Friday, February 13, 2009

26/11: Made in Pakistan

By Paritosh Chakma

It seems India’s coercive diplomacy is gradually working. Pakistan has formally admitted that a part of the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack was planned on Pakistan soil by Pakistani people. After 13 countries, whose nationals have been killed in the attack, filed cases against Amir Asmal Kasab, the lone surviving terrorist in India’s captivity, it was no longer possible for Pakistan to flip-flop. And, reportedly, the U-turn was made after US President Barack Obama made a “courtesy call” to Pakistan President Ashif Ali Zardari the night before the official admission. Earlier, media reports suggested that Pakistan would blame Bangladeshi terrorists for the attack.

Pakistan is under tremendous pressure from the international community, in particular the Obama administration, to show positive results in its investigation into the Mumbai attack, which in turn will demonstrate Pakistan’s sincerity to fight terrorism. Incidentally - and importantly -, US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke was in Islamabad when the official response was made by Pakistan. It is clear without owning up Kasab there cannot be any rational investigation by Pakistan. Hence, Pakistan authorities – though lately – have filed a case against Kasab and some others under Anti Terrorist Act. This means Pakistan has accepted Kasab as its citizen.

Earlier, National Security Advisor, Mahmud Ali Durani was sacked by Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani for accepting Kasab’s nationality publicly. But will Mr Durani be restored now that Pakistan has officially owned up Kasab, the terrorist? Most unlikely.

There has been both skepticism and hope in India following Pakistan response. Hope, because this is a move forward. Pakistan has never ever admitted before the involvement of its citizens or LeT in terror attacks in India.

Skepticism – because Pakistan may once again try to escape responsibility to act heavily on the terrorists and terrorist infrastructure by blaming India for not acting on its (Pak’s) report. Pakistan has asked India to provide more information to assist in its probe. Hence, the ball is in India's court.

New Delhi has said Pakistan’s move was a “positive development” but with a rider: "Pakistan should take credible action against terror infrastructure".

However, the danger lies in the fact that Washington now thinks “Pakistan is serious” to curb terror. President Obama must understand that its too early to say so and must not be swayed away from the "safe havens" for militants - Pakistan as Mr Obama called it.

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