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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.
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.
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
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
© BBC MMVIII
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