Siddharth Varadarajan

Additional Mumbai material to be given to Pakistan soon

Lashkar wanted to punish Pakistani authorities for the action they took for 26/11 attacks

Lahore attack has confirmed India’s worst fears about the state of affairs in Pakistan

New Delhi: India believes the Lashkar-e-Taiba is behind Tuesday’s commando-style attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, the motive being to punish the Pakistani authorities for the action they have taken so far against the banned outfit for its involvement in the November 26-29 terrorist incidents in Mumbai.

Highly placed sources told The Hindu on Wednesday that the LeT was reacting to the recent arrest of its leadership in the same manner that the Jaish-e-Mohammed turned against the Pakistani establishment following the crackdown on its activities after the December 2001 terrorist attack on India’s Parliament. “Then, the Jaish tried to assassinate Musharraf,” a senior official said. “This time, the Lashkar have staged their first-ever internal attack and consciously repeated the Mumbai pattern in Lahore to show what they can do and demonstrate their capacity to inflict damage within Pakistan.”

“Lost control”

Describing the LeT as a “state within a state,” the official said the group does not see itself as a creature of the Pakistani state. “And the fact is that they are no longer creatures.” Since 9/11, the official Pakistani strategy has been to go after the jihadi groups bit by bit, accommodating and protecting some, attacking others. “But today, I think they have really lost control internally.”

The sources said it would be comforting to believe someone within the Inter-Services Intelligence agency was directing all jihadi terrorist activities within and without Pakistan but this was not the case.

“There is an anarchic situation and things are out of control. And personally, I don’t think they have the answer. I don’t think there is someone in the ISI fiendishly controlling things,” the official said.

Relevant questions

Confirming that India has readied its response to the questions Pakistan had on the Mumbai dossier, the officials said the additional material Pakistani investigators wanted could be handed over by the end of this week. “Most of the questions they have asked are relevant from the investigative standpoint, and we will provide answers,” the official said, adding that India was not interested in using procedural tools like Letters Rogatory or the fact that physical evidence was now in the possession of the courts to stonewall the Pakistanis.

Asked for their assessment of how the Lahore incident could impact Pakistan’s willingness to cooperate with India on the Mumbai probe, the sources said there was unlikely to be more clarity. “Because their establishment is so fragmented internally, Lahore will have a different impact on different sections,” said the official. Each section was likely to use Lahore to confirm its existing belief.

“Those who say the LeT and others pose a threat to Pakistan too and need to be destroyed will say they have been vindicated. But those who say Pakistan will only end up inviting more trouble upon itself by acting could also say ‘we told you so’,” he added. “So you could argue it both ways.”

The Lahore attack had confirmed India’s worst fears about the state of affairs in Pakistan, the sources said. “We are in for 10 to 15 years of flexible containment. You actually need to work each of these sections separately, engaging, for example, civil society and the business community, while hardening ourselves to deal with the kind of threats emanating from the anarchic situation there.”

The sources said it was wrong to assume that whatever cooperation Pakistan had shown so far was because of American pressure. “There are parts of their hierarchy which see [what happened in Mumbai] as an actual threat even to Pakistan,” the official said, adding, however, that the more fragmented the establishment becomes, “the narrower is the interest each section seeks to defend.” Thus, President Asif Ali Zardari, who is locked in combat with Nawaz Sharif, might end up trying to reach out to the Army. And that is probably why Admiral Noman Bashir, whose immediate concern was to shift the blame for Mumbai away from the Pakistani Navy, tried to say the terrorists never used the sea route, the officials said.

Asked what additional evidence from Mumbai India was likely to hand over to Pakistan, the officials said the material being prepared included some transcripts and actual recordings of telephone conversations between the terrorists and their handlers, as well as the DNA material and more detailed GPS data requested for. But the Indian side would also be seeking additional information from Pakistan. “We are not engaging in a point-scoring exercise but are going through the Mumbai charge sheet to formulate some specific requests,” the official said. However, India was not formally asking for access at this stage to detained LeT leaders like Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi. “We do want to interrogate all of them, but we want to do this legally. That stage will come later,” he added.

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