Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bad news from Islamabad (UPDATED!)

According to Press TV Pakistan has reversed a decision to send its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief to India to help in Mumbai terror attacks investigation.

No explanation was given in a short statement issued by the premier's office in Islamabad for the change of plan, Press TV correspondent said Saturday.

Earlier Prime Minister Yourself Raze surprised many by announcing that the ISI Chief General Ahmed Shura Pasha would be sent to New Delhi to help the investigation into the Mumbai terror attacks that claimed at least 195 lives.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in a telephone conversation on Friday, urged his Pakistani counterpart to send the spy chief to New Delhi.

Sources said the change came after reservations in Pakistan's top military circles over the unprecedented move. "The military leadership was not consulted before an announcement was made to the media regarding the decision to send the ISI chief to India," a senior official said.

It is said that Pakistan will send a senior official to India instead of Pasha; however, there was no mention of when the official is likely to arrive in New Delhi.

India's Foreign Minister Prefab said Friday that initial evidence in the Mumbai attacks show the militants had links with Pakistan. Pakistan's president, premier and other top officials have condemned the attacks and promised full cooperation in fighting terrorism, however.

Gunmen targeted several places across the port city of Mumbai late Wednesday, killing 195 people and injuring 327 others.

UPDATE: according to the BBC, Indian security forces have captured at least one of the terrorists. His nationality? Pakistani.
Commentary: this kind of zig-zagging by Pakistani officials is most unhelpful. Regardless of whether Pakistani national are involved in these attacks or not, Pakistan is playing with fire here and the initial decision to agree to send General Pasha to India was the correct one. This reversal, if confirmed, would send a terrible message to an already outraged Indian public opinion. Sure, the Indian press (and politicians) were probably too eager to point fingers at Pakistan, but considering the past history of terror attacks in India by individuals linked to Pakistan, the Pakistanis should not have been offended by that. The fact is that Pakistan is the single most dangerous and unstable country in the world right now and that it will need the full cooperation of all its neighbors to tackle its many causes of instability and outright danger. If there is one thing the Pakistanis cannot afford is a worsening relationship with India. Since the real power in the country is, and always has been, ISI - sending the ISI chief was a very good move. Keeping him in Islamabad is, I am afraid, a bad sign of ruffled nationalistic feathers, a luxury Islamabad simply cannot afford right now.