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Pakistan not responsible for Mumbai terror attacks, says Zardari

December 03, 2008 11:31 IST

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Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari [Images] has strongly denied his country's involvement in the audacious attacks in Mumbai, saying the terror strikes in the India's financial capital were executed by the 'stateless actors who wanted to hold the entire world hostage'.

Zardari also ruled out any possibility of Pakistan and India going to war, saying "democracies do not go to war".

"These (terrorists) are stateless actors who have been operating throughout the region. They include gunmen and the planners and are holding the entire world hostage," he said.

Asserting that the state of Pakistan is not responsible for the attacks in Mumbai, he said that even the White House and the US intelligence agency Central Investigative Agency have said so.

Zardari rejected India's demand that Islamabad [Images] hand over some 20 suspects, believed to be in Pakistan, saying: "If we had proof, we would try them in our courts. We would try them in our land and we would sentence them."

Zardari said that he doubted India's claim that the sole surviving gunman, who was captured by Indian security forces, was a Pakistani.

"We have not been given any tangible proof to say that he is definitely a Pakistani. I very much doubt that he's a Pakistani," he said, appearing on the Larry King Live programme on Tuesday night.

On External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee's remark that no military action is being considered, Zardari said this is time to come together, do a joint investigation and look at the problem in the larger context.

"The threat is in the region and just not to Bombay or to India. The threat (also is) to the State of Pakistan. There's a threat to Afghanistan, It's a threat throughout region. So that would be counterproductive," he added.

Zardari said the three wars India and Pakistan have fought took place during dictatorships in Pakistan. Asked about American attack on Iraq, Zardari said it was Washington's reaction to the attack on the US.

"That is a reactive action and that is something that the terrorist are always looking for. That is exactly the fear and that's why we should rise above it," he said.

"I'm a victim. The state of Pakistan is a victim. We are the victims of this war, and I am sorry for the Indians, and I feel sorry for them. I've seen this pain. I feel this pain every time I see my children. I can see it in their eyes. This pain lives with me because of my wife and what we are going through in Pakistan," he added.

Asked whether Lashkar-e-Taiba was involved in the attacks, he replied that it is a banned organisation around the world. "If indeed they are involved, we would not know."

These are the people who operate outside the system like Al Qaeda [Images] but Pakistan has offered full cooperation to India in investigating the incident, he added.

"We cannot rule anything out at the moment," he said when asked whether the Al Qaeda might be involved. But he pointed out that it was too early premature to reach any conclusion.

To a question as to what Islamabad would do if India produces evidence of complicity of any Pakistani group in the attacks, Zardari said he would take action against them.

The Pakistani government, he said, was committed to fighting terrorism per se and is fighting it every day.

Asked whether Pakistan is actively working at finding out who attacked Mumbai, Zardari said that authorities are looking into the allegations 'thrown at us from across the border'.

Defending Pakistan's intelligence agencies accused of providing support to the militants, Zardari said in the past, lots of mistakes have been made, but the present government does not support any such action. "I can assure the world from my side, from my Army's side, from my parliament's side and the people of Pakistan that we are not helping any such activity," he added.

Asked whether Pakistan would ever think of making preemptive strikes with nuclear weapons, Zardari replied that he has on record stated that Pakistan would never be the 'perpetrator' of first use.

He replied in the affirmative to a question on whether he is in favour of a ban on all nuclear weapons, saying he had invited Indians to join in.

"I have asked the Indians to join us in a nuclear-free South Asia. And we are willing -- I am willing to assure the world, on behalf of my parliament, that if India comes with us, we can jointly sign a nuclear-free South Asia," he added.

Asked whether it would happen, Zardari replied, "We can definitely stand on the possibility of that to happen."

Replying to a question, he said Pakistan hopes to improve relations with India and other democracies in the world.




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