S charges Ilyas Kashmiri in Danish newspaper plot

CHICAGO: A leader of a Pakistani militant group was charged on Thursday with helping to plot a revenge attack on a Danish newspaper that published cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad which angered many Muslims.

The US indictment of Ilyas Kashmiri, a leader of the group Harakatul Jihad Islami, accuses him of helping to plot an attack against the Jyllands-Posten newspaper.

Kashmiri was described in court documents as being in regular contact with leaders of al Qaeda.

Also formally charged was Pakistani-born Chicago businessman Tahawwur Rana, 48, and Abdur Rehman, a retired Pakistani Army major, both previously named in the investigation.

Court documents filed on Thursday also contained additional details about the planning for a deadly November 2008 assault on Mumbai.

David Headley, a 49-year-old American with Pakistani roots, has been charged by US authorities with conducting several surveillance trips to Denmark and to Mumbai ahead of the planned attacks.

Headley passed his information on to “handlers” from another militant Pakistani group, Lashkar-i-Taiba, which is blamed for the three-day Mumbai assault that killed more than 160 people, including six Americans, according to court documents.

Headley has been cooperating with US authorities since his arrest in October.

Headley’s Lashkar handlers gave him $25,000 to set up an office in Mumbai to cover his surveillance activities and later $4,500 more to cover expenses, the documents said. He was also trained to use a GPS device to provide specific coordinates to the Mumbai attackers and shown a scale model of the Taj Mahal hotel to aid in the planning.

The plot against the Danish newspaper never came off. The newspaper set off a firestorm in the Muslim world when it published the cartoons in 2005.

Last year, Headley’s Lashkar handler, who is not named in the documents, tried to call off an attack on the newspaper, telling Headley there was too much pressure on the group following the Mumbai assault, which strained India-Pakistan relations.

But Kashmiri met with Headley and urged him to go ahead, suggesting he enlist Kashmiri’s contacts in Europe and use a truck bomb in the attack, the documents said.

Rana was accused of using his immigration business as a cover for Headley’s scouting trips and for the phony offices to be set up in Mumbai and Delhi. Previous government filings have said other Indian targets were being considered by the alleged plotters.

Rana and Headley had numerous conversations, recorded by US agents, about the Denmark plot and Mumbai attacks, prosecutors have said.

A lawyer for Rana said his client was “duped” by Headley and had no prior knowledge of the Mumbai attacks. He has denied the charges.

Kashmiri, who is believed to reside in the Pakistani tribal areas of Waziristan, was charged with conspiracy to murder and maim persons in Denmark and providing material support to the plot. Rehman, who is also believed to be in Pakistan, was similarly charged.

Rana, who has been denied bond and is being held, was charged with three counts of providing material support to terrorism or a terrorist organization, in regard to both the Mumbai and Danish plots.

Rana faces life in prison, and Headley, who has pleaded not guilty but may change his plea, could face the death penalty.

Rana’s attorney could not immediately be reached.


Move on please, decisively

The forthcoming meetings of the Pakistani and Indian foreign secretaries and prime ministers on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Egypt on July 14 and 15, again raise hopes for a revival of the composite dialogue process, suspended since the Nov 26 2008 attacks in Mumbai.

India accuses Pakistan of not doing enough to contain terrorism. Pakistan counter-accuses India of not cooperating in terms of sharing evidence and translations.

The Mumbai attacks came barely four days after President Asif Ali Zardari’s ground-breaking address to The Hindustan Times Leadership Summit via satellite link from Islamabad. Zardari, Pakistan’s first head of state to offer a ‘no-first nuclear-strike’ policy against India, talked of a common South Asian economic bloc, even a passport-free ‘flexible Indo-Pak visa regime’.

It’s an all-too familiar pattern — goodwill gestures followead by incidents of violence that are used to set back the peace process (Bus yatra — Kargil; talks — Samjhota Express; peace overture — Mumbai). Who benefits? Certainly not the ordinary people but the rightwing, the security apparatuses, military establishments and arms lobbies on either side.

Those who critique the push for peace as an obsession of the ‘liberal elite’ and the ‘Punjabi lobby’ ignore sentiments at the grassroots level: while aware of the problems, people on both sides are keen to live as neighbours in peace.

