The official acknowledgment by Islamabad that Ajmal Amir ‘Kasab’ is its citizen is a positive development. It can serve as a new starting point for the Pakistan government to begin investigations on the leads provided by Kasab, the only survivor among the ten terrorists who attacked Mumbai, and other evidence handed over by India in a comprehensive dossier. But whether the civilian regime led by the Pakistan People’s Party is prepared to undertake this task is yet unclear. The official confirmation of the gunman’s nationality did not come voluntarily. Confronted by a report on Pakistan’s upstanding Dawn News television, which quoted a “high-ranking” official as saying that investigations had confirmed Kasab as a Pakistani, the first reaction from both the Foreign Ministry and the Interior Ministry was: ‘too early to say anything on this.’ Meanwhile, the Minister of Information came clean. It was only then that the Foreign Office was forced to reverse what it had said a couple of hours earlier. What gives a clue to the future is Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani’s decision to dismiss his National Security Adviser, the retired Major-General Mahmud Ali Durrani, seen as the source of the Dawn News report. Even before the government issued a formal statement on the dismissal, Mr. Gilani telephoned Geo Television to denounce Maj-Gen Durrani for bringing a “bad name” and causing “embarrassment” to Pakistan.
As well as what this sorry episode says about Pakistan’s leadership crisis and the inability of the government to get its act together, it is worrying that the acknowledgment of Kasab’s nationality has been dubbed an assault on Pakistan’s image. This lends little hope that the government will ‘uncover the full facts’ of the Mumbai carnage, as promised, if they threaten to bring embarrassment to the country. Those who lead Pakistan today, and the sections of the news media and intelligentsia who are engaged in resurrecting India as the ‘real enemy,’ must realise that persisting in denial will bring the country dishonour. On the other hand, a transparent, public investigation and sincerity in following the Indian material wherever it leads, will offer political Pakistan an opportunity to make a clean break with a three-decade-old jihadist legacy of being seen as the main recruiting ground for global terrorism. Only this can bring Pakistan respect and acceptance in the comity of civilised nations.