India hopes Pakistan won’t backtrack on Kasab (Intro Roundup, changing dateline)

January 9th, 2009 - 1:04 am ICT by IANS  

Benazir Bhutto New Delhi/Islamabad, Jan 8 (IANS) A day after Pakistan officially owned up to the nationality of Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone Mumbai attacker in Indian custody, New Delhi Thursday hoped Islamabad would not backtrack on this and asked it to fulfil its anti-terror pledge. “They say something and they do just the opposite. They are constantly… from day one, on denial mode,” External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee told the Times Now TV news channel in an interview.

“This is precisely the question I am asking the Pakistani authorities. Have you studied it? Have you examined it?” he said.

Mukherjee also stressed that others could not have confidence in Pakistan’s investigations because the Pakistani government has no confidence in its own investigations, as it has asked the UN to solve former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination.

In Islamabad, sacked National Security Advisor (NSA) Mahmud Ali Durrani Thursday resolutely defended his open admission that Kasab was a Pakistani national, even as the issue has served to bring into the open the deep fissures within the country’s top political leadership.

“I’ve committed nothing wrong and had been authorised to issue statements on security issues,” Durrani told IANS but refused to elaborate how he came to know about Kasab’s identity.

The fissures within Pakistan’s top leadership were clearly visible when Durrani claimed that he made the public announcement about Kasab’s Pakistani nationality after a nod from President Asif Ali Zardari, and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani promptly sacked him for causing embarrassment to the government.

Earlier Thursday, Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma in New Delhi underlined that had Islamabad admitted to the nationality of Kasab earlier, there would have been no war hysteria.

Sharma reiterated that joint cooperation would be significant only if Pakistan ended its policy of denial.

“It is imperative for the state of Pakistan to fulfill its obligations and honour its assurances,” he said.

“Joint investigation would be meaningful only if first Pakistan demonstrates its commitment to act against those organisations which have been named and are responsible for perpetrating this dastardly attack in Mumbai,” he added.

“Secondly, to accept that they were all Paksitani nationals and not remain in the state of constant denial, which is not in the interest of regional peace, not in the interest of stability and for Pakistan itself,” he said.

US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher, who came to New Delhi from Islamabad Thursday, intensified pressure on Pakistan to act by saying that Pakistan “have not eliminated the terror threat”, and underlined that the US would get to the truth behind the Mumbai attack.

“The principal topic is the Mumbai attacks. It was a horrible attack against Indians, Americans and others. We will continue to follow up on that,” Boucher told reporters after meeting Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Monon.

He said the US and India are both “determined to find out who did this, how it was done and how to make sure it does not happen again”. Washington would continue its efforts to ensure that “this threat to Indians, Americans, whole world, including Pakistan, is eliminated,” he added.

“I think what we have seen so far is what we have said - it is a promising start. In Pakistan we have seen some people detained, we have seen offices go down, they (Pakistan government) are back against the Jaamat-ud Dawa,” Boucher said.

The Pakistani media, meanwhile, went to town Thursday on the former NSA’s dismissal, saying it not only pointed to the cracks in the country’s leadership but also to the lack of coordination between different government departments.

A source close to Durrani said he made the statement on Kasab after consulting President Asif Ali Zardari. Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar denied this, saying: “All advisors and ministers are under the prime minister, and Durrani had no consultation with the president.”

A retired major general, Durrani declined to speak further on his sacking, saying he would do so only after receiving written orders about his dismissal. Asked whether he had met or telephoned Zardari, he did not reply.

Durrani has held key positions since the late 1970s when with Pakistan’s help, the US started resisting the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan. Durrani was military attaché in the US and was later military secretary to then military dictator Gen. Ziaul Haq, who died in a mysterious plane crash in 1988.

Zia’s son Ejazul Haq was quoted as saying on Express TV that it was Durrani who had insisted his father to go to Bahawalpur to witness a new Pakistani tank. Zia died when the aircraft crashed soon after taking off from Bahawalpur on the return flight to Islamabad.

Late Wednesday night, it was announced that Durrani was sacked for not taking Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani into “confidence” and for “embarrassing” the country with his revelations.

As expected, all English dailies front-paged the development but only one chose to comment editorially.

“Weak coordination leads to Durrani’s sacking”, The Nation said in its report.

“Indiscretion cost Durrani his job,” said the headline in the Dawn.

The News headlined its report “National security adviser sacked”, with the sub-head: “Mehmud Durrani accused of keeping PM in the dark on Kasab issue; confirmation of Mumbai gunman’s Pak nationality leads to fiasco”.

In an editorial, The News said the manner of Durrani’s sacking had revealed cracks in the top echelons of the country’s leadership.

“Some very serious differences at the highest level in Islamabad had been spectacularly laid bare within the space of a few hours,” The News said in the editorial, headlined “Cracks at the top?”

The timing of the editorial was also highly unusual because English newspapers in Pakistan normally take up to 48 hours to comment on an event.

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