New York: Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has pledged to take action against “non-state actors” responsible for Mumbai terror attacks, but made an emotional appeal to India against “hasty judgements” and “inflammatory statements”.
Zardari said that all “non-state actors” found in his country would be treated like “terrorists and murderers” and said that Pakistan was committed to “pursuit, arrest, trial and punishment of anyone involved in these heinous attacks”.
In an emotionally charged article in The New York Times, Zardari said the Mumbai attacks were directed not only against India but also against Pakistan’s new democratic government and the peace process “we have initiated with New Delhi”.
“Supporters of authoritarianism in Pakistan and non-state actors with vested interest in perpetuating conflict do not want change in Pakistan to take root,” he wrote.
“Not only are the terrorists not linked to the government of Pakistan in any way,” the President said adding “we are their targets and we continue to be their victims”.
The best response to the Mumbai carnage is for India, Pakistan and the US to coordinate in counteracting the scourge of terrorism, Zardari wrote, asserting that he well understood the pain of terror victims given that his wife, former Pakistan premier Benazir Bhutto was also assassinated in a terror attack.
“Pakistan is committed to the pursuit, arrest, trial and punishment of anyone involved in these heinous acts. But we caution against hasty judgements and inflammatory statements,” Zardari wrote.
Referring to the raids conducted on Sunday, 7 December, Lashker-e-Taiba militants, including the arrest of suspected Mumbai attack mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhwi, Zardari pledged that Pakistan will take action against non-state actors found within its territory, “treating them as criminals, terrorists and murders”.
To foil the designs of the terrorists, Zardari said the “two great nations of Pakistan and India, born together from the same revolution and mandate in 1947,” must continue to move forward with the peace process.
“Pakistan is shocked at the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. We can identify with India’s pain. I feel this pain every time I look into the eyes of my children,” he said, recalling referring to the assassination of Bhutto.
He said the terrorists who killed his wife are “connected by ideology to these enemies of civilization”.
Stating that India is a “mature nation and a stable democracy”, he said Pakistanis appreciate its democratic contributions.
“But as rage fuelled by the Mumbai attacks catches on, Indians must pause and take a breath. India and Pakistan and the rest of the world must work together to track down the terrorists who caused mayhem in Mumbai, attacked New York, London and Madrid in the past, and destroyed the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad in September,” he added.
Pointing out that Pakistan was an ally of the West throughout the Cold War, he said, “the world worked to exploit religion against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan by empowering the most fanatic extremists as an instrument of destruction of a superpower.”
The strategy, he said, worked, but its legacy was the creation of an extremist militia with its own dynamic.
“Pakistan continues to pay the price: the legacy of dictatorship, the fatigue of fanaticism, the dismemberment of civil society and the destruction of our democratic infrastructure,” Zardari wrote.
Stating that terrorists have huge network, he said for meeting the challenge of confronting them, Pakistan’s “fledging democracy” needs help from the rest of the world.
“We are on the frontlines of the war on terrorism. We have 150,000 soldiers fighting al Qaeda, the Taliban and their extremist allies along the border with Afghanistan far more troops than Nato has in Afghanistan,” he added.
Zardari said about 2,000 Pakistanis have lost their lives to terrorism this year alone, including 1,400 civilians and 600 security personnel ranging in rank from ordinary soldier to three-star general.
Stating that there have been at least 600 terrorism related incidents in Pakistan this year, he said, the terrorists have been “set back by our aggressive war against them in the federally administered tribal areas and the Pashtun-majority areas bordering Afghanistan.”
“We understand the domestic political considerations in India in the aftermath of Mumbai. Nevertheless, accusations of complicity on Pakistan’s part only complicate the already complex situation,” he added.
“Benazir Bhutto once said that democracy is the best revenge against the abuses of dictatorship. In the current environment, reconciliation and rapprochement is the best revenge against the dark forces that are trying to provoke a confrontation between Pakistan and India, and ultimately a clash of civilizations,” Zardari said.