New disclosures link LeT to Mumbai, Pakistan under pressure to act (Roundup)

December 31st, 2008 - 9:28 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi/Chandigarh/Islamabad, Dec 31 (IANS) With indications that Pakistan may be close to admitting the links of militants operating from its territory to the Mumbai mayhem, India Wednesday renewed its call to Islamabad to take action against the perpetrators of the carnage.At the same time, India ruled out a military attack against Pakistan and reaffirmed its policy of using diplomatic channels to get Islamabad to hand over those involved in the terror strikes.

New Delhi’s renewed assertion came amid reports that an independent probe by Pakistan’s intelligence agencies has revealed “substantial links” between the Mumbai attackers and the Lashkar-e-Taiba, a banned Pakistani terrorist outfit that is suspected of having masterminded the 26/11 carnage.

The US also mounted pressure on Pakistan to prosecute two top LeT leaders, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Zarar Shah, who were said to be in the forefront of hatching the Mumbai conspiracy to destabilize India.

Shah has confessed to his involvement in the Mumbai carnage to Pakistan’s intelligence agencies, CNN-IBN news channel said, quoting unnamed sources in the Pakistani prime minister’s office.

“The United Nations Security Council has told Pakistan to take firm action against the perpetrators and various terror outfits flourishing there,” Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma told reporters in Chandigarh.

“Under international law, it is obligatory for Pakistan to act accordingly if they are provided with sufficient evidence,” Sharma pointed out.

Asked if India is sharing evidence related to the Mumbai attacks with Pakistan, Sharma said: “In the past also we have shared enough evidence with Pakistan, but unfortunately our neighbouring country is living in a state of denial. However, this time also we will share all the evidence with them and see to it that they do the needful.”

Responding to a statement by Pakistani National Security Adviser Mahmud Ali Durrani Tuesday night in which he did not rule out the possibility of captured terrorist Ajmal Amir Kasab being a Pakistani national, Sharma said: “This evidence is adequate to indicate that they are already under pressure. Pakistan had made several assurances to Indian government in the past and now it is high time for them to meet those assurances.”

Sharma ruled out any military action against Islamabad and argued that India was a mature democracy and military strikes did not make any sense when diplomatic channels were available to make Pakistan fall in line.

“Answering through military action is not child’s play when we are a part of a globalised world. We want to resolve all our differences in a peaceful manner. Nevertheless, our security agencies are capable enough to meet any eventuality,” Sharma told reporters here.

“This fact is known to the entire world that Pakistan is supporting terrorists. Therefore, instead of denying, they should take appropriate steps against terrorists and those who provide them financial assistance in their country,” Sharma pointed out.

Home Minister P. Chidambaram, too, asked Pakistan to act instead of persisting in denial by repeatedly asking India for evidence. Refuting Pakistan’s allegations that India had not shared evidence with it on the 26/11 Mumbai mayhem, Chidambaram wondered what more evidence was required after Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab’s father had owned up to him on a Pakistani television channel.

“If anyone is in state of denial, then anything we give is denied,” Chidambaram said at a press conference in New Delhi.

Kasab was the lone terrorist to be captured alive by the security agencies during the Nov 26-29 attacks when a group of 10 militants allegedly from Pakistan stormed Mumbai and killed over 170 people. Nine terrorists were gunned down in operations that lasted for over 60 hours.

“The investigations into the Mumbai attack are in progress and are proceeding on right track,” Chidamabaram said.

Pressure also mounted on Pakistan to act, with damning disclosures published in a leading US daily that established a link between Pakistani militants and the Mumbai attack.

Zarar Shah, a top LeT leader captured in a raid earlier this month in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, has confessed the group’s involvement in the attack as India and the US have alleged, a senior Pakistani security official told the Wall Street Journal.

“He is singing,” the WSJ quoted the security official, who declined to be identified, as saying.

“The disclosure could add new international pressure on Pakistan to accept that the attacks…originated within its borders and to prosecute or extradite the suspects,” the daily added.

“That raises difficult and potentially destabilising issues for the country’s new civilian government, its military and the spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence - which is conducting interrogations of militants it once cultivated as partners,” it added.

The admission, the official said, was backed up by US intercepts of a phone call between Shah and one of the attackers at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel, the site of a 60-hour gunbattle with Indian security forces.

The report comes on the day a Pakistani newspaper said Islamabad was under tremendous US pressure to extradite to India Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind of the Mumbai attacks.

“The Americans are believed to have given Pakistan a taped conversation Lakhvi allegedly had with the gunmen involved in the attacks,” the Dawn newspaper said in a dispatch from Washington, quoting US and diplomatic sources.

The sources said that American audio experts had checked the tape and concluded that it was genuine and that the speaker was Lakhvi.

Lakhvi and Shah were picked up during a crackdown following the ban imposed by the UN on the Jamat-ud Dawa, as the LeT was renamed after it was banned in the wake of the Dec 13, 2001, attack on the Indian parliament that New Delhi blamed on the militant group. The Pakistani government now says it is unaware of Lakhvi’s whereabouts.

According to the WSJ, a second person familiar with the investigation said Shah had implicated other LeT members and had broadly confirmed the story Kasab told to Indian investigators that the 10 assailants trained in Pakistani Kashmir and then went by boat from Karachi to Mumbai.

Islamabad, however, predictably rubbished the report. “No staff of the prime minister secretariat was involved in providing these reports,” the prime minister’s office reacted in Islamabad.

The government officials also termed the report as “baseless”.

However, as the year drew to a close, the civilian and military leadership in Pakistan met to discuss Islamabad’s options in view of growing international pressure to prosecute the Mumbai attackers.

Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani held important but separate meetings with President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani. Kayani also briefed the president on the situation on the western and eastern borders.

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