Pakistan: a consolidated democracy?

Intervention at a conference arranged by South Asia Democratic Forum on the occasion of the UN Human Rights Council’s periodic review of  “Pakistan”, Palais des Nations, Geneva, October 30, 2012.


Stig Toft Madsen
Senior Research Fellow
NIAS – Nordic Institute of Asian Studies

This intervention will cover the period from the return of Benazir Bhutto in 2007 till now. I am speaking as a person who has worked as a sociologist and anthropologist mainly with India, but who has kept an interest in Pakistan as well. For lack of time I have not been able to study the UN reports (e.g. A/HRC/WG.6/14/PAK/1) presented elsewhere today.

Pakistani politics has always had periods of military rule and democratic rule alternating in rather long cycles. Therefore, the return to democracy in 2008 would not necessarily mean the institutionalization of democracy in Pakistan once and for all. But at that time there was a hope that this time around Pakistanis had finally realized the benefits that democracy could bring, that they had learnt to recognize the problems of military rule, that they had become better informed by the electronic media, that they had come to desire the rule of law as, indeed, it appeared at the time from the wide support given to the dismissed Chief Justice Iftikar Mhd. Chaudhary and the Supreme Court Bar Association President Aitzaz Ahsan and, if nothing else, that middle class Pakistanis had amassed sufficient property that they would support democracy to secure political stability.

In fact, the elections held in 2008 were technically fair confirming that the Election Commission is one functioning institution in Pakistan. After the elections, President Musharraf made a rather dignified exit. For a time, the two main political parties stood together in their common opposition to military rule. I remember TV-footage of political leaders joking among themselves and with assembled journalists, and exchanging Urdu couplets in those golden days. But as Shaheryar Azhar reminded his readers, “great beginnings are not as important as the way one finishes”.

What does a democratic transition entail? When does a transition get consolidated? When is it completed? According to an article by Schedler

“The consolidation of democracy concludes when democratic actors manage to establish reasonable certainty about the continuity of the new democratic regime.… While the task of transition is to push open the window of uncertainty and create opportunities for democratic change, the challenge of consolidation is to close the window of uncertainty and preclude possibilities of authoritarian regression. Transitions create hopes of democratic change, processes of consolidation confidence into democratic stability” (Schedler 2001).

Transitions, he also argued, may be gradual and even, or they may contain a few defining moments or focal events, or they may be more erratic and fuzzy with many high and lows.

How does Pakistan look in this perspective? Elections put democracy back on the rails in February 2008. That marks a shift, but not a full shift. There was a controlled or guided democracy even under Musharraf with parties and elections, but without the two main civilian leaders in the country, i.e. Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. It was the return of these two persons to take part in the elections that marked the beginning of the transition.

The reinstatement of Iftikar Mhd. Chaudhary as Chief Justice in March 2009 was a further focal point. Another was the transfer of power from the office of the President to the office of the Prime Minister by the 18th Amendment in 2010. As regards the troubled frontier regions, one may note that for the first time ever political parties have been allowed to operate there. Moreover, one should note that the present regime is now completing its 5-year period in office. That is no mean feat considering that no elected government in Pakistan has ever completed its full term![1] Do these events add up to a consolidation of democracy in Pakistan? I would say “no”, they do not create full confidence in democratic stability.

Why not?  For a start, there has been no systematic reform of the military which would include reducing the economic privileges that officers enjoy, reworking its “doctrines” to further de-escalation rather than escalation in Pakistan’s relation with its neighbours, and breaking the close links with the militant organizations that the military has cultivated.

The attack on Mumbai, it should be remembered, took place not under Musharraf, but in November 2008 after the return of democracy. Investigations have testified to the continued links between the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which was behind the attack, and the Pakistani military, but the LeT still operates more or less as it has done before.

It is true, on the other hand, that the Pakistani military did stage a major counter-offensive against the Islamic militants in Swat. The operation was relatively successful, but the attack on the pro-schooling activist Malala Yusufzai shows that the same militants are still around.  Indeed, militias of various hues have grown stronger in many parts of the country.

The transition, therefore, involves not only the political parties and the military, but also the militants, whose capacity to intimidate and harm, and to set the agenda, and to rule in many areas and across many institutions precludes the consolidation of democracy in Pakistan and even in parts of Afghanistan.

How much of a threat are the Islamic militants? In early 2009, a leading human rights activist, IA Rehman, known for his long work for human right in Pakistan, was willing to give up FATA and PATA (the federally and provincially administered tribal areas), if not the whole of the NWFP. He wrote:

“The sole option will be to buy a truce by separating the Shariah lobby from the terrorists and creating FATA and PATA as a Shariah zone, which may quickly encompass the Frontier province. The question then will be whether Pakistan can contain the pro-Shariah forces within the Frontier region… In such an eventuality, the hardest task for the government will be to protect the Punjab against inroads by militants”. (Rehman 2009).

Pakistan did not break up, but Rehman’s willingness to consider dividing the country stands as a sad testimony to the despair at that time. Remember also that the Government of Pakistan actually did sign an agreement with the militants to turn Swat into a Sharia zone (Shah 2009).

But it was to get worse. The breaking point to me and, I suspect, to many others, was the murder in January 2011 of Salman Taseer, the Governor of Punjab. It marked a new low even by Pakistani standards because the murder was done by his own bodyguard, because the other bodyguards did nothing effectively to stop him, because the assassin was affiliated to the ostensibly moderate Barelwi-branch of Islam, because the bodyguard was lionized by members of the legal community otherwise supposed to be a relatively enlightened class, and because many clerics boycotted Taseer’s funeral. The bodyguard killed Taseer because of his support to Asia Noreen Bibi, the poor Christian woman accused of blasphemy about whom we will probably hear more today. This was followed in March by the murder of another Christian Shahbaz Bhatti, the Minister for Minority Affairs. These murders did not occur to further the return of military rule. They occurred for religious reasons. They were the harbingers of a possible transition to theocratic rule which already affects not only Christians: Ahmadiyas, Ismailis, Hindus, Shias, and Barelwis as well as Jews, Americans, Danes and many others, including schoolgirls, are among the legitimate targets.[2]

To deal with this threat to democratic consolidation and to human rights requires an efficient state, and here lies another fault-line. The conflict between the legislative and the judiciary has been carried over from Musharraf’s time, most obviously in the conflict between President Zardari and the Chief Justice who wants to re-open old corruption cases with roots in Switzerland against Zardari. These old cases have been zealously pursued by the judiciary in a manner that has made an ex-member of the Supreme Court of India chastise his Pakistani colleagues for not exercising judiciary restraint (Katju 2012).

In Pakistan itself, the unofficial Human Rights Commission of Pakistan noted in its 2011 report that

“While this expanded role gained the SC immense popularity, it also raised many questions regarding the impact of frequent and extensive invocation of suo motu powers on the courts’ normal work, the difficulties in avoiding the side effects of selective justice, and the consequences of the executive-judiciary or parliament-judiciary confrontation.” (Taqi 2012)

What emerges is the image of a Chief Justice and a Supreme Court overreaching their allotted space within the division of powers, whether for reasons good or bad.

Let me add to this that the fourth pillar of power has also not been as efficient in furthering democratic consolidation as one could hope for. Reasoned political debate is not absent in the Pakistani press. Since I come from Norden, I will take the opportunity to draw your attention to a book written by a Pakistani living in Sweden, i.e. Ishtiaq Ahmed’s The Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed about the period around 1947. This book has been meticulously and reasonably debated in both the Pakistani and Indian press. One may also come across provocative and humorous interventions in the Pakistani press, such as Ziauddin Sardar’s little article “Why Are Muslims So Boring?”, and the daring satire/desperate sarcasm in the online magazine Viewpoint. However,Pakistani political debate is often an exercise in mud-slinging and venom-spitting which belies any hope that the Pakistani obsession of securing a world without defamation of the Prophet will limit other forms defamation.[3]

Similar unprofessional conduct extends into “the fifth pillar” of the state, i.e. academia, where most recently the journal Nature has written about “predatory journals” where publications-hungry academics pay large sums to be published in sham journals emerging from especially Pakistan, India and Nigeria (Beall 2012). To round off this lament let me mention also the rot in Pakistani sports exemplified by the two Pakistanis who were jailed in the UK and banned from cricket for a period for fixing a cricket match at the Lords in London – only to reappear later as TV commentators in Pakistan ( 2012).

I do not think I need to belabour the point any more. What I have been saying is that while a democratic transition from a largely military regime to a largely civilian regime has occurred, there has been little in the way of democratic consolidation. Pervez Musharraf in 2004 said he wanted “enlightened moderation”, but unenlightened extremism is what the Pakistanis still get as the country moves from Crisis to Crisis, in the process earning a bad name for democracy.[4] I have been able to give you only a limited number of examples of this. However, they are no mere incidents. They form a coherent pattern.

(Slightly revised 6 November 2012)



Ahmed, Ishtiaq, 2012, The Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed, Oxford University Press.

Azhar, Shaheryar “The Way Forward”, Daily Times, 27 February 2008,

Beall, Jeffrey, “Predatory publishers are corrupting open access” Nature 489: 179, 13 September 2012,, “Butt and Amir on TV as pundits during World T20”, 18 September 2012,

Feldman, Herbert, 1972, From Crisis to Crisis: Pakistan 1962-1969, London.

Katju, Markandey, “Pakistan’s Supreme Court has gone overboard”, The Hindu, opinion, 21 June 2012,

Noorani, AG, “A right to insult”, Frontline, 2 November 2012, pp. 80-86.

Rehman, IA, 2009, “Shariah Zone: One Solution for Pakistan?”, 12 February,

Schedler, A, “Taking Uncertainty Seriously: The Blurred Boundaries of Democratic Transition and Consolidation”, Democratization, 8:4, 1-22, 2001.

Shah, Waseem Ahmad, 2009, Pak govt signs Malakand sharia deal”,, 16 February,

Taseer, Shehrbano, “The Girl Who Changed Pakistan”, Newsweek, October 29, 2012, pp. 30-35.

Sardar, Ziauddin, “Why Are Muslims So Boring?”, Emel, November-December 2004,

Sulehria, Farooq, “Pakistan awaiting the clerical tsunami: Pervez Hoodbhoy”. Viewpoint, online issue 125, November 2, 2012,

Taqi, Mohammad, “Judging the Judges”, View from Pakistan”, Outlook India, 19 April 2012,

[1] Shaukat Aziz did complete his 5-years term as Prime Minister under Musharraf.

[2] On blasphemy, see the article in Newsweek by Shehrbano Taseer, a daughter of Salman Taseer (Taseer 2012), the interview with Pervez Hoodbhoy in Viewpoint on the rising tide of extremism (Sulehria 2012), and AG Noorani in Frontline (2012) for a problematic liberal defense of the Islam that hardly exists, but in whose name others are required to stay silent to avoid holy wrath.

[3] For those conversant with Urdu, and even for those without such knowledge, watch  “MQM & PML-N showing his Ethics & Character (Live on Talk shows)”, where two leaders trade insults, and “Malik Riaz Planted Leaked Interview with Mehar bukhari and Mubashir Lukman on dunya tv Part 1”, where TV anchors at Dunya News engage in a manipulative interview of a businessman who had accused the son of the Chief Justice of corruption.

[4]  From Crisis to Crisis was the title of Feldman’s 1972 book about Pakistan.

A Dane in distress

By Stig Toft Madsen
Research Associate, NIAS-Nordic Institute of Asian Studies

The Purulia Arms drop in 1995 was a rare example of a private team of white criminals delivering weapons to an oppositional group in India. The main organizer of the arms drop was a Dane inter alia named Niels Holck. This blog discusses various issues of the extradition case heard in the Lower Court and the Eastern High Court in 2010-11. The courts agreed that Holck could not be extradited mainly due to India’s poor human rights record. In return, India “froze” relations to Denmark


Niels Holck being interviewed after winning in the court in Hillerød, November 1, 2010 (Photo: Stig Toft Madsen)


Niels Holck is a Dane presently living in one of the better cities north of Copenhagen. In 1981, when accused of bank robbery, he escaped from the police earning him the nickname “Barfodsrøveren”, the Barefoot Robber (Hansen 2008). Later Holck went abroad where his activities apparently ranged from development work among the poor in Guatemala to gold smuggling in Africa. In that process he acquired several passports one of which identified by as Kim Peter Davy, the name by which he is known in India. Holck’s entry to India was via the Ananda Marga, a religious group which has been at loggerheads with the Indian state. In December 1995, Niels Holck dropped four tonnes of weapons over Purulia in West Bengal for the Ananda Margis from a small airplane. According to a recent interview with Peter Bleach, who was on board the plane, the consignment included “77 cases of Kalashnikov rifles, Makarov pistols, sniper rifles, anti-tank grenades, RPG rocket-launchers, anti-personnel mines, night-vision binoculars and 25,000 rounds of rifle ammunition” (Scarborough Evening News 2011). However, the arms drop was not well executed by the crew which also counted five Latvians who later became Russian citizens. After a confusing return trip from Thailand, all were arrested in Bombay airport save Niels Holck who once more managed to slip off and make his way back to Denmark.[i] When India initially requested the extradition of Holck, Denmark was unable to extradite him because the crime he stood accused of was not a crime in Denmark (sic). After the attack on USA on September 11, 2001, Denmark passed a new and tough law in 2002 enabling the extradition of Danish citizens accused of serious crimes not just to the Scandinavian countries but to the EU and to other countries as well (Lov 378). India renewed its request to get Holck in December 2002. Denmark finally agreed to India’s request on April 9, 2010, but the extradition order was challenged by Niels Holck in court. With the help of a well-articulated lawyer, Tyge Trier, and his team, Holck won the case in the lower court. The state prosecutor appealed the case to the Eastern High Court, which confirmed the decision of the lower court when an unusually large bench of five judges unanimously held his extradition illegal because India has a bad human rights record as regards treatment of prisoners. Tellingly, India has not ratified the UN Convention against Torture and not signed the Optional Protocol to the convention. The diplomatic agreement reached by India and Denmark had sought to bracket such general issues by focusing on the individual case at hand, but it was found by the court to be devoid of sufficient muscle to secure Holck’s safety if handed over to the Indian custody.[ii]


According to Holck, important Indians, including a Bihari MP and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) were all parties to the arms drop and actually helped him to get back to Denmark when they realized that things had not gone as planned. According to Holck, key Indians had teamed up with him because, like him, they were frustrated with the violent communist regime in West Bengal. When the arms drop misfired they wanted to cover their trails. Were Holck to turn up in India again, the same actors or institutions would kill him to hide the truth, Holck alleges. Not only has Holck maintained that the arms drop took place with the knowledge and concurrence of the CBI and unnamed Indian MPs, but also with the knowledge and concurrence of Danish and the British Intelligence. In his version of the story, Bleach maintains that the British intelligence services were aware of what he did as an arms dealer after he contacted the Defense Export Services Organization to seek clarifications regarding the proposed arms sale. The MI5/MI6 sensed that a crime was in the making and they contacted the Indian authorities.[iii] British intelligence, Bleach holds, let him proceed with the plan to enable the Indian authorities to catch the kingpin, i.e. Holck, red-handed. Bleach acceded to the advice of the British authorities, thereby deceiving Holck. This was the storyline presented by Bleach when he made an appearance in the Danish High Court in 2011 and it may contain more grains of truth than Holck’s version. In a debate on this issue, the British Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs said in a response to an MP:

The hon. Gentleman also asked whether Mr. Bleach advised officials of issues relating to the arms drop. I can confirm that he provided details to North Yorkshire police about the arms drop during interviews on three separate occasions—on 14 September, 22 September and 8 December 1995. On 22 September and 8 December the police strongly advised Mr. Bleach to withdraw from the deal and not to go to India. The information given by Mr. Bleach was passed on to the Indian authorities on three separate occasions—10 November, 17 November and 15 December 1995.” (, 2002)

The British, it appears from this, were aware of the plan, but they did not concur. To me it is inconceivable that British Intelligence would accede to clandestinely arm a small and geopolitically insignificant sect against the democratically elected government in West Bengal in India.[iv]

The main armed opponent of the government led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) was never Ananda Marga. Its main opponent was the Maoist revolutionaries, or Naxalites, who intensified the class war in the late 1960s. During this period when the Congres was still in power, and later after the Left Front CPI(M)-led government came to power in 1977, the police spared few means to subjugate the revolutionaries. One of the people tortured was Archana Guha whom the police picked up in 1974 while in search of her brother. She was tortured under the supervision of Runu Guha Neogi against whom Archana Guha filed a case in 1977 after she was released. With the help of Amnesty International and others, she came to Denmark where she received treatment. The trial took nineteen years. In 1996, Runu Guha Neogi was sentence to one year’s simple imprisonment with a possibility to appeal (Roy 1996). During this period, the Left Front government did not suspend Neogi who retired as Deputy Commissioner of Police (Roy 1996).

