[Most observers here say the slow pace of prosecution reflects the clout wielded by religious militants in Pakistan— and particularly by LET, a violent group that Pakistan once sponsored as a proxy army against India. For months after the three-day spree of violence in Mumbai that killed 164 people, the
government denied the terrorists were Pakistanis.] Pakistan
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Even as Indian and Pakistani officials make high-profile efforts to repair relations, the nuclear-armed neighbors remain sharply at odds over the fate of seven Pakistanis accused in the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai.
The suspects have been held in Pakistani jails since their arrest two years ago. All are members of the Islamist militant group once known as Lashkar-i-Taiba or LET. But to date, no formal charges have been filed and no trial date set.
Most observers here say the slow pace of prosecution reflects the clout wielded by religious militants in Pakistan— and particularly by LET, a violent group that Pakistan once sponsored as a proxy army against India. For months after the three-day spree of violence in Mumbai that killed 164 people, the
government denied the terrorists were Pakistanis. Pakistan
Most of the evidence was obtained in
, including the confession of Ajmal Kasab, the only suspect captured alive there, and tapes of cellphone calls from India to the attackers. Pakistan made some material available and Pakistani investigators found other proof, but both governments have resisted sharing intelligence and accused each other of foot-dragging tactics. India
“Ninety percent of evidence required for successful prosecution is already with
,” said B. Raman, an Indian security analyst interviewed from Pakistan . “They may say New Delhi has not given more, but they are not sincerely interested in pursuing it.” India
The case has consumed more than 80 closed-door hearings in an anti-terrorist court inside Adiyala jail in
city, inviting “the impression that they are avoiding real action,” he said. Rawalpindi
Prosecutors here declined requests for interviews, but in brief comments after hearings they have expressed frustration at the delays and at their lack of access to Kasab, who was filmed carrying an assault rifle through the mayhem of Mumbai. Last week, the judge rejected a request to issue an arrest warrant for him, ruling that since he was in Indian custody he could not be considered a fugitive.
Efforts to prosecute a far more important detainee, Zaki ur-Rehman Lakhvi, have been bedeviled by the influence he wields as a LET leader. Indian investigators fingered Lakhvi as operations chief of the Mumbai assault, and Pakistani police arrested him in 2009 under international pressure, but experts said his religious influence and fame in
as a combatant in the disputed territory in Pakistan Kashmir have made authorities reluctant to put him on trial.
“This is a very difficult fish for them to fry,” said one Western analyst, speaking on condition of anonymity. He described the Pakistani government as trying to balance between wanting to show it is tough on international terrorism and wanting to remain “engaged” with LET, in hopes of maintaining some control over the group.
Intimidating presence in Punjab
Now reincarnated as Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a religious charity, LET enjoys a large following among Muslim youths and poor Pakistanis because of its work in crises like last summer’s floods. Its longtime leader, Hafiz Saeed, has been repeatedly arrested but then released by Pakistani courts, and he can be heard on many Fridays preaching anti-American sermons at his mosque in the city of
Yahya Mujahid, a spokesman for Saeed, denies that his organization had anything to do with the Mumbai attack and often points out that Saeed has never been convicted of a crime in
. “All of our problems are because of American pressure. They don’t distinguish between violent and non-violent organizations,” Mujahid complained in a recent interview. Arriving several hours late, he said he had been organizing assistance to victims of a rural dust storm. Pakistan
Despite its benign new identity, Pakistani analysts said LET is still an intimidating presence here in
Punjab province, where judges and politicians tend to appease religious extremists. And although the federal government has a strong anti-terror law and a well-trained federal investigative service, it often lacks the resources and support to win in court.
A cordial meeting between the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers at a cricket match last week was the latest in a series of diplomatic overtures. In the meetings, Pakistani and Indian officials agreed to open a terrorism “hotline,” and
said it would allow Indian investigators in the Mumbai case to visit Pakistan for the first time. But no dates were set, and there was no progress on Indian requests to meet the Pakistani detainees or test their voice identities against cellphone calls to the attackers from their alleged handlers in Pakistan . Pakistan
Pakistani officials, while insisting they want to get to the bottom of the Mumbai attack, acknowledge they are not in a strong position to crack down on LET and express resentment over continuing
pressure on the issue. They note that U.S. has been victimized by terrorism for years and has provoked public antagonism by allowing Pakistan cross-border missile attacks on suspected militants. U.S.
“Mumbai must have been terrible, but we have suffered many Mumbais,” said Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir. “All of us want to free the region of this lethal virus, but it does not help to stigmatize us.’’
