x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Pakistan could be listed as state sponsor of terrorism

A report says that a decision awaits the new administration in Washington on whether to place Pakistan on the US government's list of state sponsors of terrorism. Islamabad's response to the Mumbai attack will determine whether Washington moves forward with such a sanction. In spite of heightened tensions between India and Pakistan, the risk of war appears less than that following the 2001 attacks on India's parliament.

A proposal to place Pakistan on the US government's list of state sponsors of terrorism is again being reconsidered long after it was first raised in 1992, according to The Times of India. A decision is not expected until after Barack Obama takes office in January and in the intervening period, Islamabad's response to the Mumbai attack will determine whether Washington moves forward with such a sanction. "US intelligence circles are now re-evaluating Pakistan's contribution to the war on terror, and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency's dominant role in the country and its ties with jihadi outfits, at the behest of the Bush administration. The White House itself lost faith in the Pakistan Army's bonafides several months ago which led to Washington's decision to withdraw support to military ruler Pervez Musharraf and back a new civilian government, officials and congressional aides who spoke on background explained. The decision to dump Musharraf was taken at vice-president Dick Cheney recommendation, they added, because of evidence that Pakistan was continuing to help Taliban elements attacking Nato forces... "Despite a soft-line adopted by Bush administration in public to the benefit of doubt to Pakistan's civilian government and spur it into action, Washington has little doubt that the terrorist attack on Mumbai was sponsored and planned with state support, US officials are saying privately. One things is certain; this was not a run-of-the mill Lashkar-i-Taiba operation. " 'I think this event looks a lot more like a classical Special Forces or commando-style raid than it does like any terrorist attack we've seen before,' David Kilcullen, a counter insurgency military analyst who served as an advisor to Gen David Petraeus tells Fareed Zakaria in the upcoming edition of his programme GPS, articulating what US officials are saying in private. 'No al Qa'eda-linked terrorist group and certainly never Lashkar-i-Taiba (LiT) has mounted a maritime raid of this type or complexity.' " The perpetrators of the attacks were drawn from the ranks of 500 "commandos" trained by Pakistan army and navy instructors, according to an Indian intelligence report that was leaked to The Sunday Times. Indian officials said they know the names of the gunmen's ISI trainers and handlers, having intercepted internet phone calls between them. A secret US document seen by Pakistan's The News International, indicates that former ISI chief Lt Gen (retd) Hamid Gul, "is one of the five erstwhile ISI officials whose names Washington has recommended to the UN Security Council for inclusion in the list of international terrorists." The Chicago Tribune reported on the freedom that is still enjoyed by the founder of the LiT. While Hafiz Mohammed Saeed's extradition is being sought by the Indian government, he lives openly in Lahore, and on Friday led prayers and lectured to several thousand of his followers at his group's mosque. The Christian Science Monitor spoke to Akash Maheshwari, an Indian businessman who has no doubt about what will happen in the standoff between India and Pakistan. India will present its evidence that Pakistani-trained militants carried out last week's attacks and Pakistan will do nothing. "Years of diplomacy have not stopped the violence, he says, adding: 'If we don't take military action, then the government is a fool.' " Yahya Khan, a truck driver in Karachi told the Monitor that India blamed Pakistan too quickly but that if India wants to go to war "we are ready". "In Pakistan and India, old suspicions have re-emerged after the Mumbai attacks, and there are signs that public anger on each side of the border is shaping diplomacy. The political posturing threatens to polarize the situation further, imperiling four years of steady progress between the two nations." The Washington Post said: "From Taliban commanders in the northwest to liberal businessmen in Islamabad, the capital, Pakistanis have this week been rallying around the flag. Tensions with India have prompted pledges of support for the government even from the Taliban, the growing insurgent force based on the tribal agencies of the country's North-West Frontier Province. "This week, several leaders of armed Islamist groups in that region vowed to lay down their arms against the government and stand with Pakistan's military in the event of a clash with India - a turnaround for groups that in the past six years have killed more than 1,200 Pakistani troops. " 'We may have a dispute with the Pakistan government, but we would set aside our differences if our homeland was threatened by outside powers,' said Maulvi Nazir, head of a powerful Pakistani Taliban splinter group in the tribal area of South Waziristan. 