At a seminar in Karachi recently to honour Nirmala Deshpande (Didi), the peace activist who passed away in May 2008, most audience members were women from low-income localities. Prominent writers, political leaders and activists who addressed the seminar included three Indian delegates (the visas of the other two were ‘pending for clearance’).

Mumtaz, a young Pakhtun mother distracted by a six-year-old and a suckling toddler, said that her husband was a daily-wage labourer. What did she think of the event? ‘I don’t understand everything but I do understand that they want peace between India and Pakistan,’ she replied, adding, ‘We should live in peace with our neighbours. Maybe then our lot will improve. We all want that.’

Jaipur-based Kavita Srivastava of India’s People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), had come with a concrete agenda: to get information about five Indian prisoners incarcerated in Pakistani prisons since 1991.

‘Only two are in touch with their families, we don’t even know if the other three are alive,’ she said. ‘When they heard that I got my visa, their families walked for a whole day to meet me. With tears in their eyes they begged me to bring any information I could.’

Kavita spent an evening in Ranchore Lines with Silawat women, Rajasthanis with families on both sides of the border. Shakeel Silawat of the Youth Progressive Council who helped organise the meeting, says such visits are important to increase contacts. ‘After all, we are one region. We should be able to meet.’

I remember an engineering student I interviewed in 1995 for the Indian magazine Outlook’s launch issue. He hated India’s Kashmir policy and wouldn’t wear Indian-made jeans — but believed that India and Pakistan should cooperate economically even while maintaining separate identities.

A student from Calcutta, who visited Lahore with the Nirmala Deshpande-led women’s peace bus in 2000 following the Kargil conflict, had no partition baggage or ties to Pakistan. Yet she was overcome with emotion on arriving here. She befriended an engineering student who was volunteering with the group ‘out of curiosity’ (having never met an Indian but despising India and Indians). He told me that, despite disagreeing with official policies ‘now at least we can talk about our disagreements’. Young Pakistanis and Indians wept as they said goodbye three days later.

I am reminded of these encounters by Ashutosh Varshney’s essay ‘Founding Myths’ (in The Great Divide) in which he suggests that India-Pakistan rivalry be re-imagined ‘as a thoroughgoing competition, not as a do-or-die conflict’.
‘A distinction needs to be drawn between two terms: adversaries and enemies. Adversaries can be respected, even admired; enemies are killed. India and Pakistan must cease to be enemies; they need to become adversaries competing vigorously to become better than the other.’

The stakes are high for both nuclear-armed neighbours riddled by internal insurgencies and ‘religious’ militancy, endemic poverty and high military budgets that directly and negatively impact development.

Zardari’s talk of a South Asian bloc and easing visa restrictions did not emerge from a vacuum — peace activists have been presenting such out-of-the-box ideas for years. The visiting Indians added more to the previous talk, like twinning press clubs and even dual nationality for Indians and Pakistanis (‘believe me, many would take it,’ asserted award-winning social activist Sandeep Pandey from Lucknow).

These ideas may be ahead of their time — but so then was the Pakistan-India Forum for Peace and Democracy notion first articulated in 1994 that Kashmir is not just a territorial dispute between Pakistan and India, but a matter of the lives and aspirations of the Kashmiri people, who must be included in any dialogue about their future. This formulation has now permeated political discourse.
When Sandeep Pandey and others participated in a peace march in 2005 from Delhi to Multan, villagers enthusiastically welcomed them along the way (though the urban-based media largely ignored this rural activity) and endorsed their demands: one, resolve all problems through dialogue; two, de-weaponise and remove armies from the borders; three, end visa restrictions.

‘One cyclist stopped and said, ‘Make the third demand your first. Once that happens, the rest will sort out’,’ recalls Pandey.

The Indian delegates have now left with a renewed sense of the urgency Pakistanis feel about the need for peace with India. They also realise the need to go against the tide back home and push the Indian government to go beyond pressurising the Pakistani government to ‘take action’.

There may be no immediate results to any of these initiatives. But the fact that the governments allow them to take place itself speaks for the realisation of the need to at least maintain such contacts. And in the long run, they create a pressure for peace from below, something for the political and bureaucratic establishments to bear in mind when they next meet.

