Return to Transcripts main page


Suicide Bomb Targets Christians Celebrating Easter; Bel and Baalsham Temples Destroyed by ISIS; Examining India's Most Transformative Generation; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 28, 2016 - 14:00:00   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: crackdown in Pakistan, after Islamic militants carry out a brutal suicide bombing on

Christians in Lahore, killing 70 people and injuring hundreds more. And as the group threatens fresh violence, we get answers from Pakistan's

ambassador to the United Nations, Maleeha Lodhi.

Plus: the inside story of democracy in India.

Also ahead, hope among the ruins: Syria's elated antiquities chief joins me from Damascus, about recapturing the ancient city of Palmyra from



MAAMOUN ABDULKARIM, SYRIA'S DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF ANTIQUITIES AND MUSEUMS: Today I can confirm you that I am the happiest person in the




AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in New York.

An Easter Sunday slaughter in Lahore: the sounds of children laughing quickly turned into screams of sheer terror when a suicide bomber blew

himself up at their playground; 72 people are dead and hundreds more are wounded, many of them women and children.

Christians were the target, says Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a Pakistani Taliban splinter group, which has claimed responsibility for the attack. The

Pakistani army is on the hunt for the militants, saying they've already made several arrests and carried out raids in three different cities.

The prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, has canceled his upcoming trip to the United States this week and he's visited survivors at the hospital.

He's pledged to wipe terror from the country. But given the complicated and entrenched militant web there, it is an enormous challenge.


AMANPOUR: And joining me now is Maleeha Lodhi, the Pakistani ambassador to the United Nations.

Welcome, Ambassador.


AMANPOUR: First and foremost, do you even know who this group is?

Do you know what you're going after?

It's a splinter group.

LODHI: Yes. I think we have to put what happened -- the tragedy in my country right now is in mourning. But I can also tell you, Christiane,

my country is united in its resolve to deal with this, as the prime minister himself pointed out when he addressed the nation earlier.

But coming to the group, we in Pakistan have been in the final phase of an operation in what is called North Waziristan, one of the tribal

agencies. And we're in the final phase, because just about a month ago, we are went into what is called Shawal Valley. Shawal Valley is a very

treacherous terrain but, at the same time, a very important part of the final phase of the operation.


AMANPOUR: Are you saying they're under pressure and this is what's happening?

LODHI: Yes. So we believe that the militants are on the run. They're feeling the heat. And one of the things that they did was exactly

what you saw, which is to attack a soft target.

AMANPOUR: And do you agree that it was religiously motivated?

In other words, Christians were the target?

LODHI: Well, I think the important thing is that the militants themselves have no regard for any religion or any faith. And I think if

you look at the casualties that are mounting because of the Lahore attack, you'll see the overwhelming majority of the people who died in this

terrible, terrible attack were Muslims.

But of course, Christians also died in this. So these militants have no faith, they have no creed, they have no religion. They attack with the

kind of inhumane manner that is condemned by all the people in Pakistan.

AMANPOUR: You talk about the Waziristan, which is obviously near the border with Afghanistan. You talk about the Shawal Valley. This was in

Punjab, which apparently has not had these kinds of attacks in the past. It is the home state, if you like, of the prime minister and his brother is

the governor there.

Is that correct?

LODHI: I think -- yes.


AMANPOUR: So you say you're on the defensive. But actually, here they are, expanding themselves.

How much of a threat are -- well, obviously a threat.

But how much bigger of a threat than Pakistan's Taliban?

These people call themselves the real Taliban.

LODHI: I think the important thing at the end, it's a splinter group of what we call the TTP, which is the Pakistani Taliban. And because

they've been under pressure in the tribal areas, where our operation, which, we must remember, is one of the largest anti-terrorism law

enforcement operations anywhere in the world, involving 180,000 of our troops.

So when they feel the heat there, obviously, they're going to try to escape and hide. And, therefore, it's important that we carry out

operations, which we are doing right now; as we speak, there are raids going on. We have intensified our intelligence-based paramilitary-led

operations in Punjab.