Apart for its role in suppressing the Maoist revolutionaries, there is another side to the CPI(M). As one of its critics, Ramachandra Guha, has conceded:

It may be that of all the major parties in India, it is only the leaders of the CPI(M) who do not have Swiss bank accounts. (Some do not even have Indian bank accounts.) Their views may be out-of-date, even bizarre, but in their conduct and demeanour most major leaders of the CPI(M) are—the word is inescapable—gentlemen. As a bourgeois friend of mine puts it, they are the kind of people in whose homes she can safely permit her teenaged daughter to spend the night (Guha 2011).

Had British intelligence attempted to remove the CPI(M)-led government from office it could have created uproar far greater than the benefits such a removal might have entailed.

Arms supplies and resistance

It is not easy, in fact, to find any example of European governments aiding and abetting armed uprisings in independent India. Perhaps, the person to close in on is George Fernandes, the labor leader and socialist MP who rose to become the Defense Minister of India. Fernandes was accused (but never convicted) in the “Baroda Dynamite Case” of plotting to set off small bombs during the Emergency. Before and after he was apprehended in Calcutta in June 1976, he and his family did receive moral support and physical shelter from several Western governments or their representatives, but even during Emergency I doubt that UK or other Western European countries provided weapons for Fernandes or for anyone else in miniscule armed resistance to the Emergency regime.

Could Holck have a point about Indians in key positions condoning illegal trade in arms for non-state actors? Here it may again be worth noting that Fernandes has been sympathetic to several armed groups, including the LTTE. As Defense Minister… “In July 1998, he reportedly stopped the Indian Navy from intercepting ships suspected of carrying illegal arms to Tamil guerrilla groups…” The Sri Lankan government reportedly stated that, “the LTTE’s biggest supporter in India is Defence Minister George Fernandes” (Wikipedia). Fernandes has also morally supported Burmese rebel groups and students fighting the military government both before he became Defense Minister and while in office. Arms dealers supplying weapons (similar to those dropped over Purulia) to Naga and Assamese rebel groups in North-East India and in Burma are alleged to have been given free passage in the Andaman Sea on the order of the Defense Secretary while Fernandes was the minister. These allegations were fielded by amongst other the former Navy Chief Vishnu Bhagwat. I am mentioning this not only to lend some credence to Holck’s version of events, but also because after the extradition case against Holck in the Danish High Court was decided in 2011, the Government of India (GOI) asserted that the Danish decision not to appeal to the Supreme Court would increase the risk of international crime and terror. A former Defense Minister of India could be accused of having done much the same. In all cases, the counter-argument would be that external support to just armed resistance is legitimate – even if directed against democratic states.[v]

The “Purulia Arms Drop” made front-page news in India, but it is not as if the Ananda Marga is the only group in India or South Asia which has imported weapons for its struggles. The Maoist groups in the “Red Corridor” in central India have apparently been supplied weapons through a supply chain stretching from Tamil Nadu to Nepal, The Khalistani Sikhs imported relatively advanced weapons for their secessionist struggle launched around 1980, and umpteen Islamic jihadist groups have received weapons from Pakistan off and on from October 1947 onwards.[vi]

At home India has a considerable sector of illegal small-arms manufacturing. A United Nations study has reported that Indian civilians have around 40 million firearms of which only around 15 percent are licensed (Asian Age 2011). By tapping into these arms distribution networks Holck would probably have gotten a bigger bang for his buck than by contacting a Rhodesian Brit and five Latvians with scant local knowledge. But, then, he evidently wanted to supply the Ananda Marga with advanced weapons of a higher caliber than were necessary for an ordinary watch guard.

The Purulia Arms Drop remains unique insofar as it involved an airdrop of arms by White Westerners to a religious group. The reaction in policy circles in India to the case may be compared to the Pakistani reaction to the US raid on Osama bin Laden’s residence in Abbottabad. In both cases the elite felt hurt when Western incursions into national airspace starkly exposed their state’s inability to enforce its sovereignty. In the Pakistani case, the reaction was widespread. In the Indian case, the reaction has been largely limited to the elite. The “Bengali Street” has been largely silent perhaps because the enmity between the Ananda Margis and others in West Bengal has declined considerable over the years. Moreover, the Ananda Margis themselves have kept a low profile as regards Niels Holck.

Self-defense and legal activism: Holck and Salwa Judum

What was the motive for the arms drop? As far as I can see, Holck purchased and dropped the weapons because he sympathized with the Ananda Margis whom he felt were persecuted by the West Bengal government and perhaps also by Maoist armed groups operating in the Purulia area. Others may have known about the plans, but Holck remained the driving force. It was his project. Who among the Ananda Margis wanted the weapons is unclear, but Holck wanted the Ananda Margis to have the weapons for “self-defense.” At the very end of the High Court case, Holck said that he wanted the truth to come out and that he would win a fair court trial case because the right to self-defense is a valid legal argument. The issue, therefore, arises when a situation exists that allows an actor to disregard the state’s monopoly of the legitimate use of force.

The Indian Penal Code (IPC) recognizes the right to self-defense in section 81, which states that … “Nothing is an offence merely by reason of its being done with the knowledge that it is likely to cause harm, if it be done without any criminal intention to cause harm, and in good faith for the purpose of preventing or avoiding other harm to person or property.” I am not sure whether an Indian court would find this section of the IPC applicable if Holck were to stand trial in India, but it is worth noting that the Indian state recently has walked the same thin line as Holck. In the struggle against the armed uprising of the Naxalites/Maoists in the state of Chhattisgarh in Central India, the GOI in 2005 raised an armed force of about 6,500 barely literate village youth aged seventeenth upwards ordering them to operate as Special Police Officers within the law at a honorarium of Rs. 3000 per month, i.e. much less than the 10 dollars a day that Taliban foot soldiers are said to receive. This force, named Salwa Judum, proceeded to engage in “mass violations of fundamental constitutional rights” (Venkatesan 2011:44) often in connection with the forced removal of people from “naxalite-infested villages” to safe village under Salwa Judum control. In 2007 anthropologist Nandini Sundar, who is professor of sociology at Delhi University, together with the historian-anthropologist Ramachandra Guha, and EAS Sarma, former Secretary to GOI and former Commissioner for Tribal Welfare, Government of Andhra Pradesh filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court. The court accepted the petition as a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) case. Eleven judges heard the case for 26 days over several years before delivering the verdict in 2011. The case was repeatedly stalled by the Government of Chhattisgarh, confirming that it is not only private litigants who are adept at prolonging litigation in India, but that official India is equally adept in the art of adjournments.

The verdict of the Supreme Court in Nandini Sundar and others vs State of Chhattishgarh went in favor of the petitioners finding the formation of Salwa Judum an abrogation of the state’s obligation to protect its citizens by a professionally trained police force only. The court “directed the State government to prevent the operation of Salwa Judum or any other such group that seeks to take the law into its own hands or violates human rights of any person” (Venkatesan 2011:44). In other words, the court affirmed the state’s monopoly of violence specifying that the state can only delegate its right to use force to duly constituted groups. By extension, if the state did not have a right to defend its citizens against the Maoist threat – which is a real threat – by raising a motley army in the name of self-defense, it is also not likely that an equally motley crew of non-nationals would enjoy the right to arm a socio-religious group like the Ananda Marga. Niels Holck, the Government of Chhattisgarh, and the GOI seem alike in their in misconstruing the right to self-defense.[vii]

Were Danes and others to be acquainted only with acts of armed rebellion and armed “self-defense” in India, the decision in the Salwa Judum case would seem surprising. It is worth, therefore, to look closer at how the Supreme Court of India arrived at its decision. The short answer is: By legal activism and the scholarly deployment of social science. For a start, in section 2, the court says:

2. As we heard the instant matters before us, we could not but help be reminded of the novella, “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad, who perceived darkness at three levels: (1) the darkness of the forest, representing a struggle for life and the sublime; (ii) the darkness of colonial expansion for resources; and finally (iii) the darkness, represented by inhumanity and evil, to which individual human beings are capable of descending, when supreme and unaccounted force is vested, rationalized by a warped world view that parades itself as pragmatic and inevitable, in each individual level of command.

The verdict goes on to deride the “development paradigm unleashed by the State”, arguing that:

“The root cause of the problem, and hence its solution, lies elsewhere. The culture of unrestrained selfishness and greed spawned by modern neo-liberal economic ideology, and the false promises of ever increasing spirals of consumption leading to economic growth that will lift everyone, under-gird this socially, politically and economically unsustainable set of circumstances in vast tracts of India in general, and Chhattisgarh in particular.“

Touching on the “resource curse” and “developmental terrorism’, the Supreme Court verdict posits that:

“Policies of rapid exploitation of resources by the private sector, without credible commitments to equitable distribution of benefits and costs, and environmental sustainability, are necessarily violative of principles that are “fundamental to governance”, and when such a violation occurs on a large scale, they necessarily also eviscerate the promise of equality before law, and equal protection of the laws, promised by Article 14, and the dignity of life assured by Article 21.”

The verdict muses that:

“Tax breaks for the rich, and guns for the youngsters amongst poor, so that they keep fighting amongst themselves, seems to be the new mantra from the mandarins of security and high economic policy of the State. This, apparently, is to be the grand vision for the development of a nation that has constituted itself as a sovereign, secular, socialist and democratic republic”

Before finally ordering that:

“(i) The State of Chattisgarh immediately cease and desist from using SPOs in any manner or form in any activities, directly or indirectly, aimed at controlling, countering, mitigating or otherwise eliminating Maoist/Naxalite activities in the State of Chattisgarh;”

… and that:

(v) The State of Chattisgarh shall take all appropriate measures to prevent the operation of any group, including but not limited to Salwa Judum and Koya Commandos, that in any manner or form seek to take law into private hands, act unconstitutionally or otherwise violate the human rights of any person…..”

The Supreme Court’s verdict has been received very positively by some commentators. Liang (2011) writes that

“This judgment attains such greatness by virtue of its deft combination of insightful legal analysis, the articulation of a moral vision of constitutionalism and development and its sharp invocation of rhetoric (in the best sense of the term) and fiction to buttress its arguments” (Liang 2011).

In his write-up about the case, Venkatesan (2011: 46) makes reference to the 22 initial paragraphs of the judgment, which, as is evident from the above, are critiques of the “the neoliberal development paradigm and the resultant privatisation and globalisation” rather than typical legal arguments. The reason behind all of this is that the Indian Supreme Court since the 1970s has often been an activist court, which basically means a court “at war” with the way the legal system and the state normally works. Legal activism has been an emergency answer, or safety-valve, to the inordinate delays and the miscarriage of justice that are endemic to the courts. By taking up cases at the behest of concerned individuals without locus standi, the Supreme Court (and to some extent the state High Courts) have been able to re-interpret the fundamental civil and political rights and the directive principles in the Constitution. This means that Indian law is internally compromised and that it may externally compromise the state as it did in the Salwa Judum case. Since the invention of PIL in the 1970´s, Indians have been able at once to decry the Indian Penal Code and other laws as “colonial” while lionizing and exploiting Article 21 (guaranteeing the broadly interpreted “Right to Life”) and Article 14 (guaranteeing ”equality”) of the Constitution to secure a series of landmark judgement.[viii] Often this has been affected by applying justiciable political rights to social and economic issues where the non-justiciable Directive Principles exercise less clout. As Shankar notes (2009: xiv-xix), these legal innovations (bordering on judicial populism) took place in the aftermath of the Emergency which had undermined the Constitution. The courts tried to make up for its mistakes.

The number of PIL-cases has declined since the 1970. In 2008, PIL-cases only constituted around 2% of the cases seeking a Supreme Court hearing and very few of them were eventually admitted. Moreover, many PIL-cases are now entertained by the rich and powerful. Nevertheless, as the Salwa Judum case shows, the Supreme Court may still act as a forceful corrective to the executive akin to the courageous verdicts passed by the President of the Israel Supreme Court Aharon Barak.[ix] On this background it is understandable that the GOI, and Indians at large, may expect the Danish courts to take on a similar trailblazing role, but the Danish courts do not take that bait because they aim to maintain coherence in the face of contestation. A Danish court may be flexible, but the activism that has taken roots in India using PIL as an unorthodox quasi-political tool to intervene as a “last resort for the oppressed and bewildered” (Robinson 2010) has no counterpart in Denmark. In Denmark there is a strong Ombudsmand’s institution, but, so far, there is no PIL and no Anna Hazare short-circuiting the law and the legal process. The Ombudsmand’s institution takes up around 50 cases in its annual reports which the executive often consider as guidelines. It is rare, however, that ministers are impeached or civil servants tried (Elbæk-Jørgensen 2001: 223). The Danish political system may on occasion bend over backwards as it did in order to promise Holck’s extradition, but Danish courts remain careful. They see themselves neither as protagonists of the civil society, nor as tools of the state.

In the Niels Holck case, the prosecutors limited the scope of their arguments to the central issues: Could Niels Holck be extradited or not? Noting that Danish law now opens for extradition to any country in the world and showing that both governments had proceeded correctly in entering into a diplomatic agreement, the prosecution largely left it at that. When the prosecution lost twice because the courts held that it could not be ruled out that Holck would be submitted to torture or mistreatment in Indian jails, the state chose not to appeal. In India, appeals all the way to the Supreme Court are common. In 2008, there was a 2.5 per cent likelihood that a case would be appealed from High Court to Supreme Court. In cases originating in Delhi the likelihood rose to 10 per cent (Robinson 2010). The official India might have felt disappointed by the non-activist manner in which the Danish prosecution argued the case, but it certainly felt disappointed about the decision not to appeal. Indians in Denmark expressed such opinions (Copenhagen Post Online 2011). Some held that the Danish decision not to extradite Hock was a result of a colonial superiority complex. Basing her interpretation on readers’ comments on the Blogosphere rather than on the court case at hand, which she considers less interesting, Kaur argued that while the official Danish policy of opening up for extradition correctly reflected the new reality of India’s increased economic and political power, the Danish public stayed mired in old prejudices viewing India as a pre-modern and uncivilized country to which Danish citizens should not be extradited (Kaur 2011). In contrast, a number of Danes to whom I have spoken consider it right that Hock is made to face justice in India not in order to atone for colonial misdeeds, nor in order to kowtow to the rising superpower, but because of the crime he had apparently committed. The irony is that it is the law (and not money or political influence) which stands in the way of extradition.

After a period of silence, the GOI in August 2011 announced it would freeze relations to Denmark as a (collective) punishment for its failure to extradite Holck. The Danish government did not announce any counter-measure but expressed its regret while it contemplated seeking the assistance of the EU (Bostrup 2011). The situation was reminiscent of the Muhammad cartoon crisis where Third World powers also felt slighted and put pressure on the Danish government to “do more”. In both cases the Danish government responded that court decisions – whether about cartoons or extradition – should be respected. The basic difference seems to be that among “argumentative Indians” contestation is God: Legal decisions are not necessarily reached by reference to the law in a narrow technical sense but by allowing a plurality of elite and subaltern interests to be presented and a compromise worked out within an expanded constitutional framework. Legal pluralism allows for such contestation while legal monism seeks closure by applying Occam’s razor.[x]

In India over 50,000 people were detained under TADA (Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act) over a period of ten years. Less than one percent of them were convicted (Shankar 2009: xxi). Doing more may not always be very efficient from a legal point of view.



How could the prosecution conceivably have turned the case to his or her advantage? For a start the prosecutor could have painted a more detailed picture of the Ananda Marga which would have challenged the image Holck and the defense counsel painted of a development organization building schools and hospitals. What is the Ananda Marga?  Based on an article by Helen Crovetto (Crovetto 2008), I have offered a short answer to this question in an earlier NIAS blog (Madsen 2010).