The writer is a freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker based in Karachi.

India could have pre-empted Mumbai attacks: Malik

ISLAMABAD: Mumbai attacks could have been avoided had India not withheld important information, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Saturday.

Mr Malik said India had not informed Pakistan about the arrests of Ansari and Sabahuddin who, according to New Delhi, had been arrested before the attacks and charged with involvement in the Mumbai massacre.

Rehman Malik told a press conference after a meeting with Acting Indian High Commissioner Manpreet Vohra: ‘This has created doubts in our minds. Pakistan wants to know if they really are involved in the attacks, and why Indian authorities did not inform Pakistan about their arrests before the Mumbai incident.’

‘If India had shared information of their arrests, we would have taken action to avoid the Mumbai incident.’

The minister said the trial of the five accused, including the alleged mastermind Zakiur Rahman Lakhvi, would start next week.

Blaming India for the delay in investigations into the Mumbai terror attacks, Mr Malik said whereas India took more than 90 days to complete its probe, Pakistan took only 76 days. ‘This shows Pakistan’s seriousness on the issue. Pakistan cannot be accused of causing a delay.’

‘Accusations of being slow, being non-serious must end today … after this final investigation and the trial, which is likely to commence in the next few days,’ he said.

Mr Malik said five out of the nine accused had already been arrested and the investigation into their role was almost complete.

Lakhvi would be charged with masterminding the attacks while the four others would be indicted for acting as facilitators and managing funds and hideouts used by the attackers.

They are: Hamaad Amin Sadiq, Mazhar Iqbal, Abdul Wajid and Shahid Jamil Riaz. A second challan of the accused would be submitted in court on July 20.

Citing security concerns, Mr Malik said the trial would take place in a maximum security prison in Rawalpindi. ‘The court will decide if the trial will be open to public or not.’

He said he was confident that the culprits would be punished on the basis of evidence collected during investigations.

Criticising India for not providing information, the minister said: ‘Our seriousness can be gauged from the fact that all intelligence agencies are working on the case.’

Mumbai attacks, floods on agenda for Indian elections

MUMBAI: Terrorism was on the top of the agenda Thursday as the people of Mumbai voted in India’s monthlong elections under the shadow of the deadly attack that rocked the country’s financial capital.

Thursday’s vote was the third of five phases of polling that ends May 13, and results are expected May 16. With more than 700 million voters, India normally holds staggered elections for logistical and security reasons.

Among the regions voting in this round was Mumbai, bringing terrorism to the head of the national debate after an election campaign dominated by local issues, caste, and religion.

Sonia Gandhi, the head of the governing Congress party, sought to defend her party’s handling of the attack and a string of others that have hit India in the five years of Congress rule.

‘We don’t require any certificate from anyone to prove our stand against terrorism,’ she told an election rally in New Delhi. Indian law bars politicians from campaigning in voting areas on the day of the polls.

Gandhi said the main opposition, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, should not criticize Congress for being soft on terror, recalling the BJP’s decision to negotiate with hijackers of an Indian airliner during their earlier stint in power and release three senior militants to secure the release of the hostages.

Some voters, however, said they would hold the government accountable for the attack.

‘We need a change as the present government has failed to provide protection to the people,’ said Sachin Dhangi, a 35-year-old salesman.

For others, India’s long-standing battle with poverty remained their top concern.

Sameer Singade, 32, a resident of one of Mumbai’s sprawling slums — which gained prominence in the Oscar winning ‘Slumdog Millionaire — said he had voted for a new party formed by a firebrand local politician Raj Thackeray ‘in the hope that it will do something for the poor people.’

Thackeray has made his name as a xenophobic, rabble-rousing politician championing the Marathi language and the rights of residents of Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital.

The fragmented debate in this country of nearly 1.2 billion people has ensured that neither of the two national parties has been able to dominate the elections.

Polls indicate neither Congress, nor the main opposition BJP, will win enough seats in the 543-seat lower house of Parliament to rule on their own.

That means the election will likely leave India with a shaky coalition government cobbled together from across the political spectrum — a situation giving the next prime minister little time to deal with a growing number of challenges like the economic crisis.

