Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mumbai Suspects Had Punjab Accents

ISLAMABAD, Nov 28: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Friday surprised his Indian counterpart when within hours of his request to send the head of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to Delhi for the purpose of sharing evidence of Pakistan’s possible link with the Mumbai terror attack. The government in Islamabad agreed to send the ISI chief to India to establish beyond doubt that there was no direct or indirect involvement of Pakistan in the incident.

The decision to send Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, director general of Pakistan’s premier intelligence service, to New Delhi was announced by the prime minister’s office after Mr Gilani held a meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari and the two leaders discussed the issue and its various aspects with other important players, including the heads of the security establishment.

No date has been fixed for the unprecedented trip, but the PM’s office statement said modalities of the visit were being worked out. Earlier in the day Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke to Prime Minister Gilani on telephone and besides exchanging views on the mysterious and agonising developments in India’s commercial hub of Mumbai, requested him to send the intelligence chief to look at what he described as “evidence” which New Delhi thought linked Pakistan with the terror attack.

The situation had become tense earlier in the day when Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee took a step forward in the finger-pointing game by declaring that suspects of the Mumbai carnage might have links with Pakistan. Though this was the first direct attack on Pakistan, a section of the Indian media had already accused Islamabad of being in complicity in the affair, with a few of them referring to the “Punjabi accent” of a couple of terrorists as proof of Pakistan’s involvement.

As the Pakistan-bashing continued in a section of the Indian electronic and print media, some of Pakistani television channels launched an anti-India tirade, with a few indirectly blaming the Mumbai carnage on the Indian establishment.

Official sources said that as the tension started to mount between the two countries, the Pakistani leadership considered that there was a need to look for an out-of-box action to defuse the situation.

“Since we had nothing to hide, we thought there was no harm in calling the Indian bluff by agreeing to the request to send the ISI chief to Delhi,” a senior official privy to the developments told Dawn. So, within hours of the telephonic conversion between the two prime ministers, Mr Gilani and President Zardari had a closed-door meeting, which was later joined by other leaders and officials. And as Delhi maintained an eerie silence over the content of the two prime ministers’ talks, Islamabad announced its decision to send the ISI chief to Delhi to discuss the issues with the Indian authorities.

“Mr Gilani has accepted the offer and now the two sides will work out modalities for the visit of the ISI Director General, Lt-Gen Shuja Pasha, which is expected to take place soon,” prime minister’s spokesman Zahid Bashir told Dawn.

Read it all here.

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