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Pakistan to investigate possible links to attacks

President vows 'swiftest of action'

By Mubashir Zaidi and Laura King
Los Angeles Times / November 30, 2008
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - The Pakistani government said yesterday that it would investigate any evidence of involvement in the Mumbai, India, terrorist attacks by Pakistani "nonstate actors" - a phrase generally used to mean militant groups.

But Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said no proof had been presented yet by Indian authorities investigating the rampage by groups of gunmen in India's commercial capital.

Some observers have said the sophisticated, tightly synchronized attacks bore the hallmarks of banned Kashmiri militant groups that, in the past, received logistical, technical, and financial support from Pakistani intelligence. But India - although suggesting that evidence supports a Pakistani link to the attacks - has not accused a particular group.

Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari, acknowledged at least a philosophical kinship between the Mumbai attackers and Islamic militants who are battling Pakistani government forces.

"They may not be the same individuals, but they are definitely the same forces, with the same mind-set," Zardari told Indian TV. "I am trying to save my own nation, my own country, and the future of my children. So, therefore, I am as committed as can be."

The Pakistani leader, however, stopped short of tying the Mumbai assailants to any Pakistani organization. He said credible allegations of such a link would be studied very seriously.

"If any evidence comes of any individual or group in any part of my country, I shall take the swiftest of action in light of evidence and in front of the world," Zardari said.

Qureshi, speaking at a news conference in the Pakistani capital, specifically denied any connection between the Mumbai attackers and the Kashmir issue.

Amid Pakistan's pledges of full cooperation with Indian authorities, there were signs of some internal disarray. Early yesterday, the government hastily reversed an hours-old promise to send the chief of its premier spy agency, the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, to aid in the probe. It said a lower-ranking intelligence official would be dispatched instead.

Qureshi appeared to backpedal even more, saying the timing of a trip by an ISI representative had not been set. Zardari blamed a "miscommunication" for the original official announcement Friday that the ISI's chief would go to India, which would have been unprecedented.

The reversal followed opposition parties' strident criticism of Pasha's prospective trip. And it would not be the first time the fledgling civilian government had been overruled by the powerful intelligence establishment.

Already on the defensive over the Mumbai attacks, Pakistan's government also has been put in an awkward position by a continuing campaign of missile strikes in its tribal areas along the Afghan border, presumably carried out by US forces. Another such strike yesterday killed two people and destroyed a house in the North Waziristan region.

The Pakistani government denies having given a tacit go-ahead for such strikes aimed at militant leaders, but it is suspected of having given the United States quiet approval for the raids by pilotless drones targeting Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders.

The reversal of the plan to send the ISI chief to India followed sharp criticism from some Pakistani opposition politicians and a cold response from the army, which controls the agency, the Associated Press reported.

Hassan Abbas, a Pakistan scholar who is now a research fellow at Harvard University, told the AP that the army was probably riled by Indian and American media reports suggesting that New Delhi was considering a military response, including air strikes on suspected militant training camps in the portion of Kashmir controlled by Pakistan.

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