Pakistan’s Zardari Says Militants Could Start Regional War

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has appealed to India not to punish his country for last week’s attacks in Mumbai, saying militants have the power to precipitate a war in the region, the Financial Times reported on Monday.

Zardari, whose wife, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated by Islamist militants last year, warned that provocation by rogue “non-state actors” posed the danger of a return to war between the nuclear-armed neighbors.

“Even if the militants are linked to Lashkar-e-Taiba, who do you think we are fighting?” asked Zardari in an interview with the Financial Times.

“We live in troubled times where non-state actors have taken us to war before, whether it is the case of those who perpetrated (the) 9/11 (attacks on the United States) or contributed to the escalation of the situation in Iraq,” said Zardari.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani speaks during the ... 
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani speaks during the National Security Conference to discuss ongoing tension between India and Pakistan flared after the last week’s Mumbai attacks, Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008 in Islamabad, Pakistan. Pakistan has proposed a joint investigation of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai after India blamed elements in Pakistan for the bloodshed.(AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

More from Reuters:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/200812
01/ts_nm/us_india_mumbai_1

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From the Financial Times (UK) 
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Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s president, made an urgent appeal to India yesterday not to punish his country for the terror unleashed on Mumbai last week, as Indian officials blamed a Pakistani militant group for the three-day rampage.

As the government in New Delhi faced mounting domestic pressure to respond forcefully to the attacks, Mr Zardari urged Manmohan Singh, India’s prime minister, to resist striking out at his government should investigations show that Pakistani militant groups were responsible.

His appeal came as tensions rose between the two countries. A day after the security forces finally regained control of Mumbai, Indian officials blamed Lashkar-i-tayyaba, a prominent militant group linked to previous attacks against India. Its name translates as Army of the Pure.

Speaking exclusively to the Financial Times, Pakistan’s president warned that provocation by rogue “non-state actors” posed the danger of a return to war between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

“Even if the militants are linked to Lashkar-i-tayyaba, who do you think we are fighting?” asked Mr Zardari, whose country is battling al-Qaeda and Taliban militants on its border with Afghanistan.

But Indian officials last night stepped up the pressure on Pakistan. The ruling Congress party’s general secretary M Veerappa Moily told the FT: “All the terrorists involved in the Mumbai blasts are related to Pakistan-based Lashkar-i-tayyaba. We are seriously concerned and the government won’t let such acts go lightly.”

New Delhi was yesterday facing intense domestic criticism over its response to the attacks which claimed at least 172 lives.

India is not considering taking military action against Pakistan ... 
India is not considering taking military action against Pakistan over the attacks in Mumbai, Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said Tuesday.(AFP/Raveendran)

Shivraj Patil, the home minister, resigned as criticism intensified over the response of the security forces to the attack on India’s financial capital.

“The Congress government has no moral authority to survive,” said Arun Jaitley, a leader of the opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party, blaming its weakness for collapsed intelligence gathering and a poor security response to the terror strike.

The Mumbai attacks ended on Saturday when commandos killed the last gunmen holed up at the Taj Mahal hotel.

Some of the most stinging criticism of the response of the emergency services came from business. “The police were woefully inadequate in terms of equipment and in terms of being prepared,” said Ratan Tata, chairman of the Tata Group that owns the Taj Mahal hotel. He said fire engines had taken three hours to arrive when the hotel caught alight.

Additional reporting by James Fontanella-Khan in Mumbai

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