Today's Paper

Pak. must prove its earnestness: Advani

MUMBAI AUG. 26. The Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, who visited the Mumbai blast sites today characterised the events as terrorist-related and demanded that Pakistan hand over the 20 proclaimed offenders, including those involved in the 1993 serial blasts in Mumbai, to prove its earnestness. The spread of the terrorist machine was not only in Jammu and Kashmir but "because of Jammu and Kashmir", he said adding "the neighbour's anger was rooted also in the fact it had made lesser progress."

Mr. Advani told mediapersons that if Pakistan, despite this "hostility", had condemned the blasts, "it was good". However, he wondered if "it was credible". Mumbai remembered "those who perpetrated a bigger tragedy" in 1993 and though the culprits were wanted by the courts and Interpol, they "were being patronised by Pakistan".

Pakistan was keen on destabilising not only some regions "but the entire country" and newer targets were being constantly picked up. Islamabad had changed its strategy since 1971 from waging a full-scale war, and targeted not only Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and Delhi but "the whole of the country". It was not only seeking to destabilise it economically but also destroy the country's secular credentials. Now, Pakistan was continuing to "play its games" in this country.

India would neutralise all attempts at destabilisation "and gain victory over terrorism", he said.

Detailed presentation

Later, Mr. Advani was given a detailed, business-like presentation "though it was mostly a repeat of what was conveyed periodically".

Officials present at the briefing were later heard saying that he had asked for precise details, having apparently done his homework and that he asked "searching questions" at times. He took a "perspective in which he wanted the issue of terrorists to be handled" without "playing politics". The Chief Minister, Sushilkumar Shinde, the Deputy Chief Minister, Chagan Bhujbal, and the city Police Commissioner, R. S. Sharma, were present.

This was an obvious reference to the manner in which the Opposition had begun clamouring for the dismissal of the Government led by Mr. Shinde by first meeting him at his bungalow and then asking the Governor, Mohd. Fazal, to have him sacked.Later, Mr. Bhujbal said, "we have never ever interfered but allowed the police a free hand".According to a source, "we gave more details than what we have disclosed to the press and public so far; the intent is to fight the terror." Mr. Bhujbal told reporters that "Mr. Advani has been updated on almost every detail" including the soon-to-be commissioned Anti-Terrorist Squad in the formation of which the Centre would be involved. All details, including the methods and the level of skills employed by the terrorists behind the blasts, were given to Mr. Advani.

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