AMANPOUR: This sort of came today. I mean, there were lots of announcements today, because it didn't happen immediately.


LODHI: No, the intelligence-led operations have been going on. They've been going on for some time. Arrests are being made. Arrests were

made afresh today.

AMANPOUR: Do you feel like -- I mean, is there a feeling that you've got the culprit?



LODHI: Yes, we will get to the bottom of this and we will make sure, as the prime minister himself said, that the culprits are brought to


And I think the most important thing is the kind of public rallying that we've seen, behind the government, behind the law enforcement agencies

because, you know, to fight this, we've got to have the public on our side.

AMANPOUR: Right. And that's the question. Because you started by saying, the real thing we have to look at is the unity of the people and

how they're rallying behind the prime minister.

But at the same time, there is a lot of criticism or taking note of the fact that the prime minister, despite his attempts, has not been able

to galvanize a nationwide consensus against these militants.

LODHI: I think we -- I think we have a consensus. I think he has mobilized it and you will see, in the days and months to come, in fact, if

he hadn't got this public consensus, the military operation that has succeeded in making the kinds of gains that we made in the tribal areas

bordering Afghanistan -- let's not forget that the head of this splinter faction of the Pakistani Taliban is residing in Afghanistan. His name is

Khalid Khorasani and he is actually found in a safe haven in Afghanistan.

So you know what we're dealing with is a global challenge. We're dealing with a challenge which other countries are also dealing with.

It's never easy. It is complex. And I think one of the things that the prime minister himself also pointed to is that we need to work on both

the law enforcement front as well as dealing with mindsets. And these are extremist mindsets.

AMANPOUR: So hundreds of miles away from Lahore, you've got this other separate but similar situation.

Not similar but I mean it's a big protest against the prime minister and against the idea of the whole blasphemy laws, right?

You've got the protest about the man who was executed for having killed the Governor Taseer.


AMANPOUR: And, you know, the prime minister is being criticized, and the government, for having allowed these protests to continue and

destabilize and get very close to the parliament.

Was it a mistake to allow them to go on for so long in this violent manner?

LODHI: Well, for the first -- in the first instance, I think one has to remember that if it hadn't been for the government's resolve and the

prime minister's resolve to make sure that justice is done and the man who was responsible for the murder of the former governor is executed -- and

that was a very courageous decision -- but he did this in accordance with the law.

And therefore the protests that have followed are a consequence of an important issue, that the prime minister and the government stood firm on.

Now as far as the protests are concerned, well, if they are going to break the law, then the law, the full force of the law will come on them.

But if the protests are peaceful, then, of course, you know, we are a democracy. So peaceful protests are allowed.

AMANPOUR: They're allowed, so they had to bring out the water cannon --

LODHI: Therefore we tried all sorts of peaceful means to control the protesters --

AMANPOUR: But the fact of the matter is that 100,000 people came out to memorialize this man, who had assassinated a man who stood up for

tolerance and all the kinds of things that you and your prime minister say you want to bring more of to Pakistan.

So, in other words, 100,000 people at least did not believe the consensus that you say the prime minister has.

LODHI: But more than -- I mean, first of all, I don't know the numbers --

AMANPOUR: That's what it's reported as --

LODHI: -- well, I'm not too sure. I mean, 100,000 people in the streets of Islamabad would be very different from what we saw. However,

without bringing it to numbers, I think the important issue is that far more people believe in a moderate, in a tolerant Pakistan and the prime

minister is an elected prime minister of our country.

We have a working democracy. And what we say to people who have a different point of view than us is join the political process. And,

therefore, through the political process, you make your views known.

But any call to violence, any effort to try to coerce other citizens into a certain way of life is against our constitution. It's against our

law. And, therefore, the full force of the law will be visited upon them.

AMANPOUR: So what do you do?

