Nailing Mumbai attack accused ‘difficult fish for Pak to fry’ due to LeT links

April 7th, 2011 - 12:58 pm ICT by ANI  

Islamabad, April 7(ANI): Pakistan is trying to project itself as being tough on international terrorism on the one hand, but wants to remain “engaged” with Islamist militant group Lashkar-i-Taiba (LeT) on the other, according to an analyst.

Even as Indian and Pakistani officials make high-profile efforts to repair their tattered relations, the nuclear-armed neighbours remain sharply at odds over the fate of seven Pakistanis accused in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, The Washington Post reports

The suspects- all of whom are LeT members- have been held in Pakistani jails since their arrest two years ago, but no formal charges have been filed against them and no trial date set so far.

Most observers say that the slow pace of prosecution reflects the clout wielded by religious militants in Pakistan, and particularly by the LeT- a violent group that Pakistan once sponsored as a proxy army against India, the report said.

For months after the three-day violence spree in Mumbai that killed 164 people, the Pakistan government denied the terrorists were Pakistanis.

The report noted that efforts to prosecute Zaki ur-Rehman Lakhvi, who is accused of planning the terror attack, have been bedevilled by the influence he wields as an LeT commander.

Indian investigators fingered Lakhvi as operations chief of the Mumbai assault, and Pakistani police arrested him in 2009 under international pressure, but experts said that his religious influence and fame in Pakistan as a combatant in the disputed territory in Kashmir have made authorities reluctant to put him on trial, the report added.

“This is a very difficult fish for them to fry,” said one Western analyst, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

He described the Pakistan government as trying to balance between wanting to show it is tough on international terrorism and wanting to remain “engaged” with LeT, in hopes of maintaining some control over the group.

Now reincarnated as Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a religious charity, the LeT enjoys a large following among Muslim youths and poor Pakistanis because of its work in crises like last summer’s floods. Its long-time leader Hafiz Saeed has been repeatedly arrested but released by Pakistani courts, and he can be heard on many Fridays preaching anti-American sermons at his mosque in the city of Lahore, the report said.

Yahya Mujahid, a spokesman for Saeed, denied that his organization had anything to do with the Mumbai terror attack and pointed out that Saeed had never been convicted of a crime in Pakistan.

“All of our problems are because of American pressure. They don’t distinguish between violent and non-violent organizations,” Mujahid complained in a recent interview.

According to the report, Pakistani officials, while insisting that they want to get to the bottom of the 2008 Mumbai attack, acknowledge that they are not in a strong position to crack down on the LeT, and express resentment over continuing US pressure on the issue. (ANI)

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