Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen urged Pakistani leaders on Monday to prosecute cases against members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group charged with carrying out last month’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

Adm. Mullen, on the final stop of a trip to greet U.S. troops for the Christmas holiday, also called on Pakistan to shut down terrorist training camps in the country.

The visit occurred as suspected U.S. missile strikes killed eight people in northwest Pakistan near the Afghan border and an Indian official warned that India might take military action if Pakistan failed to bring those responsible for the Mumbai killings to justice.

Dozens of suspects have been arrested in Pakistan in connection with the Nov. 26-29 attacks in Mumbai, which killed more than 170 people. None have appeared before any court, however, fueling international concerns about Islamabad’s commitment to fighting extremism.

Adm. Mullen, who met with Pakistani Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani and Lt. Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, head of Pakistan´s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, said he urged them to support judicial efforts to prosecute the cases against members of Lashkar-e-Taiba “fully and transparently.” India has blamed Lashkar-e-Taiba for the Mumbai attacks and the United Nations Security Council has listed the group and several of its leaders on a terrorist list.

Pakistan last week officially banned Lashkar’s charitable arm, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, froze its bank accounts, sealed at least 45 of its offices and arrested 50 of its leaders. Dawa chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed - who also headed Lashkar until it was banned in 2002 following an attack in India - was put under house arrest for a month at his home in Lahore. Eleven people, including Mr. Saeed, were banned from leaving the country.

Two Lashkar-e-Taiba leaders, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and Zarar Shah, also were arrested.

India has said the lone survivor among the 10 Mumbai attackers told investigators that the two were the masterminds of attacks. On Monday, Indian officials gave Pakistani diplomats a letter purportedly written by the man claiming he and the other attackers were Pakistani citizens.

Pakistan’s failure to produce any detainees before a judge has increased tensions between the neighbors, both nuclear weapons powers.

Nadeem Kiani, spokesman for the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, said Pakistan has asked India and the United States to produce evidence that could be used as a basis for prosecuting suspects. So far, he said, Pakistan has received no firm evidence implicating Jamaat-ud-Dawa.

“We want to cooperate with India and the United States in the war against terrorism,” he said. “We are also victims, but we have to follow the norms of law.”

Historically, Pakistani governments have supported militants fighting in Indian-held Kashmir. Even when there has been a crackdown, it has usually been of short duration.

The Mumbai attacks have put the government on the spot, however, caught between domestic and international pressures.

“The government will have to move carefully,” said Zahid Hussain, a specialist on militant groups. “Public opinion is not in favor of ban on Jamaat-ud-Dawa. Islamic parties are against the crackdowns. Even Nawaz Sharif [a former prime minister and head of the main opposition party] is not supportive of the government policies.”

Many Pakistanis consider Jamaat-ud-Dawa primarily a charity organization, which won popular acclaim for relief work following a devastating earthquake in northwest Pakistan in 2005.

Mr. Hussain said “it is possible that they [Dawa] are allowed in future to work with another name.”

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