Indian Prime Minister Singh upped the ante with Pakistan on Tuesday when he hinted that official elements within Pakistan “must have been involved” in the November 26 – 29 terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Up until Tuesday, New Delhi had carefully avoided blaming Pakistan directly for the attacks even as it demanded Islamabad take action against the Pakistan-based terrorist group responsible for the atrocities, the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LET). Singh’s new accusations demonstrate in part New Delhi’s mounting frustration over Islamabad’s refusal to even admit the attackers were Pakistani, despite overwhelming evidence pointing in this direction.
The political fall-out from Islamabad finally admitting Kasab was a Pakistani citizen (yesterday) was dramatic. Prime Minister Gillani fired National Security Advisor Mahmud Ali Durrani for making the announcement on his own to CNN, without coordinating first with the Prime Minister’s office. Durrani is a retired Army General and former Ambassador to the U.S. who has gained considerable respect in Washington circles, first for his involvement in important Track II peace efforts between India and Pakistan and then for handling adeptly the job as Ambassador to the U.S. during the political chaos in Pakistan in 2007. Although we may never know the full story behind Gillani’s move to fire Durrani so abruptly, the incident demonstrates just how fragile Pakistan’s internal political situation remains.
The Pakistan military’s years of support for jihadist groups fighting in Afghanistan and India as well as intensifying linkages between Pakistani homegrown terrorists and al-Qaeda is costing Pakistan dearly. In fact, Islamabad’s foreign and domestic policies have become hostage to the agenda of these irrational, deadly actors who also increasingly target Pakistani institutions.
Pakistan must punish the masterminds behind the Mumbai attacks, not only to defuse the crisis with India, but to demonstrate that the government of Pakistan – not the terrorists – will set the future course of events for the country. It would be a grave error for Islamabad to refrain from punishing those responsible for the senseless acts of murder in Mumbai under the excuse that such action would give the appearance of Pakistan succumbing to Indian pressure. This is not only about the India-Pakistan relationship, nor even just about the future of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship – it is about the future of Pakistan itself and whether its leaders can rise to the occasion to overcome the terrorist scourge that now threatens to unravel the country.
Although Indian officials have declared they do not want military conflict with Pakistan, they also cannot tolerate lack of concrete action in Pakistan against the culprits, especially as the evidence grows ever so damning.