Please see

Had the prosecution paused to paint a detailed picture of the Ananda Marga it might have re-framed the issue from one relating to the legality of extradition versus the protection of individual human rights to an issue of the duty of one democratic state not to assist, actively or passively, any of its citizens to foster violence in another democratic state versus the protection of individual human rights. This would have addressed the question that many Danes have raised: “What if Indians dropped weapons over Copenhagen? Would Denmark not demand that such arms-droppers be extradited?” (Information 2007; see also Kyrø 2011, Hansen 2008), and it might have enabled the court to reach another verdict.

To illuminate the context, the prosecution could have reiterated that India has repeatedly sought the extradition of various people without success. India wanted LTTE-supremo Prabhakaran for the murder of Rajiv Gandhi, but did not get him. India wants Warren Anderson, the ex-CEO of Union Carbide headquartered in the USA, to face trial in the Bhopal Gas Leaks Case (Expressindia 2010, Misra 2011, and Zeenews 2011). Well-known writer and journalist MJ Akbar feels that Anderson showed contempt for the Indian legal system when he left India (or absconded) in 1984 (Akbar 2010). India also demands the extradition of about a dozen people hiding in Pakistan ranging from Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar for his alleged involvement in the Bombay Blasts in March 1992 to the Lashkar-e-Toiba and ISI operatives behind the attack on Mumbai in November 2008.[xi] The fact that India wants for the extradition of several others apart from Holck increases the likelihood that India would treat Hock according the agreement reached with Denmark in order to facilitate the extradition of other, and more wanted, persons, the prosecution could have argued. From the Indian point of view, the failure to hand over Niels Holck is one more example of other countries obstructing the process of bringing criminals to justice. The decision hurt Indian pride at a time when India has made a number of sweet deals in (including the US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement) in the diplomatic field. With Indian pride growing, the setback in the legal sphere caused official rancor.

In return, the defense counsel could have mustered a list of Indians living in India and hiding from prosecution elsewhere. For example, he could have cited the case of confidence trickster and serial killer Charles Sobhraj who took shelter for decades in Indian jails (sic!) to avoid prosecution in Thailand (Wikipedia).  Or he could have pointed to the case of Haji Mohammed Yaqoob, Minister for Haj and Minority Welfare in the state of Uttar Pradesh who in 2006 promised Rs 51 crore and the equivalent in gold of the weight of anyone who would chop off the head of Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard (Dougal 2006). Indian authorities apparently have not taken the initiative to prosecute this honorable MLA.

Apart from the above possibilities to reframe the issue the prosecutor could have pursued obvious mistakes on the defense side. For example, Niels Holck claimed that he did not know the true size of the consignment until the crates containing the weapons were reloaded in Varanasi airport. But then he felt helpless to do anything about it because, as he explained in High Court, the temperature was 55 degrees centigrade. Here the prosecution could have informed the court that in Varanasi the average maximum temperature for the month of December when the airdrop took place is less than 25 degree Celsius and the average minimum temperature about 10 degrees Celsius. The temperature, in other words, is likely to have been quite pleasant. Similarly, the prosecution could have faulted the defense lawyer for arguing that it would take 19 hours to drive the approximately 1,400 km from Delhi to Calcutta according to Google map by informing the court that the Danish embassy staff would most likely take a plane to Calcutta. More seriously, the prosecution could have nullified a string of key arguments the defense counsel made in the Lower Court and to a lesser extent in the High Court to the effect that prison conditions and police and army brutality was a particular problem in West Bengal. Several of the sources (International Red Cross, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch) which the defense counsel cited to build this argument referred to North-East India and not to West Bengal. In effect, the court was led up the garden path when the defense counsel wrongly placed West Bengal in North-East India. Further, the prosecution could have argued that it is never possible to guarantee that Holck, or anyone else, would not suffer death in an Indian prison. The prison population of India was about 332,112 (BBC News no date). The total number of prisoners who died in 2006 was reported to be 1,424 (Udskrift af Østre Landsrets Dombog, p. 10) amounting to 0.43%. In Denmark in 2009 the total prison population was 9,732 of who six died and six committed suicide (Kriminalforsorgen 2009, table 9.2). This amounts to 0.12%. There is a clear difference between India and Denmark but it is not as vast as the defense counsel (and Peter Bleach) indicated.

In return the defense counsel could have argued that the case against Hock could drag on for much longer than visualized in the diplomatic agreement between the two countries. The public prosecutor in the lower court held up the promise that Holck could be back in Denmark in three weeks provided he pleaded guilty, but the diplomatic agreement specified that Holck would not be tried in a Special Court. This means that the case would be initiated in a court of first instance, in casu the Calcutta Chief Metropolitan Court, from where appeals and interventions may be made (by either party or by third parties) to High Court, the Supreme Court and finally as a mercy petition to the President. Mercy petitions with the Indian President regularly take many years to decide.[xii] In effect, the case could plausibly drag on for years.

Even so the prosecution could insist that the issue is properly one of how democracies should relate to each other in the long run in a globalizing world. Political science claims that democracies do not wage war against each other. How could a Dane be allowed to do so with impunity? Denmark, as the prosecution did say in the Lower Court, should not become a safe haven (“et helle”) for terrorists. As the Security Council resolution 1373 states:

By other terms, the Council decided that all States should prevent those who finance, plan, facilitate or commit terrorist acts from using their respective territories for those purposes against other countries and their citizens. States should also ensure that anyone who has participated in the financing, planning, preparation or perpetration of terrorist acts or in supporting terrorist acts is brought to justice. They should also ensure that terrorist acts are established as serious criminal offences in domestic laws and regulations and that the seriousness of such acts is duly reflected in sentences served (Security Council 2001).

As noted by Sasikumar who traces the India route from “sponsor state” to “victim state”:

“This resolution has become the rallying point for ‘victim states’ like India. Indian leaders draw attention to the fact that it proscribes all forms of support to terrorists” (Sasikumar 2010: 620).

International cooperation is based both on law and on trust. India bent over backwards, exhibiting its soft underbelly in the process, to accord Denmark exceptionally broad guarantees in order to capitalize on the new situation arising after September 11, 2001. However, Holck still evaded them because the Danish courts did not want to extradite a citizen to an uncertain fate outside its civilisational orbit. As the defense counsel noted at the end of the High Court case: “This is a difficult case. It is the first time that a Dane risks being extradited outside the West European cultural area” (“Dette er en vanskelig sag. Det er første gang en dansker i givet fald skal sendes uden for vor vesteuropæiske kulturkreds”). Prominent defense lawyers, such as Trier, tend to plead for the rights of refugees to stay in Denmark. Drawing on international human rights law, they seem correspondingly eager to protect clients from extradition. On the prosecution side, feeble attempts to reframe the issue with reference to international law, the common fight against terror and the importance of supporting an ordered process of globalization turned out fruitless as the bench kept its focus on the protection of individual human rights.

Holck’s argument about the right to self-defense against communist misrule – setting aside the state monopoly of violence – was left hanging in the air. Perhaps the prosecution should have shot it down as it was shot down in the Salwa Judum case. The argument that a person, or a people, have a right to self-defense may have merit, but often is does not. In July 2011 Anders Behring Breivik committed a gruesome act of terror in Norway. Like Holck, he claimed to be fighting communism. Like Holck, the ideology of this “Angry Norwegian” was framed as a form of self-defense directed, in his case, against Islamic incursion into Norway abetted by the treason of crypto-communist multiculturalists paying no heed to the right to national self-determination. Breivik is likely to receive a hard punishment. It was India’s bad record which has prevented Holck from being sentenced. In that sense India has itself to thank for its defeat.

Interestingly, the Calcutta High Court has subsequently upbraided the Indian government for not ratifying the Convention against Torture: Acting on a petition the High Court directed the GOI to ensure that India would ratify the Convention against Torture because, “If the U.N. Convention against Torture had been ratified in Parliament, it might have been possible to ensure the extradition of Kim Davy” (The Hindu 2011).

This may be a vain hope, however. As has been argued by Asian Human Rights Commission, what counts is not only the signing of conventions, but reforming the police force which are charged with doing an impossible job:

“In most cases the officers are expected to discharge a job that no one in the world could ever do. For instance, what could a police officer responsible for traffic control do if the roads are filled with persons driving vehicles who obtained their licences by merely paying bribes?; what could a traffic police officer do if the junction at which the officer is posted has no traffic lights and the road conditions are terrible due to corruption in road construction?; how can a police officer investigate a crime other than by torturing a suspect and obtaining a confession when the officer is not trained in scientific crime investigation?; what else could a police officer do other than demanding and accepting bribes when the officer is not provided a house in the city where the officer is posted and forced to rent a house that would almost cost half of the officer’s salary?; how can police stations function when the telephones and vehicles at the station do not work?; what morality will such a force have when they are expected to protect political masters who enjoy fruits of corruption?

Of equal importance is the role of the Indian civil society, including the country’s media, to keep a focus upon the conditions of the police and to hear their concerns. In that there is no sense for the civil society to push the government to ratify the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), which the government for understandable reasons is delaying to undertake. The ratification of CAT without having a comprehensive national policing policy to improve the state of policing makes no sense. In fact in the neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh, which have all ratified the CAT without a sensible policy to improve the state of policing in these jurisdictions are examples from which both the government, and the civil society in India can draw learning (Asian Human Rights Commission 2011).”

It seems that even if the prosecution had been more innovative, (s)he would have a hard time convincing the judge to allow Holck’s extradition.



Akbar, MJ, 2010,”Anderson laughed at Indian law and State”, Times of India, 20 June,

Asian Age 2011, “40m civilian-owned firearms in India: UN”,September 21,

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BBC News (no date), World Prison Populations,

Bostrup, Jens (2011) “EU star klar til at hjælpe Danmark mod Indien”, Politiken, Internationalt, 19. August, p. 8.

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Crovetto, Helen (2008)”Ananda Marga and the Use of Force”, Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, 12, 1: 26-56. Also published in Violence and New Religious Movements. Edited by James R. Lewis. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Dougal, Sundeep (2006) “Off With His Head!”, Outlook, February 20,

Expressindia, 2010, “Bhopal gas tragedy: ‘Case against Carbide chief still on’”, June 8,

Gokhale, Nitin A, 1999, “Why is George Fernandes allowing gun-running that hit the army?”, Outlook, retrieved from on September 12, 2011.

Guha, Ramachandra (2011) “After the Fall”, The Caravan, June 1,

Hansen, John (2008) “En forsvarstale”. Review of Niels Holck and Øivind Kyrø, De kalder mig terrorist, People’s Press,

Information, 2007, “‘Hvad nu hvis det var en inder, der havde kastet våben ned over Nørrebro?”, 21. August.

India Today (1996), “A Lethal Invasion”, Special Reports, February 15, pp. 42-55.

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Misra, Savvy Soumya, “CBI can seek Anderson’s extradition”, Down to Earth, April 30, 2011,

Liang, Lawrence, 2011, “A beacon of light in the heart of darkness: SC holds Salwa Judum unconstitutional”, Kafila, July 6,

LOV nr 378, Lov om ændring af straffeloven, retsplejeloven, lov om konkurrence- og forbrugerforhold på telemarkedet, våbenloven, udleveringsloven samt lov om udlevering af lovovertrædere til Finland, Island, Norge og Sverige (Gennemførelse af FN-konventionen til bekæmpelse af finansiering af terrorisme, gennemførelse af FN s Sikkerhedsråds resolution nr. 1373 (2001) samt øvrige initiativer til bekæmpelse af terrorisme m.v.),

Madsen, Stig Toft (2010) “The Path of Bliss”, Focus Blog, NIAS,

Madsen, Stig Toft (1996) State, Society and Human Rights in South Asia, New Delhi: Manohar.

Oskarsson, Patrik (2010) The law of the land contested: Bauxite mining in tribal, central India in an age of economic reform, PhD dissertation, School of International Development, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK, accessed at on September 2, 2011.

PRS Research (2010) “The Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010”,, 2000, “Fernandes’s flirtation with LTE is ominous for Sri Lanka”, December 7,

Robinson, Nick (2010) “The Judiciary: Hard to reach”, Frontline 27: 3, January 30,

Roy, Biren (1996) ”Archana Guha’s Fight for Justice”, Economic and Political Weekly XXXI, 31: 2069, , August 3.

Sasikumar, Karthika (2010) “State Agency in the time of the global war on terror: India and the counter-terrorism regime”, Review of International Studies 36: 615-38.

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SECURITY COUNCIL, ANTI-TERRORISM RESOLUTION; Resolution 1373, Dated 28/09/2001, see e.g.

Shankar, Shylashri (2009) Scaling Justice. India’s Supreme Court, Anti-Terror Law, and Social Rights, New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

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[i]  To be added: India Today article from 1995.

[ii] I attended some of the court meetings in the lower court in Hillerød and some of the meetings in the High Court in Copenhagen and I also monitored press coverage of the case to some extent.

[iii] The MI5 and the MI6 may have worked at cross-purpose in dealing with Holck. I hope to be able to add details later. See also Kyrø (2010).

[iv] Holck and Bleach both had previous experience from Africa and the Purulia Arms drop bears resemblance to African cases, in particular to the failed attempt in 2004 of British mercenary Simon Francis Mann to overthrow the President of Equatorial Guinea with the help of a group of mercenaries in order to install another President to gain access to the country’s oil wealth (

[v] On Fernandes, see Asian Age 1999, Gokhale 1999, 2000, and Wikipedia. The Sri Lankan Tamil groups, including the Tamil Tigers, also received weapons and training from the Indian army in the early 1980s (Madsen 1996: 176). Later the Indian air-force airdropped food as humanitarian relief for the beleaguered Tamils in Jaffna. Sri Lanka vociferously protested this blatant violation of Sri Lankan airspace but in this case India chose to help the Tamils rather than abiding to the principle of national sovereignty.

[vi] See India Today (1996) for an overview of weapon routes in India.

 [vii] Other relevant legal case from Denmark would include the Danish resistance groups to whom the British air force dropped weapons during WWII. In the legal aftermath to the war, these resistance fighters were found non-culpable. The Danish police, who were charged with stopping them, were also found non-culpable (oral communication, Mads S Jakobsen). Contemporary cases of ostensibly legal self-defense include the authorization given to the CIA to kill US-born Anwar al-Awlaqi. He was killed in a drone strike in Yemen in September 2011. For an extended  analysis of the right to intervene in other countries, see Walzer 1977, chapter 6.

[viii] A similar schism between Indian laws and British values were used by lawyers and politicians during the independence movement to dislodge the British.

[ix] Another comparison has been made between Justice Krishna Iyer and Tom Bingham, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales (Raghavan 2010).

[x] See Singh (2010) for a glib attempt to deploy social science, in casu subaltern studies, to modern international law. For a recent study on mining politics, see Oskarsson (2010) who is puzzled by the fact that “Some fundamental rights have become established to the point where it is very difficult to change them, and land for tribal people seems to be one such right” (Oskarssson 2010: 239). The reason, again, is legal and political activism.

[xi] See the Interpol notice for Dawood Ibrahim at

[xii] The appeal procedure was moot point in the court proceedings. I am referring here to a brief conversation I had with Ijaz Khan, the Indian CBI official present. The position also emerges from the High Court verdict, page 4.

Osama bin Laden og Ayman al-Zawahiri i Afghanistan og Pakistan

De to terrorister, som jeg vil fokusere på, er Osama bin Laden (født 10. Marts 1957 i Jiddah i Saudi Arabien, død 2. maj 2011) og i mindre omfang Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri (født 19. Juni 1951 i Cairo i Egypten).

Fælles for disse to terrorister er, at de har opholdt sig meget længe uden for deres hjemlande. Osama bin Ladens spin på dette faktum er en sammenligning af hans eget liv med profetens. Ligesom Muhammad pendulerede mellem Mekka og Medina under sit hijra, har bin Laden været i eksil i Afghanistan (Bergen s. 161). Profeten endte med at opnå politisk kontrol over sin hjemegn. Bin Laden har endnu ikke opnået dette, men han har forsøgt at gøre Muhammad kunststykket efter.

