Kerry asks Pakistan to take on LeT, put ISI under civil control (Lead)

December 15th, 2008 - 9:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaNew Delhi, Dec 15 (IANS) Intensifying international pressure on Pakistan in the wake of the Mumbai carange, influential US Senator John Kerry, a close aide to US President-elect Barack Obama, Monday said Islamabad should take on the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and bring the spy agency ISI under civilian control. “It’s imperative to comply and terrorist camps should be shut down,” Kerry told reporters after holding talks with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

Kerry also stressed that Islamabad should take on both the LeT and the Jaish-e-Muhammad, two Pakistan-based militant outfits that are suspected to have played key roles in the Nov 26 Mumbai terror attacks that killed more than 170 people, including 26 foreigners.

“The LeT had some contacts. There is no evidence that they operated in conjunction in the Mumbai attacks,” Kerry replied when asked whether the US suspected a joint operation by the LeT and Al Qaeda in the Mumbai attacks.

“We know it was all planned in Pakistan and we are very very confident that evidence will be presented at the right time,” Kerry said a day after British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said in New Delhi that Britain believed the LeT was responsible for the Mumbai mayhem.

Stressing that the attacks were “a turning point” in the world’s attitude towards terrorism, Kerry laid stress on the need for Pakistan to bring the ISI under civilian control.

Kerry, who is set to be chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said: “It is imperative that intelligence services of Pakistan not be able to make its own choices or operate outside the standard which we have the right to expect.”

Kerry said this in response to a question whether the US will put pressure on Pakistan to bring the ISI under civilian control.

“In the United States, our intelligence agency is obviously held accountable, not just to the administration that runs it but also to the United States Congress and, through the Congress, to the people,” Kerry, a close aide to Obama, said.

Kerry also stressed that the US’ proposed military aid to Pakistan, said to be around $15 billion, will be tied to “appropriate behaviour” - a veiled reference to Pakistan’s ability to act against terrorist outfits.

Kerry said he would make this clear to Pakistani leaders when he travelled to Islamabad later on Monday.

He also repudiated speculation about president-elect Barack Obma appointing a special envoy for resolving the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan, saying Obama was interested in bringing peace and security to the entire region. “The president-elect does not intend to create special envoy just on Kashmir. He is talking about further cooperation,” Kerry said.

Early in the day, Kerry met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and reaffirmed the US determination to work with India in bringing the Mumbai terror masterminds to book. He also met Home Minister P. Chidambaram.

He conveyed Obama’s message about the US intention to keep pressuring Pakistan in order to eliminate the terrorist infrastructure in that country, reliable sources told IANS.

Briefing journalists Sunday, Kerry sought to call Pakistan’s bluff saying that groups like the LeT were formed by the ISI but the present civilian government is keen to sever those links.

“They formed it and they know they formed it. But they didn’t know that the LeT would graduate into an enterprise of its own,” he said. He, however, did not link the ISI with the Mumbai attacks.

Lauding India’s “responsible approach” after the Mumbai attacks, Kerry said the US was “grateful” at the way New Delhi has handled a “sensitive situation”.

Kerry’s visit to India is aimed at easing tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours that could derail Obama’s plan to focus on defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan by providing Pakistan an excuse to shift troops from the Afghan to the India border.

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