WASHINGTON: It was a field day for Pakistan bashers at the US House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia where speaker after speaker blamed Islamabad for allegedly continuing to support Lashkar-e-Taiba.
“There is, in fact, no reason to doubt that Pakistan’s military is likely paying compensation to the families of the terrorists killed in the Mumbai attacks,” said the panel’s chairman, Gary Ackerman. “These are our allies in the war on terror,” he bemoaned.
It’s no surprise coming from a lawmaker who heads the Indian caucus on Capitol Hill and has received India’s third highest civilian award, the Padma Bhushan.
However, even a Pakistani-American expert, Shuja Nawaz, was forced to acknowledge that the LeT was “a Frankenstein’s monster”, which assumed a broader regional role.
Mr Nawaz, who is the director of South Asia Centre at the Atlantic Council of the US, warned that “another Mumbai-type attack involving the LeT might bring India and Pakistan into conflict, a prospect that should keep us awake at night.”
But he also defended Pakistan, saying that both the civil and military establishments in the country now appeared to have recognised the existential threat from groups like the LeT.
“The army appears to have dislocated the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. Yet, it faces a huge and, to my mind, greater threat in the hinterland, in the form of the LeT.”
Equating the LeT with Al Qaeda, Mr Ackerman said the Mumbai attack of November 2008 showed that the LeT was capable of conducting such raids anywhere it wanted.
“We need to take this threat very, very seriously. The LeT is a deadly serious group of fanatics. They are well-financed, ambitious, and most disturbingly, both tolerated by, and connected to, the Pakistani military,” he alleged.
He claimed that operational funding for the LeT came from charitable fundraising amongst the general population in Pakistan, but it also depended heavily on contributions by Pakistani businessmen living abroad and other wealthy individuals from the Persian Gulf.
Claiming that one of the key facilitators of the Mumbai attack was an American of Pakistani extraction, the congressman warned: “Unfortunately, the LeT enjoys a substantial global network.”
Ashley Tellis, an Indian-American associated with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, went a step ahead and urged the US to be prepared to take action against the Lashkar if Pakistan was unable or unwilling to act against it.
Editor's Note: Some sensitive deliberations should be done behind closed doors without the media so that our leaders don't look like uninformed bigots to the world. The Congressional Record recounts the facts of the deliberation and the record is public.