Med moderne øjne ligner bin Ladens og al-Zawahiris rejsevirksomhed turistens eller globetrotterens i og med at de frivilligt har rejst til fremmede lande på flere længere rejser. Ligesom nogle turister tillægger deres rejser et altruistisk formål kan bin Ladens og al-Zawahiris tidlige ophold i Pakistan blandt afghanske flygtninge karakteriseres som en solidaritetsrejse. Det var gennem deres udviklings- og rehabiliteringsarbejde, hvor bin Laden bidrog som organisator og pengemand og Dr. Al-Zawahiri arbejdede som anæstesi læge, at de opbyggede den hird af kamptropper, som senere blev al Qaida. Deres altruistiske rejse til et sted i det fremmede udmøntede sig altså til en verdensomspændende kamp. Fra 2001 har de prominente arabiske gæster udgjort en stadig større risiko for deres værter i Afghanistan og Pakistan. Bin Laden og al-Zawahiri har hver en FBI dusør på 25 millioner dollar på deres hoved.

At yde statsligt eller ”privat asyl” til eftersøgte personer er ikke uproblematisk. ”Asyl til alle” stod der malet på nogle mindre installationer foran DR byen i København, da jeg cyklede forbi den 6. September. Nogle gæster på længerevarende tålt ophold – som Karl Marx i London – er måske fredelige i deres daglige færden på kort sigt. Opfordringen til at give ”asyl til alle” er måske endnu mere problematisk når princippet udstrækkes til personer som Bin Laden og Zawahiri er fordring er måske mindre klog i tilfældet bin Laden og Zawahiri.

I dette paper forsøger jeg at  angribe disse spørgsmål i klassiske Simmelske termer gennem et studie af forholdet mellem gæster og værter, som opstår, når de indfødte i et eller omfang inkorporerer fremmede, der kommer som turister, solidaritetsarbejdere, hellige krigere, guruer eller asylsøgere med henvisning til forfølgelse. Naturligvis er hverken Bin Laden og Zawahiri den gængse type turist eller udviklingsarbejder.  Alligevel vil jeg her gøre et forsøg på at anskue deres liv og levned i mere universelle og samtidigt ganske hverdagsagtige termer. Vi lever i standardiserings tidsalder, hvor teknologiske produkter og økonomiske processer vurderes ud fra fælles homogeniserede målestokke.[i] Hele kulturer og livsverdener holdes op imod hinanden og sammenlignes som man sammenligner æbler og pærer. Jellingestenen, Tingvellir, Geirangerfjorden, og det sydlige Öland er alle kulturhistoriske og naturhistoriske perler opført på Unesco’s standardiserede World Heritage liste. Så hvorfor ikke se på bin Ladens og Zawahiris liv og levned i skæret af turisternes eller udviklingsarbejdernes eller antropologernes? Ligesom antropologer forlod bin Laden og Zawahiri deres relativt sikre liv i storbyen for at slå sig ned i yderkanten af civilisationen for at bære vidne om forholdene dér og hermed lade omverdenen forstå dialektikken mellem center og periferi.


Osama bin Laden og al-Zawahiri har i de sidste mange år været utilgængelige for vestlige journalister og forskere. I marts 1997 interviewede journalisterne Peter Bergen og Peter Arnett og fotografen Peter Jouvenal Osama bin Laden i Afghanistan. Et foto af denne begivenhed findes i Peter Bergen’s The Osama bin Laden I Know med undertitlen An Oral History of al Qaeda’s Leader. I denne bog samler Bergen egne og andres indtryk af mennesket bin Laden til et kalejdoskopisk livsforløb. Det er bemærkelsesværdigt at meget få afghanere har bidraget til bogen. Den pakistanske journalist Hamid Mir giver sit besyv med. Han er den eneste fritstående journalist, der har interviewet bin Laden efter 11. September. Derudover stammer de repræsentationer af bin Laden, som Bergen viderebringer, mest fra saudier, egyptere og andre arabere, samt fra enkelte vesterlændinge. Billedet af bin Laden tegnes således ikke af de folk, som han har boet iblandt i mange år nemlig afghanerne og pakistanerne. Disse subalterne folk, hvis liv er påvirket af deres arabiske gæster, høres næppe i Bergens bog.

Lawrence Wrights monumentale bog Al Qaida. Vejen til 11. September er ligesom Bergens journalistisk, men Wright formår på en sjælden måde at flette de utallige oplysninger, som han baserer sin bog på, sammen til én lang fortælling om de skæbner, der krydsedes 11. September 2001. Desuden har Wright i et par artikler i The New Yorker formået at give et interessant indblik i Zawahiris liv og levned.

Til trods for at Osama bin Laden og al-Zawahiri har været utilgængelige i en årrække har de ikke været tavse. Deres foretrukne kommunikationsmåde har været videoer produceret af al Qaidas eget propagandaapparat al-Sahab (Skyerne.)[ii] Jeg vil kun i begrænset omfang henvise direkte til disse produktioner. I det følgende vil jeg især benytte Bergen og Wright som kilder.

Fremmede på længerevarende feltarbejde

Antropologiens adelsmærke siges at være det længerevarende feltarbejde. Nu omstunder har antropologer ikke længer tid til unødigt at forlænge afstanden mellem tanke og faktura, men idealet blandt rigtige antropologer er stadig at bo i mindst ét år blandt de fremmede i det fremmede. Det har Zawahiri og bin Laden også gjort. Ligesom antropologer og andre på længevarende feltarbejde har de dermed fået den rolle, som den tyske sociolog Georg Simmel benævnte ”strangers”:

The stranger is thus being discussed here, not in the sense often touched upon in the past, as the wanderer who comes today and goes tomorrow, but rather as the person who comes today and stays tomorrow. He is, so to speak, the potential wanderer: although he has not moved on, he has not quite overcome the freedom of coming and going. He is fixed within a particular spatial group, or within a group whose boundaries are similar to spatial boundaries. But his position in this group is determined, essentially, by the fact that he has not belonged to it from the beginning, that he imports qualities into it, which do not and cannot stem from the group itself (Simmel).

Den fremmede var i Simmels analyse en ”objektiv” person, fordi vedkommende kunne bevare en vis distance. Den fremmede har ofte vundet folks tillid, men han er også blevet udsat for mistænksomhed: ”In uprisings of all sorts, the party attacked has claimed, from the beginning of things, that provocation has come from the outside, through emissaries and instigators” (Simmel).

Hvis lange ophold er mistænkelige i de lokales øjne, er lange fravær mistænksomme i hjemlandets øjne. Antropologer med lange fravær bag sig er ofte blevet beskyldt for at have ”gone native”, at have mistet deres oprindelige identitet. Længerevarende ophold i det fremmede sætter den fremmedes loyalitet over for sit oprindelige hjemland på en prøve. Både bin Laden og Zawahiri er kommet på kant med deres hjemlande. Zawahiri havde allerede været involveret i statsfjendtlige aktiviteter, før han kom til Pakistan for første gang. Bin Laden fik meget lang snor fra Saudi Arabien, som støttede hans projekter, men den Saudiske kongefamilie (som havde gjort bin Ladens far hovedrig) endte med at fratage Osama hans statsborgerskab i 1994 ligesom hans familie samme år (eller først efter 11. September?) slog hånden af ham. På trods af at den fremmede med års udlændighed bag sig kan opnå en privilegeret ”objektiv” position, ses vedkommende ofte på med blandede følelser i både sine gamle og sine nye omgivelser.

Efter Sovjetunionens invasion i Afghanistan i 1979 øgedes antallet af signifikante udlændinge i Afghanistan. Afghanerne blev stillet over for et valg mellem de fremmede. Nogle afghanere allierede sig med Sovjetunionen; andre førte modstandskamp i samarbejde med både Vesten, Pakistan og den øvrige muslimske verden. Ifølge Bergen var en af årsagerne til at bin Laden besluttede at danne egne arabiske enheder i stedet for at lade frivillige indsluse i afghanske enheder, at bin Laden ville forhindre, at de arabiske frivillige blev inddraget i indre afghanske stridigheder eller ”political games” (Bergen, s. 29). Strategien må siges at være mislykkedes: Saudierne og de fleste andre arabere bibeholdt ganske vist en grad af etnisk og social eksklusivitet, men de mistede deres ”objektivitet” og blev inddraget i afghanske modsætninger i den grad, at der opstod et ”Great Game” om loyalitet og indflydelse. Bergen fremhæver to akser: Palæstinenseren Abdullah Azzam, som blev bin Ladens guru, da han først kom til Pakistan, opnåede tidligt en forståelse med den afghanske krigsherre Ahmad Shah Massoud. Zawahiri derimod skabte en tæt forbindelse til krigsherren Gulbuddin Hekhmatyar. Azzam blev myrdet i 1989. Bergen er tilbøjelig til at tro, at Hekhmatyar og Zawahiri lå bag mordet på Azzam (Bergen, s. 93). Hekhmatyar og Massoud forblev fjender indtil Massoud blev dræbt af al Qaida udsendinge 9. September 2001. Forløbet viser at The Great Game om magten over Afghanistan startede allerede kort tid efter at de fremmede var ankommet til regionen, og at spillet delte såvel de lokale som de fremmede. De fremmede kunne ikke oparbejde den neutralitet, som udefrakommende, ifølge Simmel, kan erhverve sig.

Deltager-observation: Deltagelse

Antropologers foretrukne arbejdsmetode er kendt under navnet deltager-observation og bygger på idéen om at man bedst lærer at forstå et samfund ved at indlogere sig tæt på de lokale for at kunne deltage i dagligdagen. De færreste antropologer er vant til at arbejde i marken og det er derfor ofte begrænset hvad de i praksis får udrettet som deltagere (Ovesen 1988: 93). Som terrorist og guerilla-soldat er der desuden naturlige grænser for i hvor høj grad man kan tillade sig at deltage i omgivelsernes daglige aktiviteter. På den anden side er det ifølge Mao kendetegnende for den effektive guerillaenhed, at den oppebærer en høj grad af kontakt med det omgivende værtssamfund: ”the guerrilla must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea” eller i en anden oversættelse ”The people are like water and the army is like fish” (Mao i Aspects of China’s Anti-Japanese Struggle fra 1948).

Bin Laden var blandt de første arabere, som kom til Pakistan for at hjælpe afghanske flygtninge efter Sovjetunionen gik ind i Afghanistan i julen 1979. Flere tusinde arabere fulgte efter, men på et givet tidspunkt var det kun nogle få hundrede til stede. De fleste arbejdede som nødhjælpsarbejdere (Bergen s 63). Kun et mindretal var soldater. Nogle var på meget korte ophold, hvad en saudisk journalist kaldte ”Jihad vacation” (Bergen s. 41), hvor mere eller mindre velbemidlede entreprenante arabere valgte at tilbringe en kortere periode i farlige omgivelser ligesom turister, der gerne vil være de første på et eftertragtet sted før stedet bliver ødelagt af masseturisme (jf. Damm 1995).

Moderne hensynsfuld eller bæredygtig turisme søger at regulere tilstrømningen og afstrømningen, så den er i overensstemmelse med de lokale forhold. Indtil han blev dræbt i 1989 gjorde Abdullah Azzam et stort arbejde med at kanalisere arabere og andre ind i systemet via et kontor i Peshawar kaldet Services Offices (Bergen s. 92). Som helhed må man dog nok sige, at trods Azzams og bin Ladens organisatoriske evner har mujahideen-markedet været et ret dårligt reguleret marked. Jeg husker selv en dag i begyndelsen af 1992, hvor jeg skulle lave et opkald fra hovedpostkontoret i Peshawar i Pakistan. Postkontoret var fuldt af radikale ”brødre”, der ringede hid og did for at få kontakt med andre ”brødre”, som ofte ikke anede hvem de talte med – et problem der forstærkedes af at alle dengang som nu opererede under en række pseudonymer. Der var allokerings-problemer i mujahideen-sektoren. Det er måske ikke usædvanligt, når folk bevæger sig langt væk hjemmefra. Når studerende tager på feltarbejde ender de oftest et sted, hvor de kan skaffe kontakter gennem deres netværker (deres lærere eller deres medstuderende eller deres arbejdspladser) snarere end et sted tilsagt af faglige overvejelser.

Det har oftest været eksterne faktorer, som har nedjusteret antallet af frivillige og hellige krigere. Iran har aldrig været opmarchland for hellige krigere på samme måde som Pakistan. I lang tid var der stort set fri passage i Pakistan, men efter 11. September begyndte Pakistan at tynde ud i antallet af fremmede krigere. I FATA ledte Pakistans øgede pres på al Qaida efter 2001 til sammenstød mellem pashtuner indbyrdes om hvor lange veksler usbekere og andre skulle kunne trække på gæstevenskabet og den fælles kamp mod de vantro.


Hvad angår indkvarteringsforhold for de fremmede lader der til at have været tre hovedformer:

Gæstehuse i byer for de nyligt ankomne eller etablerede islamister under udnyttelse af byernes relative anonymitet[iii]

Pensionatslignende former hvor lokale stormænd og krigsherrer – tilskyndet af en kulturel fordring om grænseløs gæstfrihed – tillader udenlandske krigere at bo, arbejde og måske endog at indgå ægteskab lokalt under deres beskyttelse, ofte formodentlig mod pekuniære eller militære modydelser

Befæstede militærlejre i mere eller mindre afsidesliggende områder ofte udelukkende beboet af arabiske krigere

De tre typer kan kombineres: For så vidt som privatpersoner tilbyder hellige krigere  gratis logi, således som Zawahiri har opfordret til, sparer organisationen penge, der ellers skulle have brugt på at leje eller købe egnede opholdssteder.[iv] Hvorom alt er muliggør to af disse bosættelsesformer en grad af deltagelse i det omgivende samfund: Gæstehus-logerende og stormands-gæster kan i visse tilfælde bevæge sig omkring og dermed deltage i det omgivende samfundsliv. Alligevel har de færreste fremmede krigere lært sig pakistanske eller afghanske sprog. Dette gælder også al Qaidas ledere. I sin tale til de pakistanske folk i august 2008 medgiver Zawahiri, at han ikke har lært det charmerende sprog Urdu trods sine mange års ophold i området. Det må have gjort det svært for ham at kommunikere med afghanere og pakistanere, som i reglen ikke forstår hverken talt eller skrevet arabisk. For at nå ud til pakistanerne talte Zawahiri engelsk, hvilket han beklagede. Man må dog lade Zawahiri, at han allerede tidligt nærmere sig afghanerne ved at bære afghansk klædedragt. De udenlandske krigere, som har været flittigst ti at lær lokale sprog er måske usbekerne i FATA, hvoraf mange siges at have lært sig pashtoo. Dette kan hænge sammen med at de har haft tættere relationer til deres værter igennem længere tid.

Udenlandske krigere i lejre kan beskrives som rene ”ex-pat kolonier”. Disse lejre har formodentlig været ydmyge på trods af at bin Laden i tråd med sin entreprenør-baggrund har brugt mange penge på at udbygge infrastrukturen. I kapitel 3 ”From Donor to Holy Warrior” nævner Bergen lejren nær landsbyen Jaji, som var bin Ladens første base i det østlige Afghanistan oprettet 1986-7 (altså et par år før al Qaida blev dannet) kun ti mil fra grænsen til Pakistan. Lejren kaldtes al Masada, Løvernes Hule. Sammenlignet med de ca. 170.000-250.00 afghaneres, som selv bekæmpede Sovjetunionens soldater, var de arabiske soldaters indsats symbolsk, men eftersom bin Laden regnede de arabiske soldater for mere modige, fordi de bevidst søgte martyriet, regnede han en araber for mere værd på slagmarken end en afghaner. Løvernes Hule var således et tidligt eksempel på en ren arabisk lejr.

Hvor Azzam, ifølge Bergen, ville sprede araberne, ville bin Laden at de skulle danne egne enheder. Allerede i 1984-85 var (nogle i) Services Office bevidst om at etablere særskilte gæstehuse for arabere. Bergen citerer algiereren Boudejema Bounoua for at have sagt:

”We have founded this bureau to gather the Arabs and to send them inside Afghanistan instead of going to the guesthouse of [someone like Afghan leader Gulbuddin] Hekmatyar. It’s better to save them from the political games of Afghans. So we need to stay in separate guesthouses. We are here as servants. We are proud to serve the boots of the mujahideen inside Afghanistan. We are not here to guide them, to tell them what to do. We are here to serve them, to liberale their land”. (Bergen p. 29).