Local issues remained key in other areas. In northern Bihar state, the voting was dominated by the devastating floods that left millions homeless in October when the Kosi river burst its banks and shifted course.

‘The Kosi flood has washed away divides on caste and community lines,’ said Gajendra Yadav, 38, a voter in Madhepura, one of the districts worst hit by the floods. ‘Everyone, Hindu or Muslim want a solution to the Kosi floods.’

The first two rounds of voting were marred by violence from communist rebels. However, this was not expected to be a factor Thursday as most of the insurgency-affected areas have completed their voting.

There was heavy security in Indian-controlled Kashmir, where separatists urged residents to boycott elections and called for a general strike and demonstrations.

Anti-India sentiment runs deep in mainly Muslim Kashmir, where most people favor independence from India or a merger with Pakistan. Kashmir is divided between the two nuclear-armed neighbors, who both claim the region in its entirety and have fought two wars over it.

Pak must end Mumbai attacks investigations logically: Mukherjee

NEW DELHI: Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said Pakistan first time acknowledges for the first time that the Mumbai attacks were partly planned in Pakistan and now Pakistan should end Mumbai attacks investigations logically.

In a statement issued regarding Mumbai attacks, Mukherjee said Pakistan should dismantle terrorists network.

source : jang.com.pk

Use of force not only option in Swat: PM

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani Friday said not all issues could be resolved through military means alone and other measures also need to be taken to stabilise situation in Swat.

Talking to media after attending a briefing at the Planning Commission on country’s future course of action towards development, PM Gilani said the global economic recession had its impact on Pakistan, but hoped that economic indicators would help the country through this period.

Gilani said the IMF has also noted that Pakistan has met its targets. The prime minister when questioned about the petroleum prices said it was for the first time in country’s history that his government proportionately lowered the prices.

Asked whether Pakistan plans a similar response from India over the Samjhota Express tragedy as it did on Mumbai attacks, Gilani said additional information has been sought from India.

Adviser on Finance Shaukat Tareen said the government has to take tough decisions to address the state of economy that it inherited. He hinted that it would take some time before the economy could be turned around.

source : jang.com.pk

Pakistan arrests ‘main operator’ in Mumbai attacks

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan acknowledged for the first time that the Mumbai terrorist attacks were launched from its shores and at least partly plotted on its soil, saying Thursday that it had arrested most of the chief suspects including one described as “the main operator.”

Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik said Pakistan has started criminal proceedings against eight suspects — some of them also named by India as the masterminds of the attacks — but he reiterated that authorities needed more evidence from New Delhi to secure convictions.

The revelations suggest Pakistan is serious about punishing those behind the November attacks, which killed 164 people and stirred fear that the nuclear-armed neighbors could slide toward war and that Pakistan might be distracted from its struggle against the Taliban and al-Qaida.

India and the U.S. have pressed Pakistan hard to dismantle Lashkar-e-Taiba, a banned Pakistan-based group fighting Indian rule in the divided Kashmir region that is widely blamed for the Mumbai carnage. Islamabad and New Delhi have fought two out of their three wars since 1947 over the region.

India’s Foreign Ministry called Pakistan’s announcement “a positive development” and said it would consider Islamabad’s request for further information.

Malik said investigators had traced a boat engine used by the attackers to sail from Pakistan to India and busted two hideouts of the suspects near the southern city of Karachi.

Other leads pointed to Europe and the United States, and Malik said Pakistan would ask the FBI for help.

“I want to assure the international community, I want to assure all those who have been victims of terrorism that we mean business,” Malik said, waving a copy of Pakistan’s initial findings at reporters gathered inside his ministry.

“We will continue our investigation, but we want tenable evidence from India. We want full cooperation from India so that this kind of ring be smashed.”

India says all 10 gunmen — only one of whom was captured alive — were Pakistanis and that their handlers in Pakistan had kept in close touch with them by phone during the three-day assault.

New Delhi provided a dossier of evidence to Islamabad, testing Pakistan’s insistence that it would do all in its power to punish those responsible — and that it has truly abandoned its past sponsorship of Islamist militants including the Taliban.