Because again, you have managed to get quite a few more moderate imams and clerics and mullahs to talk against any kind of notion of religious

justification for these acts of violence. So that's on the one hand.

On the other hand, there are still a lot of hardline mosques, even in religious schools, where these justifications are still being taught. I

mean that very nucleus of what troubled everybody all the way back from 9/11 still exists.

LODHI: Well, I think we have in Pakistan what we call a national action plan. And many elements of that national action plan -- it's a

comprehensive plan -- because we also understand that law enforcement is only one facet or one dimension of what we're trying to address.

I mean, the challenges are a very complex challenge. And what it requires is a very sophisticated and complex response. So part of what

we're trying to do is to deal with exactly what you are identifying, Christiane, to deal with the kinds of places that are encouraging a kind of

a hate mentality. And this is something that we obviously want to end.


LODHI: And I think the prime minister and his government, as well as the kind of outpouring of sympathy, as well as political unity that we've

seen from other political parties in our country, says something about us.

AMANPOUR: You talked about, you know, the majority of Pakistanis just simply don't want or believe in this kind of thing. And you come from

Lahore and I've been to Lahore. And it is sort of the cradle of tolerance and culture and multi -- sort of religious cohabitation there.

What do you feel, as a sense, as someone from Lahore, this has happened yet again in Pakistan, in your very city?

LODHI: Well, I think the first thought that comes is for the victims and their families. This happened in a very crowded part of the old city.

And therefore, I think the militants knew what they were doing. They were targeting the very heart, if you like, of our provincial capital and the

very heart of what you just described rightly, as the cradle of our culture and our ancient civilization, very much there.

But that's exactly what the militants are trying to do. They're trying to shake us and shake our resolve. But I can tell you, our resolve

is not going to be shaken.

AMANPOUR: And, of course, as you've been watching, it's happened in Brussels and Paris and this is sort of a global scourge at the moment.

LODHI: Exactly.

AMANPOUR: Ambassador Lodhi, thank you very much for joining me.


AMANPOUR: And when we come back, one step backward and another step forward. ISIS is on retreat from Palmyra, at least, Syria's pearl in the

desert. But imagine the centuries of culture they've already wiped out. Finding out what remains is next.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

Amidst the human cost, one of the many tragedies of the Syrian War has been the willful destruction of its heritage. When ISIS captured the

ancient city of Palmyra in May last year, they quickly destroyed monuments and even murdered the renowned local scholar, Khaled al-Asaad.

But the Syrian army, backed by Russian warplanes, has just recaptured the city after days of fighting. And just earlier today, I reached Maamoun

Abdulkarim, the director-general of Syria's antiquities in Damascus, for a little bit of good news.


AMANPOUR: You must be very happy today. We see these pictures of your government forces having retaken Palmyra from ISIS.

How do you feel today?

ABDULKARIM: Today, I can confirm you that I am the happiest person in the world. Not just (INAUDIBLE) in Iran, because after 10 months of

nightmare on Palmyra, now as director-general I see that Palmyra is very beautiful. The majority of the buildings are under control. It's not

destroyed. The reason for my happy today.

AMANPOUR: So describe to me, then, what ISIS did destroy.

And did they destroy more or less than you expected?

ABDULKARIM: Yes. You'll remember, (INAUDIBLE) 2015, they destroy it -- two temple, Bel and Baalsham, and they destroyed also about 10

(INAUDIBLE) and also they destroyed the beautiful arc.

After this, they stopped in last October because the local community ,is through us, they played a good role to stop this destruction. It's the

honor of the Palmyran people --


ABDULKARIM: -- it is also, is economical source for their children in the future.

We have an idea now what happened in the underground of the Palmyra, what happened by (INAUDIBLE) excavation. We know that the sift (ph) do it

a lot of the war and crushed by ISIS for all these times. I hope that not more damage and (INAUDIBLE) by (INAUDIBLE) excavation.

AMANPOUR: So you're very happy that the culture, at least most of it there, has been saved.