'We would raise a force of 15,000 tribal Taliban to fight on the side of Pakistan's armed forces. We would infiltrate 500 suicide bombers into India to cause havoc there.' "That promise of assistance has not gone unnoticed in Islamabad." The Los Angeles Times reported that according to analysts in both India and Pakistan, tensions between the countries are unlikely to escalate all the way to full-blown war. In the current global economic climate neither country can afford to go to war. Moreover, India's response at this time is tempered by its experience following the 2001 attack on India's parliament. "Though the number of dead in last week's coordinated assault in Mumbai was more than 10 times that of the 2001 attack, the Indian government has shown no signs this time of moving soldiers closer to Pakistan, despite some public pressure for hard-fisted action. "Part of India's forbearance, some analysts say, is because it ultimately gained little from the 2001-02 military face-off. A peace process initiated in 2003 has improved the air somewhat, but real progress toward resolving the dispute over Kashmir, the divided Himalayan region that lies at the heart of the two countries' animus, has been fitful and elusive. " 'The step taken in 2001 and 2002 was not the wisest. Maybe they learned from that,' said Ved Marwah, an expert on Indo-Pakistani relations at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi." The New York Times said: "Fresh evidence unearthed Thursday by investigators in India indicated that the Mumbai attacks were stage-managed from at least two Pakistani cities by top leaders of the militant group Lashkar-i-Taiba. "Indian and American intelligence officials have already identified a Lashkar operative, who goes by the name Yusuf Muzammil, as a mastermind of the attacks. On Thursday, Indian investigators named one of the most well-known senior figures in Lashkar, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi. "The names of both men came from the interrogations of the one surviving attacker, Muhammad Ajmal Kasab, 21, according to police officials in Mumbai. "While Mr Muzammil appears to have served as a control officer in Lahore, Pakistan, Mr Lakhvi, his boss and the operational commander of Lashkar, worked from Karachi, a southern Pakistani port city, said investigators in Mumbai." An investigation by The Observer has established that Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone surviving gunman who is now in the custody of Indian police came from a village in the Okara district of the Pakistani Punjab. "The Observer has obtained electoral lists for Faridkot showing 478 registered voters, including a Mohammed Amir, married to Noor Elahi. Amir's and Noor's national identity card numbers have also been obtained. At the address identified in the list, a man identifying himself as Sultan said he was the father-in-law of Mohammed Amir. "A villager, who cannot be named for his own protection, said the village was an active recruiting ground for the banned militant group Lashkar-i-Taiba. 'We know that boy [caught in Mumbai] is from Faridkot,' he said. 'We knew from the first night [of the attack]. They brainwash our youth about jihad, there are people who do it in this village. It is so wrong,' he added. "According to the villager and other locals, Ajmal has not lived in Faridkot for about four years but would return to see his family once a year and frequently talked of freeing Kashmir from Indian rule. "The truth about Ajmal's origins are key to the ongoing investigation of where the attackers came from and will have a profound impact on relations between India and Pakistan. Islamabad has repeatedly said that no proof has been provided to back Indian accusations that all the gunmen came from Pakistan. The terrorist outrage has pushed the two nuclear-armed countries to the brink of confrontation but, until now, there had been no solid evidence that any of the militants were from Pakistan." The Associated Press said that one of the two men arrested in Calcutta on Friday for illegally buying mobile phone cards that were used by gunmen in the Mumbai attacks is a counter-insurgency police officer who may have been on an undercover mission, according to security officials. Meanwhile, The New York Times reported: "The Indian police foiled an attempt to destroy landmarks and wreak havoc in Mumbai early this year, breaking up a cell of Pakistani and Indian men who were directed by the same two Pakistan-based militant leaders they have accused of organising last week's devastating attacks here, the police said. "The foiled plot also involved Lashkar-i-Taiba, the Pakistani group accused of last week's attacks, the police said. That suggests that the militant group conceived its plan long in advance and that it has made deeper contacts with radical Indian Muslims than investigators have been willing to concede. "It also pointed up another significant security lapse by Indian intelligence and police forces, who months ago had glimpses of a blueprint for the Mumbai attacks and even a strong indication of the intended targets. "Investigators have said they were looking into the possibility that the men who carried out last week's assault - all believed to be Pakistani - had local, Indian accomplices."

pwoodward@thenational.ae