I tiden omkring det amerikanske angreb på Tohra Bohra cirkulerede i blandt andet den danske presse historier om befæstede luksuriøse hulebyggerier dybt i bjergets indre. Bergens portræt af Jaji og senere lejre underbygger ikke disse rapporter om luksus. I den årrække, hvor Taliban var ved magten i det meste af Afghanistan, levede bin Laden og hans nærmeste dog et noget mere komfortabelt og sikkert liv som Mullah Omars gæster i Kandahar. Bergen (?) refererer således et besøg aflagt af en gæst, som var i stand til at gå helt ind i bin Ladens gemakker, fordi der ikke var nogen hjemme. Mens han boede i Kandahar var Bin Laden i stand til at tage på udflugter for at skyde fugle eller han kunne tage familien med på picnic, hvor konerne og børnene fik mulighed for at lave lidt ”simple physical exercises” (Bergen, s. 266). Hvilken form for gymnastik de lavede melder Bergen ikke noget om, men eftersom bin Laden havde gået i en fin skole kan man formode, at han havde lært almindelig gymnastik dér. Dertil kom at bin Laden på udflugterne oplærte sine koner i brugen af skydevåben.

Bergens beskrivelser tegner et billede af en ret så kedelig hverdag udlevet i afsondring fra det omgivende samfund. De TV-billedsekvenser vi alle har set, hvor bin Laden ses omgivet af sine skydegale mænd, er i virkeligheden undtagelser. Interviews med vestlige journalister har været få og kortvarige og mit nedtryk er, at bin Laden og Zawahiri heller ikke har frekventeret al-Sahah studiet særligt ofte. Bergen kalkulerer, at bin Laden og Zawahiri har produceret et lydbånd eller videotape hver 6. uge efter 11. September (Bergen, s. 377). Mit gæt er, at de to topterrorister oftest har haft en ret indholdsløs dagligdag med ret få møder, men dog afbrudt af relativt hyppige besøg af beundrere. De to ledere har i hvert fald ikke været gjort til genstand for en større offentlig daglig kult med lange taler og parader. Lederne er i stedet blevet projiceret enten via de trykte og elektroniske medier eller gennem personlige møder. En undtagelse var Osamas søns bryllup, hvor 4-500 gæster (de fleste fra al Qaida og ikke fra Taliban) var inviteret til Kandahar i begyndelsen af 2001. Bin Ladens bidrag til festen for sønnen Muhammad var et lille digt, som næppe vil sikre ham en plads i den orientalske poesis annaler (Bergen, s. 256). Man kan indvende mod denne argumentation, at bin Laden nødvendigvis afstår fra offentlige fremtrædener af sikkerhedshensyn. Det medgiver jeg, men Tv-produktioner er i sig selv også en sikkerhedsrisiko. Bergen er af den opfattelse, at det bedste spor til bin Laden er al-Jazeeras kontor i Pakistan (Bergen, s. 377).

Observation og teori

Flere af de ”tidligt-moderne” muslimske erobrere af al-Hind var gode observatører. Mest berømte var stormogulerne. Dynastiets fremtrædende mænd førte detaljerede dagbøger, hvori de beskrev flora og fauna og meget andet i deres nye omgivelser. Senere britiske erobrere og koloniembedsmænd var banebrydende etnografer, historikere og naturhistorikere. Nutidens arabiske gæster i regionen har indtil videre ikke udvist et lignende talent. Jeg vil hævde, at den stive form for Islam, de har bragt med sig, står i vejen for både observation af og teoridannelse om omgivelserne. Dertil kan man indvende at det eneste form for observation og teori, som militære ledere kan forventes at befatte sig med, er viden direkte relateret til krig og terror og at de arabiske gæster har været innovative på dette område.[v] Ikke desto mindre vil jeg argumentere for, at de teorier eller verdensbilleder, som bin Laden og Zawahiri tog med sig i felten, har bidraget til at befæste deres teoretisk fattigdom selv i de sydasiatiske omgivelser, som kunne give anledning til eftertanke.

Rationaliseringen (forstået i Webers forstand forstået som de måder systematisk tænkning i får samfundet til at rykke fremad) af Islam er ikke særlig vellykket på trods af en stor indsats for at udforme religionen til en konsistent samling påbud og forbud. Zawahiri og bin Laden har af og til forsøgt at underbygge deres aktioner med fatwaer udstedt af religiøse autoriteter for derved at skabe et konsistent handlingsgrundlag, men sådanne blåstemplinger oftest har de udstedt deres egne fatwaer. At gængse autoriteter inden for religionen ofte ikke støtter al Qaida, fortolkes af al Qaida som et udtryk for at disse autoriteter er korrupte. Som det ofte er tilfældet i Islam ender intern debat derfor ofte i gensidige beskyldninger om at modparten ikke er muslim, men en fredløs frafalden (Bergen, s. 74). Denne teoretiske dead-end har medvirket til at isolere al Qaida.

Zawahiri er ellers rundet af en veluddannet familie. Hans slægt tæller en lang række læger og flere skolede teologer. Zawahiri begyndte sin revolutionære karriere i sit hjemland, men tog ligesom bin Laden tidligt til Pakistan. Zawahiri og hans bror Mohammad var tilknyttet gruppen Al Jihad. Da de begyndte at rekruttere deres landsmænd til den afghanske jihad kom de hurtigt på kollisionskurs med ægyptere fra den Islamiske Gruppe (Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya):

Before long, representatives of the Islamic Group appeared on the scene, and once again the old rivalry flared up. Osama Rushdi, who had known Zawahiri in prison, told me that he was shocked by the changes he found in him. In Egypt, Zawahiri had struck him as polite and modest. “Now he was very antagonistic toward others,” Rushdi recalled. “He talked badly about the other groups and wrote books against them. In discussions, he started to take things in a weird way. He would have strong opinions without any sense of logic.” (Wright 2002)

Zawahiri har som nævnt skrevet to bøger. Disse er begge nedslag i den standende debat om den hellige krigs principper. Hans anden bog blev skrevet for at gendrive den dybdeborende kritik af Zawahiri og af al Qaida, som Dr Fadl (egentlig Imam al-Sharif) havde fremført. De to kendte hinanden fra medicin-studiet i Cairo og de havde arbejdet sammen i Peshawar i Røde Halvmåne efter begge at have været involveret i terrorisme i Ægypten. Wright skriver:

Fadl held a low opinion of Zawahiri’s abilities as a surgeon. “He asked me to stand with him and teach him how to perform operations,” Fadl told Al Hayat. “I taught him until he could perform them on his own. Were it not for that, he would have been exposed, as he had contracted for a job for which he was unqualified.”

In the mid-eighties, Fadl became Al Jihad’s emir, or chief. (Fadl told Al Hayat that this was untrue, saying that his role was merely one of offering “Sharia guidance.”) Zawahiri, whose reputation had been stained by his prison confessions [efter mordet på Sadat havde Zawahiri under tortur og manipulation forrådt en af de eftersøgt], was left to handle tactical operations. He had to defer to Fadl’s superior learning in Islamic jurisprudence. The jihadis who came to Peshawar revered Fadl for his encyclopedic knowledge of the Koran and the Hadith—the sayings of the Prophet (Wright 2008a).

I 1988 udgav Fadl The Essential Guide for Preparation en håndbog i jihad, som blev flittigt brugt af al Qaida. Argumentet heri lød:

”The “Guide” begins with the premise that jihad is the natural state of Islam. Muslims must always be in conflict with nonbelievers, Fadl asserts, resorting to peace only in moments of abject weakness. Because jihad is, above all, a religious exercise, there are divine rewards to be gained. He who gives money for jihad will be compensated in Heaven, but not as much as the person who acts. The greatest prize goes to the martyr. Every able-bodied believer is obligated to engage in jihad, since most Muslim countries are ruled by infidels who must be forcibly removed, in order to bring about an Islamic state. “The way to bring an end to the rulers’ unbelief is armed rebellion,” the “Guide” states” (Wright 2008a).

I 1994 begik Fadl The Compendium of the Pursuit of Divine Knowledge, som også er en opfordring til jihad mod snart sagt alle afvigere, herunder muslimer som ekskommunikeres af andre muslimer med henvisning til doktrinen om takfir (Wright 2008a). Zawahiri var yderst tilfreds med denne bog, men han redigerede i den uden forfatterens tilladelse. Blandt andet ændrede han titlen til Guide to the Path of Righteousness for Jihad and Belief og fjernede Fadls kritik af den Islamiske Gruppe, fordi Zawahiri på det tidspunkt var ved at tilnærme sig gruppen. Fadl afslørede Zawahiris manipulationer og fjendskabet mod dem forøgedes til højder, som er akademikere værdigt: ”Zawahiri and Fadl have not spoken since, but their war of words was only beginning”.

I de følgende år tog stadig flere gamle ægyptiske jihadister afstand fra jihad, dels af pragmatiske runde – de ville alligevel ikke vinde – dels af ud fra mere etiske overvejelser. Lange fængselsstraffe og lange debatter i fængslerne bidrog til denne proces. 11. September satte yderligere skub i disse overvejelser, som udmundede i bekendelser, hvor jihadister (som e.g. Karam Zuhdy, en Islamic Group leder) tog afstand fra deres fortid: ”Zuhdy publicly apologized to the Egyptian people for the Islamic Group’s violent deeds, beginning with the murder of Sadat, whom he called a martyr” (Wright 2002).

Fadl selv blev efter 11. September anholdt i Yemen og overflyttet til et ægyptisk fængsel, hvor han stadig befinder sig. Herfra har han fra 2007 udgivet en række revisionistiske artikler startende med “Rationalizing Jihad in Egypt and the World” som udkom på 10-års dagen for massakren på turister i Luxor. Hermed følger Wrights lange opsummering af Fadls argument:

The premise that opens “Rationalizing Jihad” is “There is nothing that invokes the anger of God and His wrath like the unwarranted spilling of blood and wrecking of property.” Fadl then establishes a new set of rules for jihad, which essentially define most forms of terrorism as illegal under Islamic law and restrict the possibility of holy war to extremely rare circumstances. His argument may seem arcane, even to most Muslims, but to men who had risked their lives in order to carry out what they saw as the authentic precepts of their religion, every word assaulted their world view and brought into question their own chances for salvation.

In order to declare jihad, Fadl writes, certain requirements must be observed. One must have a place of refuge. There should be adequate financial resources to wage the campaign. Fadl castigates Muslims who resort to theft or kidnapping to finance jihad: “There is no such thing in Islam as ends justifying the means.” Family members must be provided for. “There are those who strike and then escape, leaving their families, dependents, and other Muslims to suffer the consequences,” Fadl points out. “This is in no way religion or jihad. It is not manliness.” Finally, the enemy should be properly identified in order to prevent harm to innocents. “Those who have not followed these principles have committed the gravest of sins,” Fadl writes.

To wage jihad, one must first gain permission from one’s parents and creditors. The potential warrior also needs the blessing of a qualified imam or sheikh; he can’t simply respond to the summons of a charismatic leader acting in the name of Islam. “Oh, you young people, do not be deceived by the heroes of the Internet, the leaders of the microphones, who are launching statements inciting the youth while living under the protection of intelligence services, or of a tribe, or in a distant cave or under political asylum in an infidel country,” Fadl warns. “They have thrown many others before you into the infernos, graves, and prisons.”

Even if a person is fit and capable, jihad may not be required of him, Fadl says, pointing out that God also praises those who choose to isolate themselves from unbelievers rather than fight them. Nor is jihad required if the enemy is twice as powerful as the Muslims; in such an unequal contest, Fadl writes, “God permitted peace treaties and cease-fires with the infidels, either in exchange for money or without it—all of this in order to protect the Muslims, in contrast with those who push them into peril.” In what sounds like a deliberate swipe at Zawahiri, he remarks, “Those who have triggered clashes and pressed their brothers into unequal military confrontations are specialists neither in fatwas nor in military affairs. . . . Just as those who practice medicine without background should provide compensation for the damage they have done, the same goes for those who issue fatwas without being qualified to do so.”

Despite his previous call for jihad against unjust Muslim rulers, Fadl now says that such rulers can be fought only if they are unbelievers, and even then only to the extent that the battle will improve the situation of Muslims. Obviously, that has not been the case in Egypt or most other Islamic countries, where increased repression has been the usual result of armed insurgency. Fadl quotes the Prophet Muhammad advising Muslims to be patient with their flawed leaders: “Those who rebel against the Sultan shall die a pagan death.”

Fadl repeatedly emphasizes that it is forbidden to kill civilians—including Christians and Jews—unless they are actively attacking Muslims. “There is nothing in the Sharia about killing Jews and the Nazarenes, referred to by some as the Crusaders,” Fadl observes. “They are the neighbors of the Muslims . . . and being kind to one’s neighbors is a religious duty.” Indiscriminate bombing—“such as blowing up of hotels, buildings, and public transportation”—is not permitted, because innocents will surely die. “If vice is mixed with virtue, all becomes sinful,” he writes. “There is no legal reason for harming people in any way.” The prohibition against killing applies even to foreigners inside Muslim countries, since many of them may be Muslims. “You cannot decide who is a Muslim or who is an unbeliever or who should be killed based on the color of his skin or hair or the language he speaks or because he wears Western fashion,” Fadl writes. “These are not proper indications for who is a Muslim and who is not.” As for foreigners who are non-Muslims, they may have been invited into the country for work, which is a kind of treaty. What’s more, there are many Muslims living in foreign lands considered inimical to Islam, and yet those Muslims are treated fairly; therefore, Muslims should reciprocate in their own countries. To Muslims living in non-Islamic countries, Fadl sternly writes, “I say it is not honorable to reside with people—even if they were nonbelievers and not part of a treaty, if they gave you permission to enter their homes and live with them, and if they gave you security for yourself and your money, and if they gave you the opportunity to work or study, or they granted you political asylum with a decent life and other acts of kindness—and then betray them, through killing and destruction. This was not in the manners and practices of the Prophet.” ….

The most original argument in the book and the interview is Fadl’s assertion that the hijackers of 9/11 “betrayed the enemy,” because they had been given U.S. visas, which are a contract of protection. “The followers of bin Laden entered the United States with his knowledge, and on his orders double-crossed its population, killing and destroying,” Fadl continues. “The Prophet—God’s prayer and peace be upon him—said, ‘On the Day of Judgment, every double-crosser will have a banner up his anus proportionate to his treachery.’ ” (Wright 2008a)

Zahwahiris svar kom i form af et 200-sider langt ”brev” med titlen The Exoneration, Frikendelsen. Heri fremturer Zawahiri mod Islams mange indre og ydre fjender, men han kommer også ind på de argumenter Fadl rejser punkt for punkt:

To dispute Fadl’s assertion that Muslims living in non-Islamic countries are treated fairly, Zawahiri points out that in some Western countries Muslim girls are forbidden to wear hijab to school. Muslim men are prevented from marrying more than one wife, and from beating their wives, as allowed by some interpretations of Sharia. Muslims are barred from donating money to certain Islamic causes, although money is freely and openly raised for Israel. He cites the 2005 cartoon controversy in Denmark and the celebrity of the author Salman Rushdie as examples of Western countries exalting those who denigrate Islam. He says that some Western laws prohibiting anti-Semitic remarks would forbid Muslims to recite certain passages in the Koran dealing with the treachery of the Jews (Wright 2008).

Wright ender med at påpege hvad ham kalder Islams ”rotten intellectual bits and pieces”:

Zawahiri’s argument demonstrates why Islam is so vulnerable to radicalization. It is a religion that was born in conflict, and in its long history it has developed a reservoir of opinions and precedents that are supposed to govern the behavior of Muslims toward their enemies. Some of Zawahiri’s commentary may seem comically academic, as in this citation in support of the need for Muslims to prepare for jihad: “Imam Ahmad said: ‘We heard from Harun bin Ma’ruf, citing Abu Wahab, who quoted Amru bin al-Harith citing Abu Ali Tamamah bin Shafi that he heard Uqbah bin Amir saying, “I heard the Prophet say from the pulpit: ‘Against them make ready your strength.’ ” ’ Strength refers to shooting arrows and other projectiles from instruments of war.” And yet such proofs of the rightfulness of jihad, or taking captives, or slaughtering the enemy are easily found in the commentaries of scholars, the rulings of Sharia courts, the volumes of the Prophet’s sayings, and the Koran itself. Sheikh Ali Gomaa, the Egyptian Grand Mufti, has pointed out that literalism is often the prelude to extremism. “We must not oversimplify,” he told me. Crude interpretations of Islamic texts can lead men like Zawahiri to conclude that murder should be celebrated. They come to believe that religion is science.”