The Bel temple and the others that you described, which were destroyed, can they be rebuilt?

ABDULKARIM: Normally, as the director-general of antiquities in Syria, we prefer consolidation and restoration. But as message of

(INAUDIBLE) in the war on terrorism, if you destroy it, our culture (INAUDIBLE), we will rebuild.

It's for this reason that we decided to rebuild this two temple. It's possible. We need damage assessment, how many blocks destroyed by

explosion, how many new blocks we need. We need also the control of that UNESCO.

AMANPOUR: And just briefly, how long do you think it will take to rebuild?

ABDULKARIM: If UNESCO accepts our vision, if we have all the resource today, is through our plan, et cetera, I can give you the confirmation

through five years, we can finish our -- not completely but the majority of the work we finish after five years.

AMANPOUR: Director-General Maamoun Abdulkarim, thank you so much for joining us from Damascus today.

ABDULKARIM: Thank you very much. Thank you.


AMANPOUR: So if Syria is the rubble into which hopes of democracy and freedom have collapsed, then India proudly touts itself as the world's

largest thriving democracy. It has a young population that's booming -- and I'm talking 1 million people turning 18 every single month.

But my next guest says India is, quote, "a democracy that makes promises it has no intention of keeping."

Somini Sengupta lived in India as a child, returning some 30 years later as "The New York Times" New Delhi bureau chief. What she found was a

vastly different and, on so many levels, troubling country that she has turned into a book called, "The End of Karma," and she joins me now.


AMANPOUR: Somini, thanks for being here. So that is quite a provocative thing that I just quoted from you, that India makes promises

that it has no intention of keeping when it comes to democracy.

What do you mean by that?

SOMINI SENGUPTA, FORMER NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": You know, in my father's generation, he is part of midnight's children. He

was born just before independence.

At that time, it was said that democracy is just top dressing on Indian soil, that Indian society is fundamentally undemocratic in everyday

life. I think that has really shifted.

This generation that I'm writing about, I call them noonday's children. They are red-hot, restive, very pushy. Now democracy is no

longer topsoil. Young people expect to be able to write their own destiny. However, that requires something resembling equality of opportunity for

both men and women. That is still not in place yet.

AMANPOUR: Well, you do call it "The End of Karma." And you talk about the philosophy is, if what happens to you if somehow gets done unto

others or vice versa.

What do you mean by end of karma?

Because there is not just the sort of inequality regarding democracy. There's the whole caste system and the terrible deficiencies in


SENGUPTA: Absolutely. That is the basis of the stratification of Indian society, is that if you are born into a particular caste,

historically, that has not only defined what you do for a living but where you are on the social ladder.

What I'm trying to signal by the end of karma is that Indians are trying to overcome their past. They're born with one destiny; they're

trying to write another.

And I see that repeated across the lives of young Indians. In this book, I profile seven people, seven ordinary men and women who have come of

age after 1991. But I think it's their yearnings that are really revealing some of the deepest and most fundamental fault lines of India today.

AMANPOUR: You talk about seven people. I think one is Varsha, the daughter of a laundry man. She wants to be a police officer. And it's all

about education.

Now I believe the father says that he's letting her study but full well knowing that it might preclude her getting married because men of that

certain class don't want smart, educated women.

So it's sort of a double whammy?

SENGUPTA: Well, Varsha's father is her champion, he's her backer. He does want her to get an education. He does not want her to be a laundry

man's wife.


SENGUPTA: But he doesn't want her to get too much education. He certainly is very wary of her working outside the home. He is -- he can't

countenance the idea of his daughter becoming a police officer.

But why does she want to be a police officer?

Well, because when Varsha was a teenager, there was that horrific gang rape of a young woman, very much like Varsha, trying to really make

something of herself and Varsha wanted to serve her nation. She wanted to keep women and girls like her safe.

