Pakistan President Zardari appeals to India not to punish Pakistan
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, made an urgent appeal to India yesterday not to punish his country for the terror unleashed on Mumbai last week, as Indian officials blamed a Pakistani militant group for the three-day rampage.
As the government in New Delhi faced mounting domestic pressure to respond forcefully to the attacks, Mr Zardari urged Manmohan Singh, India’s prime minister, to resist striking out at his government should investigations show that Pakistani militant groups were responsible.
His appeal came as tensions rose between the two countries. A day after the security forces finally regained control of Mumbai, Indian officials blamed Lashkar-i-tayyaba, a prominent militant group linked to previous attacks against India. Its name translates as Army of the Pure.
Speaking to the Financial Times, President Zardari warned that provocation by rogue “non-state actors” posed the danger of a return to war between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
“Even if the militants are linked to Lashkar-i-tayyaba, who do you think we are fighting?” asked Mr Zardari, whose country is battling al-Qaeda and Taliban militants on its border with Afghanistan.
Non-state elements could bring on regional war: President Zardari
ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari has appealed to India not to punish his country for last week’s attacks in Mumbai, saying militants have the power to precipitate a war in the region.
In an interview with a British newspaper, President Zardari warned that provocation by rogue “non-state actors” posed the danger of a return to war between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
“Even if the militants are linked to Lashkar-e-Taiba, who do you think we are fighting?” asked Zardari.
“We live in troubled times where non-state actors have taken us to war before, whether it is the case of those who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks on the United States or contributed to the escalation of the situation in Iraq,” said Zardari.
“Now, events in Mumbai tell us that there are ongoing efforts to carry out copycat attacks by militants. We must all stand together to fight out this menace,” he said.
Pakistan, India deny troops build-up
NEW DELHI, RAWALPINDI: Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director-General and Pakistan Army spokesman Maj-Gen Athar Abbas said on Sunday that the Army had not found any solid evidence of unusual military movement by India on the international border.
Talking to newsmen, he said the Pakistan Army was ready for national defence and to tackle any untoward situation on the western border. He said the Army was closely monitoring Indian military movement on the international border, but no unusual activity was found. He advised the nation not to worry about India’s reported ambitions.
“Our intelligence sources have also told us that no such directives were issued by the Indian government to increase the number of Indian troops on the Pak-India border,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Indian external affairs ministry, rejecting the news telecast by some Indian TV channels, said India was neither considering suspending the ceasefire agreement with Pakistan nor were any directives for the movement of the Indian Army to the Pak-India border issued. An Indian Army official said, “We have not received any orders from the government for moving our troops to the border and there will be no Operation Parakram-like mobilisation,” Press Trust of India quoted the official as saying. He was referring to the previous Indian Army build-up in 2002.
Earlier, some Indian TV channels had said the Indian government had ordered the build-up of troops on the border with Pakistan besides mulling over suspending the ceasefire pact with it. Also on Sunday, Pakistan’s military said the country’s ceasefire with India was holding and there was no military build-up on the border in the wake of the Mumbai attacks. The military was responding to Indian media reports that India has cancelled a five-year-old ceasefire on the border of the disputed Kashmir region, as tensions grow over accusations that the attackers came from Pakistan.
“We have seen reports in the media suggesting suspension of the ceasefire (in Kashmir) and movement of troops on the Indian side of the border,” Athar Abbas told AFP. “As far as the official authenticated reports are concerned, there is no such movement or mobilisation of troops. The ceasefire is holding.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani phoned all the major political leaders of the country, who offered their complete support to the government in the wake of heightened tensions with India. The politicians who were contacted on Sunday included former Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali, AJK Prime Minister Atiq Ahmed Khan, Allama Sajid Naqvi, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, Dr Abdul Malik, Israrullah Zehri, Munir Khan Orakzai and Senators Shahid Bugti, Ismail Baladi and Haji Hanif Tayyab.
They appreciated the prime minister for consulting all the democratic forces in the country. The prime minister lauded the unity among all the political forces. He said Pakistan would explore all possibilities to normalise its relations with neighbouring countries as it believed in peace and harmony.
Prime Minister Gilani also called a national security conference for Tuesday at 2:30pm in the PM’s House to discuss the prevailing situation and evolve a joint policy. Prime Minister’s Press Secretary Zahid Bashir told a TV channel the meeting would be attended by all politicians.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said good relations with India were in the interest of Pakistan. In an interview with CNN, he said, “The government feels good neighbourly relations with India are in the interest of Pakistan. Pakistan has said its premier intelligence agency will cooperate with India in probing the Mumbai incident as our hands are clean and we have nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of.”
Qureshi said Pakistan itself was a victim of terrorism and both countries could jointly defeat the menace. To a question, he said the Indian government had not yet provided any evidence to Pakistan on its alleged involvement in the terror attacks. He said Pakistan would take action against groups or individuals if the Indian government provided proof or evidence against them.
In the meantime, Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan phoned Qureshi on Sunday to discuss bilateral relations and views on the regional and global situation. Qureshi briefed his Turkish counterpart about Pakistan’s relations with India after the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. He said, “Pakistan strongly condemned the terrorist attacks and offered all possible assistance to India. Pakistan itself is a victim of terrorism and considers it a menace to humanity.”