Pakistan on Thursday acknowledged for the first time that the terror attacks on Mumbai in November were partially planned in the country and took unprecedented steps to prosecute suspects of crimes committed in a neighbouring country.
Until now, Pakistan has resisted any public acknowledgement that the commando-style strike on India’s financial centre was committed by Pakistanis or masterminded by militants operating on its soil. It has, however, arrested militants belonging to Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group, that India and others in the international community blame for the attack.
”Some part of the conspiracy has taken place in Pakistan,” said Rehman Malik, the adviser to the prime minister on interior affairs.
”We have located those locations which were used by the terrorists before launching themselves,” said Mr Malik. ”Some of the accused who have been arrested, they have given us the full rundown.”
Although Pakistan had been expected to release the results of its investigation into the terror attacks some days earlier, yesterday’s statement by Mr Malik coincided with the visit of Richard Holbrooke, US President Barack Obama’s special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, to Islamabad.
India, which has waged a diplomatic offensive against Pakistan over the past weeks, immediately responded to the admission describing it as ”a positive development”.
Mr Malik said that formal prosecutions of some of the militants would begin in Pakistan, with the formal registration of a police First Investigation Report (FIR). Zia ur Rehman Lakhvi, a hardcore militant and LeT member, has been named by Pakistani officials as the mastermind behind the Mumbai attack.
Pakistan is holding him in custody and five other suspects in the plot behind the attack on Mumbai.
The FIR is a formal complaint which becomes the basis for prosecution of an alleged offender. Pakistani officials said it was the first time that Pakistan had launched a FIR against criminal suspects accused of a crime in neighbouring India.
”This is a new beginning. I hope this measure will reassure the Indians that we are not taking this matter lightly,” said a senior interior ministry official.
However, Mr Malik cast the net beyond Pakistan in saying investigators had discovered that funds transferred from Italy and Spain were used to finance the attacks. Additionally, he said, Austrian telephone SIM cards had been used, while there was a link to Houston in the United States.
Last week, a Pakistani government official told the FT that there was evidence of connections between the attackers and a group of Islamist militants in Bangladesh.
Western diplomats warned that Mr Malik’s claims could not be immediately verified.
Indian officials have claimed that the attacks which involved militants travelling by sea from Karachi, Pakistan’s port city, were carried out with the support of elements within Pakistan’s intelligence community.
”I think the big question is whether there is a smoking gun which ultimately links to the Pakistani state. These prosecutions (of militants) are a welcome development but it’s just the first step,” said one senior western official.