Pakistan claims Indian hand in Lahore attack; India, Sri Lanka rebut (Roundup)

April 10th, 2009 - 10:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Lahore/New Delhi/Colombo, April 10 (IANS) Lahore’s police chief sprang a surprise Friday, suggesting an Indian hand in the terror attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in the city last month, a suggestion that New Delhi and Colombo promptly trashed.
“With the help of the security agencies, we have made much progress and our investigations are continuing. But one thing I can tell you is that there is strong evidence of an Indian hand,” Lahore police chief Pervez Rathore told reporters in Pakistan’s cultural capital.

India rubbished the charge. “It’s a red herring and does not serve any purpose,” was Indian Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma’s immediate riposte in New Delhi.

“Nobody has ever accused India of such things. Rather, we are the victims of attacks from Pakistani soil. They should put their own house in order,” Sharma added.

Sri Lanka too said there was no change in its position that India was not involved in the terror strike.

“Our Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama had clearly said last month there was no Indian involvement in the attack on our cricketers in Lahore. We continue to main that position and there is no change in that,” a Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry official told IANS in Colombo.

Rathore’s claim is surprising, since an investigation report Pakistan had submitted to Sri Lanka on the March 3 attack does not mention any Indian involvement.

On March 3, a group of 12 young terrorists sprayed bullets and fired rocket propelled grenades at the coach carrying Sri Lankan players to Lahore’s Gaddafi International Stadium for the third day’s play in the second Test against Pakistan.

Six players and the team’s assistant coach were injured. Six Pakistani police officials escorting the bus, as also two civilians, were killed in the attack, which shook the entire cricketing world.

The Sri Lankan government immediately canceled the tour and flew the team back home.

Addressing a media conference in Colombo March 9, Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Bogollagama had firmly ruled out suggestions of Indian hand in the attack and said Colombo had “conveyed this position to Pakistan”.

Pointing out that India has been helping the island nation in the fight against terrorism, Bogollagama, however, said the involvement of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the attack could not be ruled out.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani media, too, has deprecated the government tendency to suggest an Indian hand in the attack.

The “flurry of charges” linking India to the attack “make no sense at all”, an editorial in a leading English daily said March 5, while another cautioned that such finger-pointing would only widen the India-Pakistan rift.

“The flurry of charges from the media and members of the government that our neighbour to the east may have had a hand make no sense at all - given that the gunmen have not been apprehended and no other evidence points in this particular direction,” The News said in an editorial headlined “No closer to the truth”.

On its part, the Daily Times referred to the “planting” of a police report that apparently warned that India’s spy agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) was planning to target the Sri Lankan cricketers and said it was meant to “widen the rift between India and Pakistan and bring relief to the terrorist elements under pressure from the Pakistan army in the tribal areas”.

The editorial was headlined “Reaching out for denial again”.

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