The War on Terror er måske ved at være slut i dens nuværende fase. The War on Error er ikke slut. Hvis Zawahiri er en teoretisk forarmet stivstikker kan det samme så siges om bin Laden eller har bin Laden nogle formidlende karaktertræk?

Bin Ladens formidlende karaktertræk?: Ydmyghed

Bin Ladens far var en meget succesfuld entreprenør. Han fik ca. 54 børn, hvoraf flere er veluddannede. Osama fuldførte ikke selv en længerevarende boglig uddannelse. I sine yngre år i Peshawar var han ret så tavs. Til gengæld giver Bergens kilder indtryk af, at bin Laden var i stand til at lytte. Han var ikke anmassende og han forsøgte ikke at overdøve andre: ”… he carried himself in a very low-key kind of way; he wasn’t a fire-breathing terrorist, he comported himself like a cleric”, bevidner Bergen baseret på sit møde med bin Laden i 1997 (Bergen s. 182). Netop derfor, mener jeg, har arabiske frivillige, som ønskede at indrullere sig i al Qaida, opsøgt ham i stort tal. En tunesisk ex-foldboldstjerne ved navn Nizar Trabelsi husker således, hvordan bin Laden småsnakkede med ham om hans familie og sine problemer, da Trabelsi fik foretræde (Bergen, s. 269-70). Bin Laden var tillige gavmild og afviste aldrig nogle selv når hans pengepung var ved at være tom, hvilket faktisk hændte (Bergen, s. 267, 56).[vi] Abdul Jandal ræsonnerede: ”I believe that God raised Osama bin Laden to a high status because despite his great wealth, he was very modest, and attached only to what rewards God would give him” (Bergen, s. 267). Bin Laden overbeviste eller forførte med andre ord potentielle rekrutter gennem sine talegaver og sit vindende væsen (Bergen, s. 265). Efter potentielle rekrutter var gået i nettet allokerede bin Laden dem så til de sine operationelt aktive underordnede.

Bin Ladens families levestandard beskrives som jævn og på ingen måde prangende. Da Mullah Omar tilbød bin Laden et valg mellem to steder at bo i Kandahar valgte bin Laden stedet med færrest faciliteter og uden rindende vand (Bergen, s. 194). Bin Ladens børn lignede alle andre: ”You wouldn’t believe it – they’re kids running around in old clothes”, husker Noman Benotman, en libisk kriger (Bergen, s. 175). Den datter, som på et tidspunkt rapporteredes at gå rundt i stramme jeans i selve lejren, melder Bergens bog ikke noget om.

Er denne type leder genkendelig? Mig minder disse beskrivelser af bin Laden om indiske gurus, som ofte sætter en ære i ”simple living” samtidig med at de ikke lægger skjul på, at de fra deres plads på periferiens Archimedes-punkt er i stand til uden de store armbevægelser at bevæge hele verden (jf. Nanda 2009, s. 80?). Indere opsøger ofte sådanne personer for at ”få deres darshan”, i.e. for at få del i deres spirituelle kraft ved at se på dem og ved at dvæle i deres nærvær. Bin Laden lader til at have noget af den samme karismatiske tiltrækningskraft. Bin Ladens evne til at lytte, small-talke og bedåre ændrede imidlertid ikke hans grundlæggende teori. Hans sociale kompetencer lader ikke til at have forøget hans intellektuelle kapital ret meget. Problemet i den måde bin Laden fremtræder – som en ydmyg uskyldig other-wordly asket der har forsaget sin fædrene rigdom – er, vil jeg hævde, at denne fremtrædelsesform ikke rimer med, at han samtidig stræber efter noget der nærmer sig verdensherredømme gennem brug af terror. Al Qaedas storhedstid hvad angår terroraktioner internationalt ligger i årene og til 11. September 2001. Efter den tid har al Qaida ikke kunnet gennemføre lignende aktioner uden for Afghanistan og Pakistan, men de har kunnet sprede frygt og rædsel over den ganske jord. At sprede frygt og rædsel og at ville herske over andre gennem terror rimer ikke med at være en ydmyg asket uden personlige ambitioner.

Dobbeltheden i bin Ladens karakter kom frem i en video, der viser ham modtage en gæst i Jalalabad i november 2001 (Bergen, s. 282-3). Bin Laden beretter for gæsten, at han havde forventet mindre ødelæggelse i New Yorks tvillingetårne end der faktisk skete. På videoen er selskabet meget fornøjede over, at det gik bedre end bin Laden havde regnet med. En dansk kommentar til synet af dette selskab var: ”Cykeltyve i jakkesæt”. Jeg mener det er en rammende kommentar: ”Jakkesæt” fordi selskabet bestod af disse pæne lidt ældre herrer. ”Cykeltyve” fordi det de havde gang i var kriminelt.

 Symbiose eller snylteri?

Ifølge Bente Wollfs studie af turisme på den indonesiske ø Nias forsøger værter at inkorporere gæster i deres samfund ved at indbyde dem til at bo og spise i deres store huse, som dermed omdannes til hoteller. Derved overfører de velbeslåede turister en del af deres rigdom til værterne, og samtidig opnår de lokale familier kontrol med de fremmede, som ellers kan virke farlige: “the enemy on the road is the guest in the house“ (Wolff 1999, kapitel 4). Gæster kan imidlertid være vanskelige at håndtere. I Afghanistan og Pakistan kan det være svært at afgøre, om al Qaida har levet i symbiose med sine værter eller om de fremmede har været en form for parasitter.

En god gæst bringer ikke sin vært i unødig fare, men skønt Mullah Omar flere gange bad/forbød bin Laden om ikke at foretage terroraktioner rundt om i verden ud fra sin base in Afghanistan fortsatte bin Laden sine aktioner uden at koordinere med Mullah Omar (Bergen, s. 161). Således indviede han tilsyneladende ikke Mullah Omar om 11. September på forhånd. Resultatet af aktionen var at Taliban blev væltet og Mullah Omar mistede sit emirat. I den forstand har al Qaida været en parasit, som har sat sig på sin vært.

Et lignende billede tegner fotografen Steve McCurry, som tog det berømte National Geographic billede af en afghansk pige med lysende grønne øjne. Idet han modstillede sit eget forhold til afghanerne med arabernes, gav McCurry sine værter og de andre gæster følgende skudsmål:

”The Afghans are really friendly people, and I could basically just kind of walk around with one person, even unarmed. For the [Arabs] to come in and act as though it was their war, their country, and they were treating the Afghans like they were just these sort of uneducated, uncouth, illiterate sort of bumpkins [who] didn’t really get it. These guys, they’re really, really nasty and very aggressive and very condescending, and just hateful. And the Afghans, actually it was their country being basically slowly destroyed, and they were often very good-humored” (Bergen, s. 89).

Bergens bog leverer andre eksempler på ødelæggende arabisk fremfærd. For eksempel betalte bin Laden på et tidspunkt i 1980erne pakistanske folkevalgte store bestikkelser for at de skulle afgive et mistillidsvotum mod Benazir Bhutto i Pakistans lovgivende forsamling. Benazir Bhutto reagerede på denne uhørte fornærmelse af en gæst på tålt ophold med at smide bin Laden ud af landet.

Bin Laden var tilbage i Afghanistan i 1996 og indgik et samarbejde med Mullah Omar, hvor bin Laden leverer penge og krigere mod til gengæld at få frie hænder som ”honored guest” (Bergen, s. 160-1). Mullah Omar lovede, ifølge Bergen, måske bin Laden at han aldrig ville udlevere ham (Bergen s. 164). I den forstand var Mullah Omar sin egen kulturs fange bundet af gæstevenskabet bud. Ifølge den pakistanske journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai sagde Mullah Omar:

”I know I can’t fight the Americans, but if God helps me I will survive. I don’t want to go down in history as someone who betrayed his guest. I am willing to give my life, my regime; since we have given him refuge, I cannot throw him out now” (Bergen, s. 315).

I dette udsagn fremtræder Mullah Omar nærmest som fritaget for strafskyldighed pga sine pashtunske æresbegreber. Indespærret i sin kultur kan han ikke andet end holde hånden over bin Laden. Men havde Mullah Omar ingen brikker at rykke med? Mullah Omar taler arabisk. Skønt han kender meget lidt til verden som helhed er han dermed bekendt med i det mindste én kultur udover sin egen afghanske. Det skulle vel sætte ham i stand til at se sagen fra flere sider (som han i øvrigt også blev opfordret til af sin Udenrigsminister Wakil Ahmeh Muttawakil). Men hvad hvis de brikker, som Mullah Omar havde at rykke med, bestyrkede ham i hans adfærd? Problemet her er, at de arabiske og de afghanske samfund ligner hinanden ikke blot hvad angår religion som sådan, men også hvad angår social struktur og psykologi. Som ”soulmates” (Bergen, s??) indgår de let i et symbiotisk forhold.

Mange afghanere og arabere deler således en vis dødsforagtende fandenivoldsk antiautoritær oprørskhed. Afghanistan eller Pashtunernes land er blevet betegnet som Land of Insolence. “Insolence” betyder “uforskammethed“, eller ifølge The Concise Oxford Dictionary “ offensively contemptuous, insulting“. Afghanistan er i denne udlægning Yaghestan, The land of Rebels, eller med Louis Dupres ord ”Land of the Unruly, the Land of the Free and the Land of Insolence” (Dupres 1997). Det er samme egenskab, som Wright finder hos Zawahiri, der som dreng blev tilbudt et lift på vej hjem fra skolen af Egyptens vicepræsident og efter sigende afslog med ordene, “Vi vil ikke have et lift af en mand, der tog del i de domstole, der dræbte muslimer” (Wright, 2002, s. 55). Wright ser her et tidligt eksempel på Zawahiris hårdnakkede trodsighed, personlige frygtløshed og totale selvretfærdighed. De samme egenskaber genfindes blandt pashtunske ledere. For eksempel fremhæver Muhammad Ilyas Khan den nu afdøde Taliban-leder Nek Muhammad’s karaktertræk i en artikel indledt med ordene:

With his Byronic good looks and proud tribal mien, Nek Mohammad fearlessly cruises the rugged South Waziristan landscape in the company of his infamous guests as the hapless administration looks on. Just how does he do that?
Nek Muhammad ”proud tribal mien” viste sig også allerede i skolealderen, hvor han kom på kant med læreren og forlod klassen med en mine som om han ville vende tilbage for at dræbe læreren.[vii]

Så er Mullah Omar culpabel, hvis man medgiver at vært og gæst langt hen ad vejen bestyrker hinanden i deres reaktionsmønstre? At gæsten bragte værten Mullah Omar til fald tyder på gæsten var parasit og værten inculpabel. Omvendt er fælles kultur et godt moralsk og juridisk dække for kriminelle handlinger udført i gensidig forståelse.


Bergen, Peter 2006 The Osama bin Laden I Know. An Oral History of al Qaeda’s Leader, New York, Free Press.

Damm, Inge,1995, De nye turister. Eventyrere eller vandaler?, Fremad.

Muhammad Ilyas Khan, Nek Muhammad Wazir, Monthly Herald

Nanda, Meera, 2009, The God Market: How Globalization is making India more Hindu.

Ovesen, Ja, 1988, ”Gæsten og storpolitikken: Dialog med Pashai-folket i Afghanistan”, s. 87-110 i Kirsten Hastrrup og Kirsten Ramløv (red.), Feltarbejde. Oplevelse og metode i etnografien, Akademisk forlag.

Simmel, Georg, From Kurt Wolff (Trans.) The Sociology of Georg Simmel. New York: Free Press, 1950, s. 402 – 408, snuppet fra

South Asia News, ”Al-Zawahiri urges Pakistanis to support Taliban”, July 15, 2009.

Wolff, Bente, 1999, Extending the Self: Otherness in Cosmology adn Consumption, PhD, National Museum of Denmark and Institute of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen.

Worth, Robert F, “Al-Qaeda’s Inner Circle”, anmeldelse af Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, i New York Review of Books, October 19, 2006, s. 12-6.

Wright, Lawrence, 2008a ”The Rebellion Within, An Al Qaeda mastermind questions terrorism”, The New Yorker, 2. June 2008.

Wright, Lawrence 2008b Al-Qaida. Vejen til 11. September, København, People’s Press.

Wright, Lawrence, ”The Man Behind Bin Laden: How an Egyptian doctor became a master of terror.” New Yorker, September 16, 2002,

[i] Tilføj re Lawrence Busch….

[ii] Zawahiri har forfattet to bøger. Den første fra 1980 bærer titler Knight under the Prophet’s Banner (Riddere under profetens fane). Se i øvrigt for arbejder af og om Zawahiri og for tilsvarende værker af og om bin Laden. Begge sider er forældede. Gilles Kepels og Jean-Pierre Milellis, Al Qaeda in its own wordsb har jeg desværre ikke konsulteret.

[iii] For eksempel, ”When bin Laden first came to Peshawar, he stayed at Azzam’s guesthouse”, (Wright 2002).

[iv] ”It is the individual duty of every Muslim in Pakistan to join the mujahideen, or at the very least, to support the jihad in Pakistan and Afghanistan with money, advice, expertise, information, communications, shelter and anything else he can offer”, ”Al-Zawahiri urges Pakistanis to support Taliban”, South Asia News, July 15, 2009.

[v] Spørgsmålet om videnskab generelt og militær teknologi specifikt er taget op af blandt andre Bernard Lewis med sigte på Osmannerne.

[vi] Ifølge Wright mistede bin Laden en stor del af sin formue under sit ophold i Sudan, hvor al Qaida transformeredes fra at være en terrororganisation til i højere grad at være et landbrugsudviklingsprojekt. Da bin Laden forlod Sudan var han angiveligt stort set pengeløs (fra Worth 2006: 16).

[vii] Jeg er klar over at Bin Laden ifølge nogle kilder ofte afholdt sig fra kamp, hvilket ikke underbygger argumentet om udbredelsen af denne noget hysteriske mandlige form for dødsforagt; se dog Bergen, s. 55-6 om bin Ladens heltemod.

Some thoughts about the background to the recent events in Urumchi from a sociolinguist’s point of view

Joakim Enwall Associate Professor Chinese Language and Culture Department of Linguistics and Philology Uppsala University

July 12, 2009


The history of Xinjiang is characterised by its position as a transit area for peoples, languages, arts, religions and commercial products. Drastic changes have occurred at many times in its history, as one constellation of the above-mentioned factors has superseded another, but most of these processes of change have been relatively drawn out, often occurring in a time span of several hundred years. Although China has had strong influence in the area since the centuries preceding the Common Era, at least during quite long periods, it is only after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China that this influence has manifested itself in a massive immigration of Han Chinese into the area.

Historical and political overview

In the last years of the 18th century the Eastern Turkestan area was incorporated into the Qing Empire under the name of Xinjiang or “New Dominion”. This was part of a policy of expanding the empire to the areas, which had at some point in history been part of China. The notion of being part of the Middle Kingdom was, however, rather vague, and referred both to areas having been under tight Chinese political and economic control and to former tributary states. Qing officials or ambans were instituted in Xinjiang, and by use of military force the Chinese managed to keep the area as a part of China in spite of several severe cases of rebellion against the Chinese rulers. During the last decades of the 19th century the surrounding powers, Great Britain in India and Russia, initiated political manipulations to increase their respective influence in the area, a process which later became known as the Great Game. The Chinese Empire was getting weaker and the Russian interests temporarily gained the upper hand in Xinjiang.

The linguistic situation around 1900

In the Qing administration there were two official languages, Manchu and Chinese, but Xinjiang was not an area well integrated into the ordinary administrative structure. It was more of a strategic colonial rule, like in Tibet, and the linguistic policies of the empire had but peripheral influence on the majority of the population. In the same way as in most parts of Central Asia, Persian was a widespread language both in the field of administration, in commerce and in literature, and in the religious sphere Arabic played an important rule. Uyghur – at that time not yet defined as Uyghur – was, however, the sole language of communication for the vast majority of the population.

