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Pakistanis wary of Mumbai claims

By Barbara Plett
BBC News, Islamabad

Indian media reports detailing Pakistani links to the audacious Mumbai attacks 
have been met with deep scepticism in Pakistan.

"Why do they always blame us?" said an airline worker in the port city of 
Karachi, from where some of the gunmen are alleged to have set off for Indian 

"Any time something happens in India, they say Pakistan is behind it, but they 
don't come up with any proof."

A boutique owner agreed. "Everybody's out to get us," he said as his customers 
expressed fear that Indian agents would retaliate by striking Karachi.

Such blanket dismissals fail to acknowledge Pakistan's history of using 
Islamist militant groups to fight proxy wars against India in the disputed 
region of Kashmir.

One of these, Lashkar-i-Taiba, was blamed for the attack on India's parliament 
in 2001 that brought the two countries to the brink of war.

However, it denied that, as well as any involvement in the Mumbai atrocities 
,which lasted three days and left over 170 people dead and hundreds injured.

Indian 'denial'

Whatever the case, Pakistanis say Indian accusations have become reflex actions 
that don't take changing realities into account.

"It is interesting that Indian security agencies failed to detect such a 
massive operation during its planning stage, but wasted little time in fixing 
the blame on some Pakistani group," wrote defence analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi in 
the local Daily Times newspaper.

"If they knew who was responsible, why could they not pre-empt it? India needs 
to face the reality of home-grown radicalism, and realize the futility of 
blaming Pakistan for its troubles."

Mr Rizvi expressed a widely held conviction here that India is in denial about 
its problems with indigenous Islamist groups that have surfaced in recent years 
- rooted, it's believed, in state discrimination and communal violence against 

And, say Pakistanis, India has got it wrong before.

The fire-bombing of the Samjhauta Express train between New Delhi and Lahore in 
February 2007 was first blamed on Pakistan, but later linked to Hindu 
extremists supported by an Indian army colonel.

'Brisk escalation'

At the official level, both the government and the military have also warned 
India against jumping to hasty conclusions, but otherwise their responses have 

Political leaders have gone out of their way to condemn the attacks and offer 
"unconditional support" in the investigation, promising to take action if any 
Pakistani link is established.

A conflict with India is the last thing they want after succeeding the 
military-led government of retired General Pervez Musharraf last year.

"I'm concerned because I could see forward movement, India warming up to 
Pakistan, constructive engagement," said Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi 
at the weekend.

"Let us not fool ourselves, the situation is serious when people in India are 
calling this their 9/11," adding that he hoped the "hiccup" in relations would 
be overcome soon.

Pakistan's powerful security establishment, however, is more cynical.

Despite a peace process which began in 2004 it sees India as stalling on 
Kashmir, and it is convinced Delhi's allegations are aimed at trying to 
discredit Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI).

"The Indians are taking the escalation level up at a very brisk pace," a senior 
security official said on Saturday.

He too pledged co-operation but said if India began to mobilise troops, 
Pakistan would respond in kind, even if that meant pulling soldiers away from 
fighting Taleban and al-Qaeda militants on its border with Afghanistan.

The different attitudes towards India were publicly exposed when political 
leaders were forced to retract a promise to send the intelligence chief to 

While President Asif Zardari described this as a "miscommunication," others 
blamed the government for failing to consult the military before making the 
unprecedented announcement.

Already the army's been taken aback by overtures to India made by Mr Zardari.

Most recently the president offered no first-use of nuclear weapons, ignoring 
decades of established policy.

The apparently off-the-cuff remark in an interview with Indian media astonished 
Pakistanis as much as Indians.

It remains to be seen whether this rift will grow under mounting pressure from 
India and the US, which fears that souring relations between the two rivals 
will hinder its attempts to encourage regional co-operation against Islamist 
militancy in Afghanistan.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2008/12/01 04:59:36 GMT


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