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Pakistan backed group makes ludicrous claim blaming India and Afghanistan for Kabul Sikh temple terror attack. Claims examined

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Sep 01, 2020 - 21:07
Election Articles

I came across a weird 30-page book, or shall I call it a pamphlet, named ‘Kite Fights: The Proxy Wars behind the Kabulinfo-icon Gurdwara Massacre.’ It is written by Pieter Friedrich and the US based prominent Khalistani businessman Bhajan Singh. Khalistan is a call for a separate country from Indian Punjab and is backed by Pakistaninfo-icon’s intelligence. The book without saying it forthright, in a round-about manner, seeks to say that governments in the subcontinent: India, Afghanistaninfo-icon and Sri Lanka are themselves carrying out terror attacks for political benefits and attributing it to ISIS. It even tries to say that the Indian subcontinent branch of ISIS has been infiltrated by governments and political parties of Sri Lanka and India and they are using them to mount terror attacks that help them politically.

Sounds like a conspiracy theory? To avoid the label they cite multiple articles from reputed media houses to substantiate their argument. Only problem, they are taken out of context with their interpretation being negated in the very article they cite. As an example this is an excerpt from the book: “Yet, when the Talibaninfo-icon came to power in 1996, they reportedly encouraged Sikhs to return, treated them with a degree of tolerance, and practiced a “smooth coexistence.” 54 That changed radically after the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and installed a new government. “The Taliban were far better than this government,” said Awtar Singh Khalsa, an Afghan gurdwara president, in 2013. 55”” The lines were selectively misquoted. Khalsa was referring to the plight of Sikhs in Afghanistan who were unable to even cremate their dead due to harassment from villagers living in vicinity of the crematoriums. And the book cunnigngly leaves out a fact- Under Taliban rule, Sikhs had to wear yellow patches, reminiscent of the Jews under Nazi rule, and fly yellow flags over their homes and shops.”- mentioned in the same 2013 LA Times article-https://www.latimes.com/world/la-xpm-2013-jun-10-la-fg-afghanistan-sikhs-20130611-story.html

It also leaves out that Awtar Singh Khalsa, who was running for parliament, was killed in a            bomb blast by IS just before the parliamentary elections. Taliban had been blamed for the attack by a section of Afghans. Afghans have blamed Taliban for ISIS attacks for quite some time. A recent attack by ISIS was attributed by the Afghan government and security apparatus to Haqqani Networkinfo-icon-LeT. Sirajuddin Haqqani is the military head of the Taliban and an attack by the Haqqani Network means an attack by Taliban. At a time when ISKP is increasingly being exposed as Taliban attacks that it doesn’t want to claim for bad western press, this book instead chooses to shift the blame to the governments themselves.

The book gives a pass to Pakistan on sponsoring terrorism in the region and there’s a whole chapter dedicated to how Imran Khan is cracking down on terror by arresting Hafiz Saeed (and then releasing him soon!) That the Khalistanis would glorify their fellow Pakistan funded Taliban doesn’t come as a surprise.

The book doesn’t cite but misquote extensively. I spoke to Pranay Kotasthane, Fellow at the Takshashila Institution think-tank who’s article was also quoted, on that article. He says that quoting a sentence that argues for the strengthening of Afghan state capacity to imply that India's agenda in Afghanistan is not peace only indicates the authors are motivated by the Pakistani military-jihadi complex's (MJC) agenda. The Pakistani MJC is the major reason why there is no peace in Afghanistan. A strong and stable Afghanistan is not in Pakistan's interests and since 1947, it has tried various means to install a government that is subservient to it. Conversely, It is in India’s national interest to contribute to building a strong, resilient, democratic, and peaceful Afghanistan.

It blames the Easter bombings on the Rajapaksas in Sri Lanka and the Kabul gurudwara attack on Indian intelligence and that the Afghan government covered it up. They stopped short of saying this but this is what they meant by hinting at it repeatedly throughout the book -distrust official statements. They devoted two chapters (Challenging Official Narratives & Suspicion of the Powerful) to harp on this point.

It was a real weird book and seems to indicate that there are no Jihadist groups in the region and all violence and terror is spread by right wing groups alone. It’s not that there haven’t been instances of right wing Hindutva extremism and violence- a recent example has been Sanatan Sanstha and journalists Gauri Lankesh’s murder- but that doesn’t mean that it is the sole source of violence or terror. Pakistan backed Jihadists account for a large percentage of the terror attacks in India and Afghanistan. The book seeks to attribute the sponsorship of JIhadist attacks in India, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka away from ISIS to the respective countries intelligence themselves.

I spoke to Mina Al-Lami, Jihadism expert and Editorial Lead at BBC Monitoring, about the Easter bombing in Sri Lanka. She says that, “what we can see in the case of the Easter bombing in Sri Lanka is that the attackers, as featured in the video shared by IS, had indeed pledged allegiance to IS. Having said that, only one of them, Abu Ubaida, who is suspected to have been the mastermind Zahran Hashim, had his face shown. The rest were masked. So it may be that a local group, possibly the National Towheed Jamath (NTJ), was behind the attack and made contact with IS. It is not clear if they got direct support from IS or not. NTJ’s founder has been identified as Mohamed Zahran (aka Zahran Hashim, Abu Ubaida), who was said to the mastermind of the attack. He is believed to be the only unmasked man in the IS pledge video, whom IS simply identified as Abu Ubaida. At the time of the attack, Sri Lankan authorities blamed the bombings on NTJ but said that the sophistication of the attack indicated coordination with externalinfo-icon players.”

Nowhere did we see ISIS being absolved of the terror attack and instead local governments or political parties being blamed for orchestrating them. In this field it is the observation of experts that’s counted on in case of opacity from the governments. In such a situation, the motivations behind writing the book seems to be purely propaganda and maybe to start a trend of making terror accusations so commonplace that actual sponsors of terror (read Pakistan) gets a free pass, just like in the pages of the book.

View expressed in this article are of the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Pajhwok’s editorial policy.

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Author’s brief introduction

Aveek Sen is an independent journalist working on cybersecurity and the geopolitics of India’s neighborhood, focusing on Pakistaninfo-icon, Afghanistaninfo-icon, Iran, and Bangladesh. Follow him on Twitter:@aveeksen.

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