During the first decades of the 20th century the bulk of the literature in Uyghur consisted of hand copied manuscripts and a few lithographed books, produced in Tashkent, Samarkand and Bukhara. Apart from works related to Islam and moral themes, there was a great number of romantic and heroic tales, often modelled on Persian originals (Jarring 1979). Only a minority of the population was literate, but there was also a strong tradition of oral literature, which before 1949 was passed on from generation to generation. Nowadays, this tradition is virtually extinct.

The Uyghur revival

The traditional way for a person later defined as an Uyghur to define himself was “Turk” or, alternatively, as originating from one of the major oases “qäshqärliq”, “khotänlik” or “turpanlik”. At a conference held in the 1920s in Almaty it was decided that the term Uyghur be reintroduced for designating the people believed to be the offspring of the Uyghurs who established their empire in western Mongolia in the 8th century. This usage spread to Xinjiang in the 1930s.

The orthography was standardised by Mr. G. Ahlbert of the Swedish Mission Press in his spellingbook for the language of the six cities, published by the Swedish Mission Press in Kashgar in 1929. A few years later the strict orthographic principles and particularly the rules for spelling Arabic loanwords as well as the ways of rendering the Uyghur vowels varied considerably between the authors and publishers of Uyghur language texts.


The demographic changes 1950-1980

According to the census of 1953, two years after Xinjiang was incorporated into the People’s Republic, the number of Uyghurs was 3.6 million, the Han Chinese numbered 300.000 and the other ethnic groups approximately 930.000, of which the Kazak constituted two thirds. For many of the Kazak and Kirghiz, Uyghur was the lingua franca, and it may well be concluded that the use of Chinese was limited to provincial administration and military affairs. Other contacts, including commercial and technical, had been more focused on the Soviet Union than on China proper, and this is clearly reflected in the amount of Russian loanwords in Uyghur as compared to that of Chinese loanwords.

Starting in the early 1950s, large groups of Chinese farmers, demobilised military personnel and intellectuals were sent to Xinjiang in order to construct the new society. The peasants and former soldiers were organised in the bingtuan-system, or para-military colonies, which reminds of the tuntian-system, introduced to Xinjiang by the Chinese 2000 years earlier. These bingtuan-units were established as self-sustaining militia groups around the Taklamakan desert, and apart from being in charge of developing cotton farming by using the water of the Tarim River for irrigation, they were also to serve as a deterring force against possible rebellions among the minority population. Large groups of military personnel were sent into the area, especially after the break up between China and the Soviet Union, and many of them stayed on after their military tasks were completed. The third group, the intellectuals, took charge of the authorities and the schools, and thereby exerted a large impact on the cultural development of Xinjiang. During the Cultural Revolution, red guards entered the area and began propagating the new rules for societal life, which included drastic changes as an imposed pig raising policy for the Muslims. The results of this immigration can be seen in the 1982 census. The number of Uyghurs had increased to 5.9 million, an increase of 63%, while the Han Chinese population reached 5.3 million, thus an increase of 1660% in 29 years. The other ethnic groups showed an increase of some 96%, amounting to a total of approximately 1.8 million in 1982. This process has since then slowed down in percentages, but not in actual numbers of people. A further complicating factor is the large group of retired intellectuals, consisting both of those who were originally sent in the 1950s for developing the area, and of those exiled after the anti-Rightist campaign of 1958 and during the Cultural Revolution. After 1979 many of these chose the option to return to China proper, and also in some cases to resume their original positions at institutions of higher learning and in administration. At the same time, in connection with the abolishment of the People’s Communes and the reorganisation of state enterprises, huge groups of young people became out of work, and some of these found their way to Xinjiang.

Early Chinese minority language policies

Due to the semi-independent status of Xinjiang from the fall of the Qing dynasty until the establishment of the People’s Republic of China minority language policies was not a major concern of the Chinese authorities in Xinjiang. It was more of a struggle for keeping the province within the country and not allowing either the British or the Russians t
o take over. After 1949 the Chinese communists rapidly brought Xinjiang back into the central administration, after it had been semi-independent under the rule of Chinese governors since 1911.

Since the beginning of the 1950s small scale experiments with Cyrillic-based script for the minorities in Xinjiang were carried out. In the Soviet Union the larger ethnic minority groups of Xinjiang were also represented, including the Uyghurs, and in the 1940s Cyrillic-based orthographies for these languages had been devised. The use of Cyrillic in Xinjiang would as well facilitate cross-border contacts within these ethnic groups, but with the deteriorating atmosphere between China and the Soviet Union, such contacts were no longer seen a desirable, but as harmful. In 1958 the Committee for Writing Reform was set up and in 1959 a proposal was put forward. The minority language authorities launched a Latin-based system for Uyghur with 33 letters. Its origins are, however, to be sought in the pre-1958 minority language work, as the orthography contains letters and diacritics which are not present in the 1958 version of the Hanyu Pinyin scheme. Starting from the early 1950s, hundreds of scholars and field-workers had been engaged in a huge project of devising and reforming the writing systems of the ethnic minority groups in China. During the first years of this work, no strict common principles were applied for the choice of possible graphemes, and several proposed orthographies for various languages contained both Latin letters, Cyrillic letters and newly invented graphemes. The latter were mainly borrowed from the Latin-based orthographies used for minority languages in the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1958 the People’s Congress of China approved the Hanyu Pinyin Scheme as the official transcription system for Chinese, and consequently the orthographies for minority language should follow the same spelling principles and contain the same graphemes. However, for Uyghur no such change was carried out and Arabic writing remained in use until the mid-1960s, when the Latin-based yengi yezik was introduced.

In 1958, the anti-Rightist campaign was launched, and as minority languages were generally considered a bourgeois remnant in the Chinese society, most of the work which had been carried out in the 1950s was seen as useless at best, and many collections of folk literature were destroyed. Evening courses for making the peasants literate in their own language were also cancelled. From 1958-1962 between 60,000 and 120,000 Uyghurs fled from Xinjiang to the Soviet Union. After the famine of the early 1960s a few years of relative stability followed, and during this time a few publications in Uyghur appeared. In 1966, however, the Cultural Revolution was launched, and most of the minority intellectuals who had survived the establishment of the People’s Republic and the anti-Rightist campaign, were then purged. Unlike many minority languages, the Uyghur language had been kept as an official language in Xinjiang, although only few publications appeared during the years of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Minority languages were used almost exclusively for printing translations of works by Chairman Mao and other political publications.

At school, however, both the Arabic script and the yengi yezik were used in parallel, but in 1976 the Revolutionary Committee of Xinjiang decided to make the yengi yezik the only official script for Uyghur. According to information received by Gunnar Jarring in 1978, over half of the population used the yengi yezik at that time, and all official publications appeared in that script (Jarring 1979). Although this new orthography never received wide-spread support it was taught at school until the mid-80s, and it is still used in some publications as an “auxiliary transcription system”, a face saving device of the Chinese authorities. After the reintroduction of the Perso-Arabic script what resulted from the experiment with yengi yezik was virtually a whole lost generation for literacy in Uyghur, as only a part of those who learnt yengi yezik at school later learnt the Perso-Arabic script.

Socio-economic changes after 1980

The political reforms of the early 1980s were followed by radical economic reforms in the mid-80s. Earlier redistribution systems were abolished according to the policy that some areas should become rich first and thereby trigger economic development in the poorer areas. The immediate consequence was an increasing poverty in the areas situated far away from the coast and the big cities, and Xinjiang was one of the regions worst hit by this reform. The local authorities dealing with minority language works were supposed to finance their activities on local revenue, which was scarce or non-existent.

At the same time, the petroleum industry in Xinjiang developed rapidly and this lead to an influx of Chinese workers for the oil wells in the Taklamakan desert. As the oil companies had no trust in the Uyghur population they exclusively employed Han Chinese from the Inland provinces. With increasing unemployment in China a so-called floating, i.e. unregistered, population appeared, and at present its size is estimated to over 150 million. Some of these have sought luck in China’s minority areas, including Xinjiang, and after the resettlement program in connection with the Three Gorges Project, the number of Han Chinese coming to Xinjiang is on the raise. They settle mainly in the Bayangol prefecture, the Urumchi area, and in Dzungaria.

Revival of minority language work

After the third plenary session of the 11th Party Congress in 1979, the former minority policies in China were to be revived, much according to the principles of the early- and mid-1950s.

In 1984 the Arabic-script-based system was reintroduced, and after the orthographic reforms of 1985 it remains unchanged to this day.

The influence of Russian is still very much present in Uyghur and from the principles of coining new words it can be seen that the loanwords from Russian have been well integrated into Uyghur.

Tightening up – new policies after 1994

In the 1980s the Chinese way of living gained ground in Xinjiang and in cities like Urumchi, Kashgar and Khotan typical phenomena of Chinese society like pop music, Karaoke bars, beer drinking and a focus on making money had a heavy impact on the lives of young Uyghurs. There was also an increased interest in mastering the Chinese language, which was a necessary tool for gaining access to the new cultural and societal phenomena. This inevitably led to a clash with traditional values of the Uyghur society, but many older people also saw this as an inevitable consequence of modernity. Nonetheless, since the mid-80s, some radical Islamist groups were formed, and some even went for military training in Afghanistan. Upon their return they initiated sabotage activities and even outright rebellions, albeit on a small scale. Nonetheless, the support for these activities seems to have been quite small among Uyghurs in general. As the Chinese state reacted to these terrorist activities, their measures were over-dimensioned for the purposes they wanted to achieve. After the meeting of the Ethnic Affairs Commission in December 1994, measures like closing down madrasas and strict control of Friday prayer contents made the general opinion shift. The young people who had earlier wholeheartedly embraced the Chinese culture turned to Islam, stopped frequenting Chinese bars and dance halls and started attending the prayers in the mosques. On this, the Chinese reacted with even stronger measures against Islam, and the gap between the two halves of the population was further widened.

Many educated Chinese do not any more feel safe in the area, and as
they can usually get work in China proper they leave the area. This, however, does not lead to a decrease of the Chinese population, as their numbers are well compensated through the influx of non-educated Chinese, who cannot find jobs in China proper.

The response of the Uyghur intellectuals has more often than not been a reinterpretation of the history of Xinjiang (Gladney, 1998). The Uyghurs are seen as the original inhabitants of the area as early as the first centuries BC and as little knowledge about the ancient ethnic setting is available in contemporary Xinjiang, this myth spreads unchallenged. It has also made the local authorities more sensitive about research on the pre-Uyghur ethnic groups of Xinjiang, as the findings could “lead to ethnic contradictions” (yinqi minzu maodun). As long as the present ethnic setting is not challenged, the authorities generally tolerate publications in this field. Sometimes, however, the local government has prohibited historical works in this genre, as for example the famous three books “üch kitap” by Torghun Almas, which were actually published during the years of relative opening up prior to 1989, but later collected and burnt. These books dealt with Uyghur history, Uyghur literature and the history of the Huns respectively. After the prohibition all Uyghur intellectuals were urged to criticise these books in articles in Uyghur newspapers and journals in order to reach the Uyghur readers as well.

The publication activities in Uyghur have, however, increased during the 1990s, though only in the field of strictly controlled works. Apart from the Uyghur Publishing House in Kashgar, books in Uyghur are published by nine publishing houses in Xinjiang as well as by the Nationalities Publishing House in Peking. The total number of titles in Uyghur for the year 1998 was approximately 700 according to the provincial authorities, but at the Uyghur Publishing House in Kashgar the number 876 was given for that publishing house only, with an average edition of 5000. Out of these 70% were original works in Uyghur and 30% translations, mainly from Chinese.

In higher education, this is even more evident, where only few subjects, like the minority language itself, and the minority literature itself are taught in the minority language. The system of schooling of ethnic minority children outside the autonomous regions was introduced in 1987, with the Beijing Tibet High School. The students are recruited mainly from poor families and the students are given the preferential treatment of free high school education. A similar system with schools in twelve Chinese cities for Uyghur children was established in 1997. This kind of system has earlier proven most efficient in training cadres on higher level at the Central Institute for Nationalities (now renamed Central University of Nationalities) in Beijing. Interesting historical parallels are also to be found in the devshirme system for the dhimmi groups in Ottoman times and in the special boarding schools for American Indians in the US and for the Saami in Sweden.

Since the establishment of the Xinjiang classes, the number has increased from 12 to 27, and the total enrolment is over 5000 (Xinjiang ribao wang, 2007-02-14). For the future development, there are plans to enlarge the number of bilingual preschools, and the target is set at 258,000 Xinjiang ethnic minority preschoolers in 2010 (Renmin ribao haiwaiban: 2006-10-12). A further result is that the Uyghur teachers also have to pass exams in Chinese in order to keep their employment at the schools (Xinjiang ribao wang: 2006-07-11).

Concluding remarks

The present situation is characterised by an intensified conflict and a societal division between Han Chinese and Uyghurs, which in many ways reminds of a traditional colonial setting, and which contains many political complications. Unless a significant change is brought about regarding the economic, religious and cultural conditions of the Uyghurs, this tense situation is not likely to change, and hard-core groups will probably gain further support among the Uyghur population. The recent events show that the situation is already on the point of boiling over and it seems unlikely the measures implemented by the authorities will decrease the tension between the two major population groups, the Uyghurs and the Han Chinese, in Xinjiang.


Dillon, Michael. 1995. Xinjiang: Ethnicity, Separatism and Control in Chinese Central Asia. Durham East Asian papers, 1. Durham: Department of East Asian Studies, University of Durham.

Dreyer, June Teufel. 1976. China‘s Forty Millions: Minority Nationalities and National Integration in the People’s Republic of China. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.

Enwall, Joakim. 1999. “Towards a Sociolinguistic History of Sinkiang”. Return to the Silk Routes: Current Scandinavian Research on Central Asia. Edited by Mirja Juntunen & Birgit N. Schlyter. London: Kegan Paul International, pp. 119-131.

Gladney, Dru S. 1998. “Internal Colonialism and the Uyghur Nationality: Chinese Nationalism and its Subaltern Subjects”. Cemoti – Cahiers d’études sur la Méditerranée orientale et le Monde Turco-iranien, no 25, pp. 47-63.

Jarring, Gunnar. 1979. Åter till Kashgar: Memoarer i nuet. Stockholm: Bonniers.

—-. 1991. Prints from Kashghar: The Printing-office of the Swedish Mission in Eastern Turkestan. History and Production with an Attempt at a Bibliography. Stockholm: Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul. Transactions, vol. 3.

Mackerras, Colin. 1994. China’s Minorities: Integration and Modernization in the Twentieth Century. Hong Kong: Oxford University Press.

Renmin ribao haiwaiban [People’s Daily, Overseas Edition], 2006-10-10. “Xinjiang ‘shuangyu’ jiaoyu cong wawa zhuaqi” [Xinjiang’s bilingual education starts with small children].

Rudelson, Justin Jon. 1997. Oasis Identities: Uyghur Nationalism Along China’s Silk Road. New York: Columbia University Press.

Xinjiang ribao wang [Xinjiang Daily Net], 2006-07-11. “Atushi xingqi xue Hanyu re” [Artush excited by Chinese language studying fever].

Xinjiang ribao wang [Xinjiang Daily Net], 2007-02-14. “Xinjiang jinnian jiang you 5000 xuesheng fu neidi gaozhong jiuxue”.

The End is Near, But Has it really Finished?

President Rajapakse expressed in his Independence Day address to the nation that his was confident that the days of the LTTE were numbered and very few indeed. Kehelia Rambukawella in an interview with Asian Tribute, the internet based paper, a few days ago that it was of no importance to the government of Sri Lanka whether the LTTE supremo Prabhakaran was dead or alive.

The president may be right about the few remaining days of the LTTE being able to hold on to their last strong hold and their last piece of land. But counting Prabahakaran out as Rambukawella did in the recent interview with Asia Tribune is indeed a very bold statement. As long as Prabhakaran´s whereabouts are not known and there are no evident signs of s split within the LTTE as the strategy in the present situation there are no reasons to believe that Prabhakaran should not be alive somewhere and in case of apparent defeat by the military busy planning how to retaliate.

The LTTE has been defeated in regular battles, is has done before and so far the LTTE has always turned back to what they do best: Guerilla warfare and terror actions especially their notorious suicide bombings.

This time the LTTE may even add another instrument: Destabilization. The road for destabilization has already been paved by the government’s lack of funds and progress in development and reconstruction in the east. Delivering is not forthcoming. This issue has already been raised by the elected bodies in the east and is a cause for concern. The international community should pay attention to this concern raised by the elected bodies in the east.

