x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Charges expected in Mumbai attacks

Seven men are being put on trial in Pakistan but the alleged mastermind of the atrocities will not be joining them in the dock.

A fire breaks out at Mumbai's Taj hotel as terrorists carry out a series of atttacks across the Indian financial capital in November.
A fire breaks out at Mumbai's Taj hotel as terrorists carry out a series of atttacks across the Indian financial capital in November.

MUMBAI // Under pressure from India to bring the perpetrators of last year's Mumbai attack to justice, Pakistani officials are expected to announce charges against seven suspects this week, Rehman Malik, Pakistan's interior minister, said on Saturday. But despite this development, relations between the nuclear rivals remain sour as Pakistan drags its feet in apprehending Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind of the Mumbai attack, demanding that India furnish more evidence against him. Last Thursday, the Pakistani government filed two charges against Mr Saeed, but neither implicates him in the Mumbai attack. Even after they were filed - under Pakistan's domestic antiterror act for anti-state sermons and collecting donations for terrorist activities against the state - he has not been arrested. A K Dogar, Mr Saeed's lawyer, calls the charges against his client "ridiculous", adding that they will "not stand in court". Mr Dogar expects the case to fall apart, he said by telephone from Islamabad, fuelling speculation that Mr Saeed will be released even if he is arrested, as he was on several previous occasions. In December 2008, Pakistani authorities banned his organisation, Jamaat-Ud-Dawa, a charity believed to be a front for Lashkar-i-Taiba (LiT), the militant group India accuses of masterminding the Mumbai attack, and Mr Saeed was put under house arrest. However, in June, a Pakistani court released him for lack of evidence. SM Krishna, India's external affairs minister, said that India will only be satisfied if he is charged and tried for his alleged role in the attack, saying that enough evidence was supplied against Mr Saeed to warrant his arrest and trial. In August, the Indian government handed over a seven-page dossier to Pakistan, its fourth since last year's Mumbai terrorist attack, stepping up pressure on its nuclear rival to act tough against the perpetrators of the attack, who it claims are Pakistani nationals. With the latest dossier, P Chidambaram, the Indian home minister, said the country had furnished copious evidence to Pakistan to prosecute Mr Saeed as the commander of the LiT. But Mr Malik on Saturday stressed that it cannot charge him in the Mumbai attack because the evidence that India furnished against him in its dossier was "not enough". Statements by the sole surviving gunman from last November's attack, Ajmal Kasab, implicating Mr Saeed in an Indian court, are not admissible in Pakistani courts since he cannot be cross-examined, Mr Malik said. "Considerable progress has been made in the 26/11 probe," he said at a press conference in Islamabad. "But we need more forensic details from India." Just before the conference, his office handed over a dossier to the Indian Embassy in Pakistan, containing an update on the investigations, along with a demand for "additional evidence". It is not clear how India will officially respond to the dossier, though it has stressed it wants speedy justice in the case. "India certainly would request upon Pakistan to bring to justice the perpetrators of attacks on Mumbai," said Mr Krishna. The foreign secretaries of both countries are expected to meet in New York next week, on the sidelines of the United Nations general assembly, but analysts are sceptical whether any fruitful dialogue will ensue. After months of heightened tensions, India and Pakistan broke ground recently when both countries mutually decided to restart the stalled composite dialogue process. In a joint statement issued on July 17 by Manmohan Singh, India's prime minister, and his Pakistani counterpart, Yusuf Raza Gilani, in Sharm El Sheikh, both sides vowed to insulate the dialogue process from terrorism. In the past after a terrorism attack, the countries stopped talking. India and Pakistan have sat through four rounds of the composite dialogue, achieving modest gains on trade agreements and limited confidence-building measures. The fifth round was underway when the Mumbai attacks occurred. As the two countries have endured three wars, numerous skirmishes along the border and decades of cold war, optimistic observers thought this new bonhomie would encourage both of them to peacefully negotiate all major outstanding disputes, including Kashmir. But the dialogue process has barely inched forward since the Sharm El Sheikh meeting, primarily because of the slow progress in the Mumbai attacks case. Mr Gilani, at an iftar party he hosted for Kashmiri leaders in Islamabad last week, urged India to not let the dialogue process stall. He called Kashmir "Pakistan's jugular vein", and reiterated that the Kashmir dispute is the cornerstone of Pakistan's foreign policy. "We want to resolve the Kashmir dispute peacefully and invite India for negotiations, a gesture that it has continued to ignore," Mr Gilani said in his address at the Prime Minister's House. Expressing serious doubts about the seriousness of the latest charges filed against Mr Saeed, MK Narayanan, India's national security adviser, said that he lives with "daily dread" of another Mumbai-style attack on Indian soil. "We get so many pieces of intelligence which pass across our table, many you can sort of weed out, but quite a few, which if [we are] not able to nip it in bud can turn dangerous," he said in an interview to CNN IBN, an Indian news channel. "After 9/11, Pakistan was forced by the US to disown the Taliban, cooperate in tackling Al Qa'eda, and curb the activities of jihadis in Kashmir," Swaminathan Aiyar, a political observer wrote in a column in the Times of India, a national daily. "If the US troops exit, Pakistan may once again encourage jihadis to stir up trouble in India, and not just in Kashmir. The future bristles with dangers." foreign.desk@thenational.ae