In Pakistan’s first detailed response, Malik said criminal cases had been opened against eight suspects on charges of “abetting, conspiracy and facilitation” of a terrorist act.

He said six of them were in custody, including Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Zarrar Shah, both Lashkar-e-Taiba leaders named by India as the masterminds of the attack, and a person who sent an e-mail claiming responsibility for the attacks.

Indian media said at the time that they received an e-mail in the name of the previously unknown Deccan Mujahideen — a name which suggested an Indian rather than Pakistani group was behind the attacks and which now appears to have been a decoy.

Malik said the culprits were “non-state actors,” a phrase used by Pakistani authorities to counter allegations that its intelligence agencies had a hand in the attacks.

Malik said the assailants used three boats to travel from Pakistan to Mumbai.

He said detectives had traced an engine recovered from one of the vessels to a shop in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi. He said the shopkeeper had provided the phone number of the buyer which led to a bank account in the name of Hammad Amin Sadiq.

Malik said authorities had arrested Sadiq and obtained from him information that led them to bust two “hide-outs of the terrorists,” one in Karachi and one about two hours drive away.

He described Sadiq, a 37-year-old who had been living in Karachi, as “the main operator” but didn’t elaborate.

He said the detainees had told of how the group used a spot on the Pakistani coast to practice their sea-borne attack.

To stiffen its case, Pakistan was sending 30 questions to India about the attacks, Malik said. Among the additional details sought are the DNA of the 10 gunmen and information on intercepted phone conversations between the militants and their handlers.

He also asked New Delhi to investigate what contacts — and help — the attackers had inside India. The terrorists also used phones with Indian SIM cards, he noted. Their two suspected handlers are still at large.

India’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the government will consider Islamabad’s request. “After that examination, we will share whatever we can with Pakistan,” the statement said.

On Thursday, Malik also suggested a wider international dimension to the crime.

One suspect, Javed Iqbal, had been “lured” back from Barcelona, Spain, where he had been living, and was now in Pakistani custody. While in Spain, Iqbal had arranged Internet telephone accounts used in the attacks and bills had been paid in Italy, Malik said.

Suspects also used a digital teleconferencing system whose service provider is based in Houston, Texas, while a Thuraya phone was issued in a Middle Eastern country, he said.

Other bills were paid by a company in Islamabad and two people have been arrested as a result, Malik said.

“It is not only Pakistan, but the system of the other countries has also been used,” Malik said.

source : news.yahoo.com

Mumbai attacks sans inside help not possible: Narendra Modi

NAGPUR: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, Narendra Modi has said that Mumbai attacks could not have been possible without the indoor help and blamed the government for not taking any action against the local groups.

Addressing a BJP Convention here, Indian state Gujrat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi slamming the Indian ruling party Congress policies said that their existing economic and foreign policies have failed, while alliance government has failed to ensure security for the people.

He said that Mimbai attacks could not have been possible without inside help, while the ruling alliance has not taken any action thus far against any local groups involved in the November 26 incidents.

Narendra Modi said that terrorism at no cost would be tolerated and urged for a tit-for-tat reply. He sarcastically said that the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh was the PM not perceivable.

source : jang.com.pk

Pak vows to bring Mumbai attackers to justice

ISLAMABAD: Interior Adviser Rehman Malik said on Thursday that Pakistan is committed to bringing the perpetrators of Mumbai attacks to justice. He said Pakistan and India were nuclear states and that the Indian government was under intense public pressure to act.

Talking to journalists here, Malik said the government of Pakistan had launched probe into Mumbai attacks soon after the tragic incident occurred. ‘The government has banned Jamaat-ud-Dawah publications and shut down six Dawah’s websites”, advisor said.

Malik further said that 124 activists of Jamaat-ud-Dawah were nabbed including Hafiz Saeed, Mufti Abdur Rehman, Colonnel (Retd.) Nazir Ahmed, Amir Hamza and Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and five camps were closed down. He said the FIA was looking into the Indian dossier but more evidence was required.

Interior Advisor said that Pakistan had assured India of its unconditional support to India in Mumbai probe. He urged India to establish direct diplomatic channels with Pakistan for the exchange of information on Mumbai attacks instead of using indirect channels.

source : jang.com.pk