Until the heart and minds of the common Tamil have been won over by the government it has not finished.

Karin Munkholm, MA history, former ceasefire monitor in Sri Lanka.

THE ATTACK ON MUMBAI By Stig Toft Madsen Lund University


The attack on Mumbai came after a series of terrorist acts in other Indian cities. Shortly after the attack, a hitherto unknown group, the Deccan Mujahidin, took the responsibility. Because the attack on Mumbai followed the attacks to which the similarly named Indian Mujahidin had owed responsibility, many commentators initially connected the two groups, tracing both of them to the better-known organisation called SIMI (The Students Islamic Movement of India).


With the discovery that the group had apparently reached Mumbai by sea and that they may have communicated in Punjabi (which is spoken by only a few Indian Muslims), the needle of suspicion started turning towards Pakistan. The lone surviving terrorist confirmed this track of thinking by apparently admitted that the whole team of gunmen had reached India from Karachi after receiving training by the Lashkar-e-Toiba. The Lashkar-e-Toiba has for many years been in the forefront of the jihad in Indian Kashmir. It is also suspected of having (or having had) strong links to the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI and to the al Qaida (Matzen 2008). Unlike the Taliban which thrives in Pashtun dominated areas, the Lashkar-e-Toiba has its headquarters close to Lahore in the Punjab.


Indian (and Russian) news media further submitted that Mumbai gangsters may have helped the team of attackers. Many of the gangsters in Mumbai have been smugglers with extensive contacts around the Arabian Sea (Sheth et al.1984, Sanghvi et al. 1984). This brought the name of Dawood Ibrahim back to the headlines. Dawood Ibrahim is strongly suspected of having organized the serial bomb attack in Bombay on March 12, 1993 and he is among the people that India demands that Pakistan extradite.


The locations of the explosions in 1993 in chronological order were:


Bombay Stock Exchange

Narsi Natha Street

A petrol pump near the Shiv Sena headquarter in Dadar

Gopal Nagar Worli, near the passport office

Madanpura, Nagpada

Air India’s building at Nariman Point

Century Bazar

Zaveri Bazar outside a well-known jeweller’s

Plaza Cinema, Dadar

Sea Rock Hotel

Centaur Hotel, near Santa Cruz airport

Centaur Hotel, Juhu,

and Machchimar Colony, Mahim (hand grenades)


These serial bombings were described as “The World’s Worst” by the Frontline magazine (Ramachandran 1993). Therefore, the present attack on Mumbai has awakened a range of memories in both the public mind and in the official mind in India.


This has lead Indians to speak of “India’s 9/11”.


The attack on the USA on September 11, 2001 was the first of its kind on US soil since Pearl Harbour. The attack on Mumbai on November 26 was not the first on its soil. In terms of causalities, the Bombay blasts in 1993 caused more fatalities. However, the notion of “India’s 9/11” does make sense for at least three reasons.



The attack on the USA on September 11, 2001 made the USA confront Pakistan, which for years had supported the Taliban regime that gave shelter to al Qaida in Afghanistan. The day after the attack, the ISI chief (who happened to be in Washington DC) was called to a meeting, where he faced Richard Armitage. Armitage demanded that Pakistan make its position on terror clear. Pakistan complied with USA’s demands and joined the war on terror. However, the Pakistani interpretation of what that meant focussed on al Qaida. The Taliban was not subjected to an all-out assault by the Pakistani military, and as regards the many jihadist groups found practically all over Pakistan, Pakistan did even less to curtail their activities. Nevertheless, Pakistan did scale down its subversive activities on its eastern sector, and from late 2002 onwards the relations between India and Pakistan markedly improved. The Pakistani election in 2008 promised further improvement. It is this improvement, which “India’s 9/11” may now jeopardize. Just as the USA talked tough to then ISI chief, India apparently was about to do the same to the current ISI chief until his visit to India was called off. Just as USA went on the offensive, Indian politicians came under pressure to act tough. Citing the US aerial attacks in the tribal areas of Pakistan, some Indians even demanded that India attack Lashkar-e-Toiba camps or other goals inside Pakistan. Despite the heightened tension between the two countries, their leaders have eschewed jingoism to a surprising extent. If the intention of the Lashkar-e-Toiba was to engender a war between India and Pakistan in order to give the Taliban and al Qaida a breather on the western front, the Lashkar has failed   (Deadline 2008; see also Ghosh 2008 and Rashid 2008).



The phrase “India’s 9/11” also makes sense in an entirely different way. The attack on the World Trade Centre hit many people hard because it took place on an iconic building in a metropolitan city killing and wounding people of diverse backgrounds, including the wealthy. Similarly, the attack in Mumbai hit iconic buildings in a metropolitan city killing and wounding people of diverse backgrounds, including the wealthy.


In Mumbai, the attack hit ordinary people at the main railway station (Victoria or Chhatapati Shivaji Terminus) journeying locally, along the Konkani coast, or into the Deccan. A Jewish institution was singled out for murder and mayhem.  Further, the attack was aimed at hotels and restaurants at Nariman Point and Colaba. Hotels and restaurants may attract the attention of terrorists, because the many unsuspecting people gathering there are easy targets. Moreover, at both the Taj, the Oberoi and in Café Leopold many guests were likely to be non-Indians.


Apart from offering potential high-value foreign victims, some buildings in themselves may attract terrorists. The pictures of the Taj at fire will stick in the minds of many people across the globe. The Taj is an institution closely connected with Bombay’s history over the past one hundred years.  Built by Jamsethji Tata, the hotel is now owned by Ratan Tata. The Tatas are Parsees from Iran, who made Bombay their home. As the article “The Taj and Swaraj” in its in-house magazine amply bears out, the hotel has hosted key events in Indian history right from its inauguration (Allen 1998). The staff at the Taj has included both Muslims and Hindus as senior managers. The family members of a senior manager residing at the hotel apparently lost their lives during the attack.


The Taj hotel is expensive, but its doors have generally been open for anyone not too scruffy. By contrast, the Oberoi chain has cultivated its own image of exclusivity a notch or two above the Taj chain (Sanghvi 2007). Riding on a bubble in the Indian economy, both have been able to charge more than comparable hotels in Shanghai or Bangkok (Henrik Lewis-Guttermann, pers. comm.).  Clearly, both hotel chains belong to the “Upper Crust” (Anonymous 2005).


Close to the Taj, Café Leopold was also attacked. Though much cheaper than the Taj, their clientele may overlap.  Writes Dipankar Gupta about the place:


“The terror is now over but will Colaba Causeway be the same again? Will Cafe Leopold still attract sailors from the docks, unhappy clerks and Konkani girls with flowers in their hair? …. Mumbai is cosmopolitan and modern in a way no other Indian city is. A liquor vend can be run respectably by a woman… When beer was quaffed secretly in Delhi, one could have it in the open in Mumbai. It was not necessary to go to a luxury hotel or doctor a health certificate to buy beer. It was always available in Mumbai’s signature “Irani” restaurants. Schoolboys, sporting a shadow on their upper lip, grew up fast in these unpretentious watering holes. Cafe Leopold was one of them…. “(Gupta 2008).


“Dining out in Bombay” (cf. Conlon 1998) has acquired a sad connotation, and liberal cosmopolitanism has suffered a blow similar to what happened in New York in 2001.



There is a third reason to consider the attack in Mumbai “India’s 9/11”.  In USA repeated intelligence failures allowed the hijackers to succeed. As detailed by Lawrence Wright, the FBI and the CIA rarely exchanged information “over the wall” that divided the two agencies. In India, the incompetence characterizing the response of the Indian state was plain for all to see. According to Edward Luttwak, it took 90 minutes for the Chief Minister of Maharashtra Vilasrao Deshmukh to call the Home Minister Shivraj Patil:


“Because Patil had no information of his own – a very peculiar situation for an interior minister anywhere – he put the key question to Deshmukh: How many commandos of the National Security Guard were needed? Deshmukh replied 200…. Patil had no competent staff to intervene to determine the right number, which was at least 1,000” (Luttwak 2008).


With some difficulty a plane was found in Chandigarh to fly the commandos from New Delhi to Mumbai. The commandos reached the scene of the attack at 7 AM, 9 ½ hours after the first reports of the attacks. It took an assorted force of police and military personnel several more days to neutralize the ten attackers. The political fallout of the poor response forced both the Chief Minister and the Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra to resign. In New Delhi, Patil also had to leave office. As in the United States of America, security failures have led the Government of India to initiate a reform process to improve performance. Time will show whether this will make a difference.


In conclusion: The attack on Mumbai does, indeed, bear comparison to the attack on the USA on September 11, 2001, but so far India’s response has not been proportionate to the attack it has suffered. Instead, it has been measured in accordance with India’s new role as a responsible super power, and muted in view of the danger that a confrontation with Pakistan may cause a full-scale conventional or nuclear war.


With thanks to Henrik Lewis-Guttermann for bringing a bundle of newspapers from India to Denmark.




Allen, Charles 1998 “The Taj and Swaraj”, The Taj Magazine 27, 1: 40-53.


Anonymous 2005 “”Married to the Taj”, Upper Crust 6, 4: 58-61.


Conlon, Frank F. 1995. “Dining Out in Bombay”, in Carol A. Breckenridge (ed.) Consuming Modernity: Public Culture in a South Asia World, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.


”Terror i Indien et forsøg på at få Indien i krig med Pakistan”, DR 2, Deadline, December 14.,  2008, 22:30,


Ghosh, Amitav ”India’s 9/11? Not Exactly”, New York Times, December 2, 2008,


Gupta, Dipankar “What We Have Lost”, The Times of India, New Delhi edition, December 1, 2008, p. 12.


Luttwak, Edward K “MIA in Mumbi. Indian officials, police and commandos must share the blame for mishandling the attacks”, Los Angeles Times, December 5, 2008,,0,7905913.story


Matzen, Jeppe “Islamister i fri dresser”, Weekendavisen, December 12, 2008, p. 10.


Ramachandran, VK “Blasts of Terror”, Frontline, April 9, 1993


Rashid, Ahmed “Are Mumbai attacks a chance of peace?”, BBC News, December 10, 2008,


Sanghvi, Vir Men of Steel, Roli Books, 2007


Sanghvi, Vir, Shirin Mehta, Hutokshi Doctor, Amrita Shah and M Amin “The World of The Smugglers”, Imprint, April 1984, pp. 23-27.


Sheth, Ketaki, Shirin Mehta, Vir Sanghvi, and Hutokshi Doctor “Will The Real Haji Mastaan Please Stand Up”, Imprint, April 1984, pp. 16-22.


Wright, Lawrence The Looming Tower. Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (many editions and translations)



PHOTO: The author (second from right) with fellow travellers in Colaba, January/February 1970.


Revised and enlarged December 21, 2008




By Stig Toft Madsen

Lund University

The attack on Mumbai last week came after a series of attacks on other Indian cities. Shortly after the attack, a hitherto unknown group “Deccan Mujahidin” took the responsibility. Because the attack on Mumbai followed the attacks to which the “Indian Mujahidin” had owed responsibility, many commentators initially connected the two groups, tracing both of them to the better-known organisation called SIMI (The Students Islamic Movement of India).With the discovery that the group of attackers had apparently reached Mumbai by sea and that they may have communicated in Punjabi (which is spoken by only a few Indian Muslims), the needle of suspicion started turning towards Pakistan. The lone surviving attacker confirmed this track of thinking by apparently admitted that the whole team of gunmen had reached India from Karachi after receiving training by the Lashkar-e-Toiba. The Lashkar-e-Toiba has for many years been in the forefront of the jihad in Indian Kashmir. It is also suspected of having (or having had) strong links to the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI and to the al Qaida. Unlike the Taliban, which thrives in Pashtun dominated areas, the Lashkar-e-Toiba has its headquarters close to Lahore in the Punjab.Indian news media further submitted that Mumbai gangsters may have helped the team of attackers as they landed on the shores in Mumbai. This brought the name of Dawood Ibrahim back to the headlines. Together with other smugglers, Dawood Ibrahim is strongly suspected of having organized the serial bomb attack in Bombay in March 1993, an attack which was described as “The World’s Worst” by the Frontline magizine The locations of these bombings in chronological order were:

Bombay Stock Exchange

Narsi Natha Street

A petrol pump near the Shiv Sena headquarter in Dadar

Gopal Nagar Worli, near the passport office

Madanpura, Nagpapda

Air India’s building at Nariman Point

Century Bazar

Zaveri Bazar outside a well-known jeweller’s store

Plaza Cinema, Dadar

Sea Rock Hotel

Centaur Hotel, near Santa Cruz airport

Centaur Hotel, Juhu,

and Machchimar Colony, Mahim (hand grenades)

In other words, the present attack on Mumbai has awakened a range of enemies of the state in the public mind and the official mind in India.

This has lead Indians to speak of “India’s 9/11”.

The attack on the USA on September 11, 2001 was the first of its kind on US soil since Pearl Harbour. The attack on Mumbai last week was not the first on its soil. In terms of causalities, the Bombay blasts in 1993 probably caused more death. However, the comparison does make sense for at least two reasons.

The attack on the US on September 11, 2001 made the US confront Pakistan, which for years had supported the Taliban regime that gave shelter to Al Qaida in Afghanistan. The day after the attack, the ISI chief (who happened to be in Washington DC) was called to a meeting where he faced Richard Armitage. Armitage demanded that Pakistan make its position on terror clear. Pakistan complied with US demands and joined the war on terror. However, the Pakistani interpretation of what that meant focussed on Al Qaida. The Taliban was not subjected to an all-out attack by the Pakistani military, and as regards the many jihadist groups found practically all over Pakistan, Pakistan did even less to curtail their activities. Nevertheless, Pakistan did scale down its subversive activities on its eastern sector, and from 2002 onwards the relations between India and Pakistan markedly improved. The Pakistani election this year promised further improvement. It is this improvement, which “India’s 9/11” may now jeopardize. Just as the US talked tough to then ISI chief, India apparently was about to do the same to the current ISI chief until his visit to India was called off. Just as US went on the offensive, Indian politicians are now under pressure to act tough.

The phrase “India’s 9/11” also makes sense in an entirely different way. The attack on the World Trade Centre hit many people so hard because it took place on an iconic building in a metropolitan city killing and wounding people of diverse backgrounds, including the wealthy. Similarly, the attack in Mumbai hit iconic buildings in a metropolitan city killing and wounding people of diverse backgrounds, including the wealthy.

In Mumbai, the attack hit ordinary people at the main railway station journeying to and from the Konkan or the Deccan. A Jewish institution was singled out for murder and mayhem. Further, the attack was aimed at hotels and restaurants at Nariman Point and Colaba. Hotels and restaurants may attract the attention of terrorists, because the many unsuspecting people gathering there are easy targets. At both the Taj, the Oberoi and in Leopold Café many guests were likely to be non-Indians. The terrorists apparently were out to kill Americans and the British. But apart from offering potential high-value targets, some buildings in themselves may attract terrorists.

The pictures of the Taj at fire will probably stick in the minds of many people. The Taj is an institution closely connected with Bombay’s history over the past one hundred years. Built by the Tata family, the Taj has hosted key events in Indian history right from its inauguration as the article “xxx” in its in-house magazine amply bears out. The Tatas are Parsees from Iran, who made Bombay their home. The staff has included both Muslims and Hindus as senior managers. Though the hotel is expensive, its doors have generally been open for anyone not too scruffy.

The Oberoi chain has cultivated its own image of exclusivity a notch or two above the Taj chain (Sanghvi 2007). In fact, both hotel chains belong to the “Upper Crust”. Together with the hapless travellers at the Victoria or Chhatapati Shivaji Terminus and the Jews, it is this upper crust, which was burnt. Dining out in Bombay has acquired a sad connotation.

November 30, 2008


Conlon, Frank F. 1995. “Dining Out in Bombay.” In Consuming Modernity: Public Culture in a South Asia World, edited by Carol A. Breckenridge. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Upper Crust, India‘s food, wine and style magazine 6:4, 2005Ramachandran, VK “Blasts of Terror”, Frontline, April 9, 1993

Sanghvi, Vir Men of Steel, Roli Books, 2007

Allen, Charles, “The Taj and Swaraj”, The Taj Magazine 27, 1:40-53