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Pakistan in bind on evidence of LeT links to Mumbai, Lahore attacks
Rezaul H Laskar | March 08, 2009 16:27 IST
Pakistan's security establishment is in a bind over evidence suggesting the Lashkar-e-Tayiba [Images] was behind the Mumbai [Images] attacks and the assault on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore [Images] as it had assured Western powers after the 2001 strike on Indian Parliament that it would keep a lid on the banned group's activities.
When international pressure mounted on Pakistan after the terrorist attack on India's Parliament in December 2001
and the finger of blame was pointed to the LeT, the Pakistani security establishment told Western nations, including the US and Britain, that it would keep a tight check on the group as it could not be wound up, diplomatic sources said.
"The Western powers were told that the LeT had an extensive network within Pakistan and any effort to root it out could lead to massive security problems within the country. Thus it would not be possible to wind up the group," a diplomatic source, who was aware of details of the assurance given by Pakistan's security set-up to countries like
Britain, told PTI.
"The Western countries were told that the security establishment would instead establish a cordon sanitaire around LeT camps. So even if people were still training within these camps, they would not be able to move about freely to carry out attacks anywhere," the source said.
As Indian and Western intelligence agencies gathered evidence after the Mumbai attacks that showed the assault on
India's financial hub was masterminded and coordinated by LeT operatives, including its operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the Western powers were convinced that Pakistan's security establishment had not delivered on its assurance.
Britain, in particular, used this issue to pressurise Pakistan to take action against the LeT, the sources said. Both British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who said 75 per cent of terror plots investigated by UK had links to Pakistan, and Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who has asked Pakistan to "go farther and faster" in rooting out terrorism, are believed to have taken up the issue during their visits to the country.
Preliminary investigations into last week's attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore have also suggested that
the assault was the handiwork of a group of LeT operatives who could have gone underground when Pakistani authorities initiated a crackdown on the LeT and its front organisation, Jamaat-ud-Dawah, in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.
Investigators also believe that the Lahore attack could have been carried out to avenge the arrest of Lakhvi and other LeT operatives, who are facing charges under anti-terror and cyber crime laws on suspicion of involvement in the Mumbai strikes.Western powers are also perturbed because the LeT's activities are no longer limited to Pakistan and India. Though it was initially formed in 1990 by Hafiz Mohammed Saeed for militant activities in Jammu and Kashmir [Images], the LeT has formed links with a wide array of terrorist groups, ranging from the Pakistani Taliban [Images] to al-Qaeda.
On July 13 last year, LeT operatives joined a mixed force of Taliban, al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups like the Hizb-e-Islami to carry out an attack on a US and Afghan outpost in Afghanistan's Nuristan province that killed nine American soldiers. The attack was carried out by over 200 terrorists.
There have also been other reports of LeT operatives participating in attacks in Afghanistan after taking refuge in Pakistan's volatile tribal belt, the diplomatic sources said. The 2001 attack on India's parliament prompted the US administration to designate the LeT as a 'Foreign Terrorist Organisation' and impose a freeze on its assets.