Thursday, February 19, 2009

Post 26/11 Scenario

After getting intense presuure from India as well as international community, realisation has dawned on Pakistan that it can no longer remain in denial mode on the Mumbai terrorist strike. Hence its admission that elements in Pakistan were responsible for 26/11, which was planned in Pakistan and executed from there. Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik has stated that six persons, including militant commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, have been arrested, and cases registered against nine for “abetting, conspiracy and facilitation” of the Mumbai terrorist attack.
Pakistan has also confirmed the Pakistani nationality of terrorist Ajmal Qasab, who is in Indian custody. Pakistani investigators came to these conclusions on the basis of evidence contained in the Indian dossier on 26/11 submitted to Islamabad a few days back. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee describing Pakistan’s statement as a “positive development” is a correct and mature response under the circumstances. The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Ordinance 2008 and sections of the Pakistan Penal Code have also been invoked in the case, registered in the capital by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on the basis of its investigations into the material provided by India on the Mumbai attacks.
Suspects Identified
Six of the eight suspects are in custody, and “some of them,” Malik said, belong to the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Among the six are the LeT’s Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, alleged by India to have masterminded the entire operation and LeT communication expert Zarar Shah, who was a main “handler” of the 10 men who carried out the attacks. Another person in custody was identified as Hamad Amin Sadiq, who Malik also described as a “mastermind.” A fourth is Javed Iqbal, who is said to have made the payments for the SIM cards purchased from Callphonex, an Internet phone company through which the Mumbai attackers and their handlers communicated.
The astonishing degree of cooperation from Islamabad’s civilian government is evident in the meticulous way in which the FIA report has followed up on the leads in the dossier of evidence handed over by India to Pakistan in early January 2009. The crews of two of the boats, the bank accounts in Pakistan used by the conspirators, and the hideouts of these terrorists in Karachi have been traced. Part of the money trail that underlay these chilling terror attacks has also been unearthed by the Pakistani investigators.
Advantage India
At present, Pakistan has placed the ball back in India’s court is clear from Malik’s repeated assertions that Islamabad needs more information from India to take the case forward. In this context, a list of 30 questions have been handed over to New Delhi to follow up, including the point as to whether there might have been local help provided to the attackers in India. While Islamabad has said that its request for more material and information is only to strengthen the case and take it beyond the FIR stage, New Delhi has conveyed its cautious welcome of the Pakistani response with the External Affairs Minister, Pranab Mukherjee calling it a “positive development” but also reminding Pakistan that it still has some distance to go in fulfilling India’s expectations.
All the terrorist outfits operating from Pakistan, including those responsible for 26/11 — the LeT and the Jamaat-ud-Dawa — must be made to wind up their activities. Pakistan also has to dismantle the terrorists’ infrastructure and their communication networks. This is necessary to prevent the recurrence of a terrorist attack. Pakistan has to honour the commitment it has made that no territory under its control will be allowed to be used for terrorsim.
It is salutary to remember that after the LeT attack on Indian Parliament in December 2001, Pakistan placed some restrictions on jihadi groups following Indian and international pressure. But LeT soon resumed its operations under a new name, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa. That shouldn't happen again. Islamabad needs to get past its misplaced sense of victimhood and take more comprehensive steps to take down terror organisations operating from its territory. Malik's words must be followed by positive action.

Terrorism emanating from Pakistan is a serious threat to peace and progress not only in South Asia but also the rest of the world. India being the biggest sufferer of Pakistan emerging as the epicentre of terrorism, it cannot keep quiet until the problem is banished from the region. Pakistan needs to do this not just to oblige India, but for the sake of its own survival.

No comments: