It’s time for Pakistan to act against terror: Antony (Roundup)

January 2nd, 2009 - 9:15 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi/Islamabad, Jan 2 (IANS) Noting that more than 30 terror outfits are still active in Pakistan, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said Friday this was indicative of Islamabad’s unchanged attitude toward controlling the scourge even after the Mumbai carnage.In Islamabad, President Asif Ali Zardari Friday met the US envoy Patterson to brief her on Pakistan’s stance on the Mumbai attacks and called for resuming the dialogue with India to ease tension in the wake of the carnage.

And, faced with worldwide demands to take action against militant groups operating from its territory, Pakistan decided to establish a National Counter-terrorism Authority (NCA), it was announced in Islamabad.

Speaking to reporters in New Delhi, Antony said: “Statements are not important, actions are important. That way, I do not think there is any noticeable change in the act of Pakistan. They (Pakistan) should prove that by action.”

“More than 30 terror outfits are still active in Pakistan. So how can I say that there is a real change in Pakistan’s attitude? … There is no time limit (for Pakistan to act) but it must act,” he said.

Pakistan has come under heavy pressure with the US’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) furnishing proof of the involvement of terror outfits functioning from its soil in the brazen Mumbai terror attack Nov 26 last year that left more than 170 dead.

Responding to Pakistan’s demand that India de-activate its forward air bases and move troops back to their peacetime locations, Antony said: “We have not escalated the issue. There is no troop movement from our side. Whatever is taking place is normal.”

“Nobody after 26/11 will tell us that we should not be prepared for any eventuality. They (armed forces) are doing their duty and are not making any provocations,” Antony maintained.

US Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W. Patterson met Zardari in Islamabad to discuss the latest situation after the Mumbai attacks. Zardari said that India has not responded positively to Pakistan’s offer of a joint probe into the attacks that New Delhi says were staged by elements operating from this country.

A statement issued by the presidency quoted Patterson as saying that the US was in constant contact with the Indian and Pakistani leadership, and it supported the dialogue process so that the tension between two South Asian neighbours could be defused.

The statement said that the matters relating to terrorism and the regional situation were also discussed during the meeting.

Zardari told Patterson about Pakistan’s efforts and repeated offers of cooperation with India in the Mumbai attacks’ investigation.

Media reports Friday said the US administration is now urging Pakistan to ensure that those responsible for the Mumbai terror attacks are punished inside the country instead of being extradited to India.

The Dawn daily, quoting unnamed sources in Washington, said the Bush administration has informed Pakistan it would like the Pakistani government to initiate the “prosecution (of the suspects) with sufficient efforts to ensure conviction”.

A senior diplomat based in Islamabad claimed that positive things are taking place despite statements and counter-statements by the leadership of both countries.

“The US has demanded assurances from both the countries that they would not escalate tension that could lead to a war,” said the diplomat.

“The attitude of both the governments has changed if we compare it with the last 10/20 days… and this is a good sign towards better understanding,” the diplomat told IANS.

On the other hand, parliament’s committee on foreign affairs, which was expected to issue a harsh statement regarding the Mumbai attacks and subsequent statements by the Indian leadership, restricted itself to the strikes by Israel on the Palestinians.

Tariq Pervez, who has just retired as the director general of Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), could head the new National Counter-terrorism Authority, The News daily reported Friday.

“Pervez has been assigned the job of preparing the concept, structure and mandate of the NCA so that it could serve the purpose for which it was being established,” the newspaper said, quoting an official to add: “The primary objective of the NCA would be maximum coordination among different tools and agencies of the government engaged in counter-terrorism.”

The NCA is the brainchild of interior ministry adviser Rehman Malik. Hitherto, counter-terrorism tasks have been undertaken by the intelligence agencies, primarily the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

“Their workload increased manifold after Pakistan’s participation in the anti-terror war in the wake of the 9/11 attacks,” The News noted.

At the same time, “lack of coordination among different official organs working in the field of counter-terrorism had affected the efforts in this direction”, the newspaper said.

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