But she had to push and nudge her father every step of the way. And so I tell Varsha's story, because it's like so many young Indian woman I

know, they are trying to grow their own wings but also it's a story of so many fathers who have to figure out how much they're going to let them fly.

AMANPOUR: Exactly.

We had this statistic at the beginning. I think, what is it, 8 -- how many millions of people -- ?


SENGUPTA: One million.

AMANPOUR: -- 1 million turning 18 every month. And that obviously puts a massive burden on the infrastructure, on the ability to create jobs.

What does that mean for opportunity -- again, if we're talking about jobs and money and being able to rise through earning?

SENGUPTA: India's youth bulge is staggering. So right now the number of Indians just between the age of 15 and 34, just that age cohort, 420

million, which exceeds the combined population of the United States, Canada and then some.

Now they are hungry for economic opportunities and so India's challenge is really unenviable. By some estimates, India needs to create

10 million jobs. By some other estimates that I've read recently, 17 million jobs a year.

But it has to do this at a time when it's also under enormous pressure to reduce its carbon footprint and to do it in an era of climate change

that affects India and Indians quite seriously.

And it has to, again, prepare these 1 million Indians who are coming of age every month, prepare them for meaningful jobs in the global economy.

That is a really staggering challenge in a country where, still, so many children are hungry; 30 percent of Indian children under 5 are still

clinically malnourished; a country where many more children are going to school but they're not learning a great deal.

AMANPOUR: Well, that's a whole another conversation, which we can have about the education system, the ghost schools and the ghost classrooms

and this and that.

But just quickly, "The End of Karma," your book, you said took on a whole new impetus and urgency when you became a mother.

SENGUPTA: I'm a daughter of India. My daughter is a daughter of India. She was born in 2008. And she is part of this generation.

So I wanted to understand the country that made the both of us and what the future of this country might look like. But equally, I think it's

really important that we all, the rest of the world, learns about India. As a friend of mine puts it, we have seen the future and it's this red-hot,

restive democracy of 1.2 billion people.

AMANPOUR: Right. And we were just talking about Pakistan earlier in this program. You know, India, when it declared independence, declared it

as a secular democracy.

Is that at risk, given what's happening next door and, frankly, all over the region, with non-secular militants and violence rising?

SENGUPTA: India has faced these risks from the very beginning of its existence. So since 1947, it has been in a restive neighborhood but it's

also had lots of internal insurgencies to deal with. It has, with the exception of two years, it has survived as a democracy.

And there were two years when democratic rights were suspended in the mid-70s. That was a period when my family left. But it really has survive

as a democracy. And it is thriving.

AMANPOUR: Incredible. Somini Sengupta, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

SENGUPTA: My pleasure.

AMANPOUR: Thank you. "The End of Karma."


AMANPOUR: And after a break, a little of Pakistan's terrorism and intolerance have sent a small Scottish community reeling. Imagine a Muslim

shopkeeper murdered by a fellow Muslim just for saying "Happy Easter." That's next.





AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world where a simple act of kindness and tolerance is met with a horrific and deadly intolerance.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): In Scotland, of all people, where over the weekend, 40-year-old Muslim shopkeeper Assad Shah posted a Happy Easter to

his British Christian community on Facebook and hours later he was stabbed to death by another Muslim.

And police are calling it a religiously motivated attack. Shah's family, originally from Pakistan, belongs to the Ahmadiyya Islamic sect

which preaches, quote, "love for all, hatred for none."

The shopkeeper was much loved in his neighborhood. Flower tributes, memorials and vigils have sprung up, including one attended by the Scottish

first minister, Nicholas Sturgeon, on Good Friday.

Meantime, a group of four friends who were also regular customers created a web page, hoping to raise a little money for Shah's widow and the

family members left behind.

In a sign of how much the community thought of him, the fund has already amassed more than $110,000 from almost 4,000 donors.

And that's it from our program tonight. Remember, you can listen to our podcast, see us online at and follow me on Facebook and

Twitter. Thanks for watching, goodbye from New York.