Pakistani leaders and media remained defensive November 30 about accusations of Pakistani involvement in the Mumbai attacks and demanded evidence from India.
11/30/2008 9:41:00 AM
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S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 ISLAMABAD 003719
DEPT FOR MGIN01 MUMBAI TASK FORCE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/04/2018 TAGS: PREL, PTER, PGOV, PK SUBJECT: ZARDARI PROMISES TO SEND AN ISI DIRECTOR TO INDIA
REF: ISLAMABAD 3718
Classified By: Anne W. Patterson, for reasons 1.4 (b)(d)
1. (S) Summary. Pakistani leaders and media remained defensive November 30 about accusations of Pakistani involvement in the Mumbai attacks and demanded evidence from India. Zardari, Qureshi and an unnamed senior defense official are quoted as denying involvement and promising to take action against "any individual or group" involved. In a November 29 meeting with Charge and Acting RAO, Chief of General Staff General Kayani was non-committal in response to urging that ISI Director MG Pasha go to India and claimed no knowledge when we provided information about a Pakistani individual with links to Deccan Mujahidden and Lashkar-e-Taiba. Zardari in November 29 media remarks blamed "miscommunication" for the idea that Pasha would visit India but confirmed that Pakistan would send an ISI "director" to India in response to New Delhi's request. The GOP has come under criticism from various political leaders and the press for suggesting that Pasha should jump to what many Paksitani view as New Delhi's beck and call.
2. (C) All press highlighted remarks by an unidentified senior defense official who noted that India had put its Air Force on high alert and said Pakistan would shift its forces from the western border with Afghanistan to the "more immediate threat" on the Indian border if tensions continued to rise. The UK High Commissioner is scheduled to see Zardari November 30; Ambassador returns December 1, and we have requested meetings for her with both Zardari and Kayani. Charge is seeing NSA Durrani later today. End Summary.
3. (C) President Zardari held a long cabinet meeting November 29 to discuss reactions to the Mumbai attacks. Zardari later told the press "Whoever is responsible for the brutal and crude act against the Indian people and India are looking for a reaction...We have to rise above them and make sure ourselves...and guard against an over-reaction." He continued, "As the President of Pakistan, let me assure you that if any evidence points to any individual or any group in this part of the world, I shall take the strictest of action in the light of this evidence and in front of the world."
4. (C) Following the cabinet meeting, FM Qureshi, NSA Durrani and Interior Minister Malik held a press conference. Qureshi is quoted as saying "We should hope for the best and plan for the worst" regarding a possible outbreak of hostilities. He reiterated that the GOP had decided to cooperate with India to investigate the Mumbai attacks and said all state institutions would give full moral and material support to India to fight a common threat of terrorism. Qureshi denied Pakistan was being defensive but called for Indian restraint on accusations. He confirmed to the press that India suspected that some of the terrorists came from Pakistan and that the government would take action against any element or group found involved in the attacks.
THREATS TO PULL OUT OF FATA
5. (C) All media November 30 carried comments by an unnamed senior defense official that Pakistan would consider moving its troops on the western border with Afghanistan to the eastern border with India if tensions continued to escalate. The unnamed official is quoted as saying that Pakistan had already made it clear to the U.S. and NATO that in case of mounting escalation with India, Pakistan's priority in the war on terror would shift and it would take care of the "more immediate threat" to its security from India. The same source indicated that FM Mukherjee threatened Pakistan and its leadership, and that forced Pakistan to take a tougher line. He noted that India had already put its Air Force on high alert. He is quoted as saying that India had not provided evidence of alleged involvement of groups or individuals from Pakistan, and Pakistan would take action against such elements if there was credible evidence.
ISI, BUT NOT PASHA, WILL VISIT INDIA
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6. (C) Charge and Acting RAO met November 29 with Chief of Army Staff General Kayani and ISI Director MG Pasha. It was clear that Kayani only knew about the November 28 telephone discussions between Zardari and the Secretary and Zardari and FM Mukherjee from CJCS Admiral Mullen, who had called Kayani earlier in the day. Charge urged that Kayani send Pasha to India as a sign of GOP seriousness in cooperating with the Indian investigation. Kayani was curious about the allegations that Mukherjee had threatened in his conversation with Zardari to go to war over the Mumbai incident. Kayani made clear that he believed the GOP had nothing to do with the matter. He referred to the positive statements by Zardari, Gilani, and Qureshi and underlined that Pakistan had been forward-leaning in its offer to assist in the investigation.
