[Above gunmen: Bada Abdul Rehaman (Taj Palace); Abdul Rehaman Chota (Oberoi); Ismal Khan (CST station); Babar Imaran (Nariman House)]
On Tuesday, Indian authorities released the names or aliases of nine suspected militants killed in last month’s Mumbai attacks. Eight photos were reportedly released, the ninth body was said to have “been too badly burned,” reported BBC News. According to the news agency, “Police said all were from Pakistan. They did not say how this was known but one gunman, named as Azam Amir Qasab, survived and has been interrogated.” Dawn cited statements by chief police investigator Rakesh Maria, who “also gave details of the districts and towns in Pakistan from where the gunmen are believed to have come.” Like the BBC, Dawn echoed that Maria “did not say how police had tracked down their hometowns.” The Pakistani media outlet cited The Times of India, which reported that “three of the attackers were from Punjab‘s Okara district, three from Multan, two from Faisalabad, one from Sialkot and one from Dera Ismail Khan. All of the men were between the ages of 20 and 28.”
Although no Pakistani official has commented on the development yet, President Asif Ali Zardari said in an interview on Larry King Live last week that he doubted the militants were Pakistani, [see previous CHUP post on the interview]. In an op-ed in today’s NY Times, the Pakistani President appealed for Indo-Pak unity in the face of extremism. He wrote,
For India, Pakistan and the United States, the best response to the Mumbai carnage is to coordinate in counteracting the scourge of terrorism. The world must act to strengthen Pakistan’s economy and democracy, help us build civil society and provide us with the law enforcement and counterterrorism capacities that will enable us to fight the terrorists effectively. Benazir Bhutto once said that democracy is the best revenge against the abuses of dictatorship. In the current environment, reconciliation and rapprochement is the best revenge against the dark forces that are trying to provoke a confrontation between Pakistan and India, and ultimately a clash of civilizations.
Despite Zardari’s conciliatory remarks, Pakistan’s foreign minister today took a slightly tougher stance. According to the AFP, Shah Mehmood Qureshi announced that Pakistan would “not hand over any suspects in the Mumbai bombings to India,” and warned that “while it wanted peace with its neighbor, it was ready for war if New Delhi decided to attack.” He asserted, “We want friendship, we want peace and we want stability — but our desire for peace should not be considered Pakistan’s weakness.” Reuters also quoted the foreign minister, who further emphasized, “Those who are Pakistani, there is no question of handing them over to India…And if any allegations are proved against them, Pakistan has its own laws, Pakistan has its own courts and its own regulations and action will be taken against them within these regulations.” As CHUP reported yesterday, Pakistan conducted several raids to arrest militants connected to the attacks. On Tuesday, the government publicly acknowledged that it had arrested its forces had seized two militant leaders, including the operational commander of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, Zakiur Rahman Lakvi [see image to the right, from Reuters]. Pakistan’s defense minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar confirmed to reporters that the second militant in custody is Masood Azhar, head of Jaish-e-Muhammad, another banned militant group based in Pakistan.
Ultimately, the question at hand will be, is this enough? Although Pakistan is responding to international pressures, seemingly in an attempt to avoid a future conflict with India – it seems that tensions between the two neighboring states remain high. Developments like the one today only exacerbate the problem, adding further fuel to the fire.
**On a brief end note, I did want to wish our Muslim readers out there Eid Mubarak! With all the tensions and issues we have at home, I do hope everyone can enjoy this holiday with their families and loved ones.