottle tossed on the ground. Quite obviously, popular mood is changing in Pakistan. It’s a dialogue of a different kind, a dialogue denied over the last five decades.
The series has also done a lot of good to Pakistan, whose best-known satirist, Ibne Insha, once wrote about his encounter with an angry young man who demanded to know as to where the need was to seek a separate homeland for Muslims if people were to behave as Sindhis, Punjabis, Pakhtoons and Baluchis. “I told him, maaf keejiye, galti ho gayi, aage se nahin banayenge.”
Insha died in 1978. Had he lived, he’d have been a happy man seeing his countrymen finding a catharsis in Indo-Pak cricket.