7. (C) Kayani was critical of what he considered India's rush to judgment about the details of the case and said that, as a former intelligence chief, he would never have suggested that he could offer up an analysis of the events so quickly after they concluded. He recounted the number of instances in which the Indians had wrongly asserted Pakistani involvement in terror attacks before only to have to walk their claims back when the full details were known.
8. (S) On the various claims that were made by the Indians, Pasha noted that the reports of the two "Pakistani" trawlers that were said to be involved were false and that the Indians had released both vessels after an investigation turned up no evidence against them. Charge and Acting RAO passed to Kayani and Pasha information about a Lashkar-e-Taiba individual with ties to Deccan Mujahideen and the attackers. Regarding the individual linked to Deccan Mujahideen, Kayani and Pasha claimed not to recognize the name. They asked the Acting RAO for additional information on the telephone numbers related to the individual.
9. (C) Kayani noted that the Indians appear to have put their Air Force on alert and armed some of their missiles. He made clear that Pakistan had not reciprocated. Charge pressed him several times on sending Pasha to lead the ISI delegation to India as demonstration of Pakistani seriousness. Kayani was, at best, non-committal.
10. (C) Both Zardari and Qureshi emphasized in public remarks November 29 that Pakistan would send an ISI representative to India, but indicated it was too early to send Pasha. Zardari blamed "miscommunication" for the belief that the GOP had agreed to send Pasha to India. "We had announced a director will come from my side. That is what was requested by the Indian Prime Minister, and that is what we have agreed...It is too early for the director generals to meet at the moment. Let the evidence come to light, let the investigation take its course. Then perhaps there is a position where the directors general could meet...The DG is too senior a person to get into who overall looks into the investigation." Qureshi denied reports that the U.S. had suggested sending Pasha during a phone call between the Secretary and Zardari.
11. (C) On November 27 and 28, the government was criticized by opposition parties, including Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) for its reaction to the attacks. PML-N Opposition Leader Chaudhry Nisar accused PM Gilani of "bowing to India" and said his party would demand an investigation of the decision to send Pasha to India. Editorials in both the English- and Urdu-language press and TV commentators all questioned whether Pakistan should be complying with what is being perceived as an Indian demand based on New Delhi's overreaction to events.
11. (C) Following the cabinet meeting, PM Gilani made calls to virtually all the coalition and opposition political party
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leaders, including Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif, PML President Chaudhry Shujaat, Muttahida Quami Movement leader Altaf Hussain, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam leader Fazlur Rehman and Jamaat-e-Islami leader Qazi Hussain.
12. (SBU) Press reports indicate that the Joint Commission on the Environment scheduled for early December has been called off by the Indian government; before the Mumbai attacks, the proposed Indo-Pak meeting on Sir Creek had been postponed. There are unconfirmed reports that an emergency meeting of the Joint Anti-Terror Mechanism might take place.
13. (C) Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) has publicly denied involvement in the attack, as has the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP). TTP deputy chief Maulana Faquir Mohammad in a press statement accused the Indian government of "using the Mumbai attacks as a pretext to attack Pakistan." The Pakistani media reported that Sayad Salahuddin, leader of the Kashmiri umbrella group, the United Jihad Council, and the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen organization, said the "slaughter" in Mumbai was "reprehensible" and denied any member of his group was involved. Salahuddin suggested that native Indian groups were to blame.
14. (S) Comment: It appears that PM Gilani mistakenly spoke too soon when he told, or was quoted as telling, the media that he was sending Pasha to India. In another sign of weak civilian-military coordination, it is troubling that Zardari does not seem to have kept Kayani informed of all his interaction with Indian, U.S. and UK officials over the past few days. The continued denials of involvement by officials, including Zardari, Qureshi, and Gilani, who have limited information on the activities of LeT and the extent of its current relationship with ISI, are exposing some of the naivite of current government leaders. The pledges by Zardari and Qureshi to take action against any individuals or groups found to be involved in the attacks are welcome, but it is not clear that they have the power to force ISI to take action.