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AN ALARMING SOUTH ASIA POWDER KEG
[A war in
South Asia would be
disastrous not just for the . In addition to
the human devastation, it would destroy efforts to bring stability to the
region and to disrupt terrorist havens in western United States . Many of the
140,000 Pakistani troops fighting militants in the west would be redeployed
east to battle Indian ground forces. This would effectively convert tribal
areas bordering Pakistan into a playing
field for militants. Worse, the Pakistani government might be induced to make
common cause with Lashkar-i-Taiba, launching a proxy fight against Afghanistan . Such a war
would also fuel even more destructive violent extremism within India .] Pakistan
has only so much time. Indian officials are increasingly
dissatisfied with Washington 's attempts to constrain Lashkar-i-Taiba and remain
convinced that Pakistani intelligence supports the group. An Indian
intelligence report concluded last year that Pakistan 's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate was involved in
the 2008 Mumbai attacks, and late last year the Indian government raised
security levels in anticipation of strikes. Pakistan is unlikely to show restraint in the event of another
@ The Washington Post
[A war in
By Juan C. Zarate
In 1914, a terrorist assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand in
- unleashing geopolitical forces and World War I. Today,
while the Sarajevo
rightly worries about al-Qaeda targeting the homeland, the most dangerous
threat may be another terrorist flash point on the horizon. United
Lashkar-i-Taiba holds the match that could spark a conflagration between nuclear-armed historic rivals
and India . Lashkar-i-Taiba is a Frankenstein's monster of the
Pakistani government's creation 20 years ago. It has diverse financial networks
and well-trained and well-armed cadres that have struck Indian targets from
Mumbai to Pakistan . It collaborates with the witches' brew of terrorist
groups in Kabul , including al-Qaeda, and has demonstrated global jihadist
ambitions. It is merely a matter of time before Lashkar-i-Taiba attacks again. Pakistan
Significant terrorist attacks in
, against Parliament in 2001 and in Mumbai in 2008, brought
India and India to the brink of war. The countries remain deeply
distrustful of each other. Another major strike against Indian targets in
today's tinderbox environment could lead to a broader, more devastating
should be directing political and diplomatic capital to
prevent such a conflagration. The meeting between Indian and Pakistani
officials in United States this month - their first high-level sit-down since last
summer - set the stage for restarting serious talks on the thorny issue of Bhutan Kashmir.
Lashkar-i-Taiba may also feel emboldened since the assassination in early January of a moderate Punjabi governor muted Pakistani moderates and underscored the weakness of the government in
. The group does not want peace talks to resume, so it
might act to derail progress. Elements of the group may see conflict with Islamabad as in their interest, especially after months of unrest in
India Kashmir. And the Pakistani government may not be able to control
the monster it created.
A war in
would be disastrous not just for the . In addition to the human devastation, it would destroy
efforts to bring stability to the region and to disrupt terrorist havens in
western United States . Many of the 140,000 Pakistani troops fighting militants
in the west would be redeployed east to battle Indian ground forces. This would
effectively convert tribal areas bordering Pakistan into a playing field for militants. Worse, the Pakistani
government might be induced to make common cause with Lashkar-i-Taiba,
launching a proxy fight against Afghanistan . Such a war would also fuel even more destructive violent
extremism within India . Pakistan
In the worst-case scenario, an attack could lead to a nuclear war between
and India . Pakistan 's superior conventional forces threaten India , and Pakistan could resort to nuclear weapons were a serious conflict to
erupt. Indeed, The Post reported that Islamabad 's nuclear weapons and capabilities are set to surpass
those of Pakistan . India
So what can the
do to ratchet down tensions? United States
We need to build trust, confidence and consistent lines of communications between
and India . This begins by helping both parties pave the way for a
constructive dialogue on the status of Pakistan Kashmir.
Steps toward progress would include pushing for real accountability of figures
responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks and the handing over of wanted Lashkar-i-Taiba
facilitators such as Indian crime lord Dawood Ibrahim.
also needs to disrupt the terrorist group's fundraising
and planning. The focus should be on unearthing names and disrupting cells
outside Pakistan that are tied to Lashkar-i-Taiba, which involves pressuring
Islamabad for the names of Westerners who may have trained at Lashkar-i-Taiba
camps. United States
This is among the thorniest
national security and counterterrorism problems. It
requires officials to focus on imagining the "aftershocks" of a
terrorist attack and act before the threat manifests - even as other national
security issues such as unrest in the U.S. Middle East boil over. Yet
without political attention, diplomatic capital and sustained preventative
actions, a critical region could descend into chaos.
History shows that the actions of a small group of committed terrorists, such as the Black Hand in 1914 or al-Qaeda in 2001 - can spark broader wars. History could repeat itself with Lashkar-i-Taiba. Asymmetric threats that serve as flash points for broader geopolitical crises may be the greatest threat we face from terrorism.
The writer, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, was deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism from 2005 to 2009.
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