On 8th May, 2002, in Karachi, a suicide bomber rammed his car into a bus killing himself and 13 others including 11 French engineers working with Pakistan to design Agosta 90B class submarines for Pakistani Navy.
Al-Qaeda was blamed for the blast and according to the reports, later on one Sharib Zubair, who was believed to have masterminded the attack, was arrested. In 2003, two men were sentenced to death for the bombing by a Karachi court. There were several convictions in the case. In all, it was also taken as another addition to the blasts the Islamists executed in Pakistan.
Nevertheless, recently there have been speculations that the blast was political in nature. Now, the media reports suggest it was done in retaliation against French government cancelling the huge kickback it promised to offer to Pakistan in connection to a 1990s submarines deal between the two countries.
At the time, beating the rival offers by Swedish and German contractors, French defence contractor, the DCN, had succeeded to sell three Agosta-90B submarines for 825 million euros (an estimated $1.23 billion) to Pakistan. It was the second stint in power of Benazir Bhutto between 1993 and 1996 and her husband Asif Ali Zardari, now Pakistani president, was then a key minister in her cabinet.
The media reports talked about suspected widespread scam surrounding the deal and France ordered judicial investigation in the case.
As a result of the developments in the investigation of the case some official Pakistani documents have been found. According to the documents published by the French website Mediapart, Zardari benefited from massive, secret payments amounting to several millions of euros connected to the sale of French submarines.
However, with the change of government in France the payback was stopped. Increasing evidence suggests that the cancellation of the commissions, ordered by former French president Jacques Chirac, was decided after it was discovered they were in part re-routed back to France to fund political activities of Chirac’s principal political rival, Edouard Balladur.
In November 2010 a Pakistani newspaper wrote, “The implication is that he (Zardari), and key pals, organised the attack as an act of revenge over the stoppage of kickback payments after a change of government in France - a mafia-style action aimed to ensure that promises of kickbacks were not broken.”
Allegations against Zardari may or may not be true. But it least provides a logical point to the demands that a parallel investigation, to the assumption that every terror act must be handiwork of Islamic radicals, should be done. Islamic terrorism has been used as a scapegoat for political revenges.
Blasts politics has been in use also for creating divisions among different communities both in Pakistan and India. On his visit to India, once the general secretary of JUI and member of National Assembly of Pakistan, Hafiz Husain, was asked why Shi’ah and Sunni Muslims were engaged with each other in Pakistan. “We (the Shi’ah and Sunni) , at top level, try our best to live in peace, but they are the people (neither from Shi’ah community nor from Sunni) who carry out terrorism against the personalities and holy places of both the communities and the media successfully paint it as Shi’ah-Sunni conflict,” he replied.
The recent confession by RSS leader Swami Aseemanand too has that the blasts in Ajmer Dargah was aimed at diverting Hindu devotees from visiting the Dargah. While in the words of the union home ministry it was an attack by radical Salfi Muslims who are against Sufi Islam.
There is need to understand the harms of stereotyping Islamic terrorism. It not only shakes the confidence of a certain community in the government but also lets the self-interested terrorists rampage through the peaceful society.