/ 4 December 2008

Pakistan vows to hunt Mumbai attack plotters

United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in Islamabad on Thursday that Pakistan gave assurances that it would root out terrorism and round up anyone connected to last week’s attack in the Indian city of Mumbai.

Rice said the fight against terrorism was a ”global struggle” in a news conference at the end of a brief visit to Pakistan aimed at curbing tensions between the nuclear-armed South Asian neighbours.

In a delicate balancing act, Rice met Indian leaders a day earlier in New Delhi, where she called for restraint. Rice said she had reasonable and responsible discussions in both capitals.

The sophistication of the attacks that killed 171 people, in India’s commercial capital was alarming and all sides had to work together to stop this kind of attack happening again, she said.

”Everybody wants to prevent further attacks,” Rice told a news conference at a military airfield before departing.

”Pakistan, the Pakistani leadership, understands the importance of doing that, particularly in rooting out terrorism and rounding up whoever perpetrated this attack,” she said.

India, and US officials, have blamed groups based on Pakistani territory for the attack, but no accusations have been levelled at the Pakistani state or its agencies..

President Asif Ali Zardari told Rice he had asked India to see this as a chance to work together rather than be at odds with one another, saying: ”I intend to do everything in my power.”

”The government will not only assist in investigations but also take strong action against any Pakistani elements found involved in the attack,” a statement quoted Zardari as saying.

”Pakistan is determined to ensure that its territory is not used for any act of terrorism,” Zardari said.

The prime suspect for the slaughter in Mumbai is Lashkar-e-Taiba, a jihadi organisation fighting Indian rule in Kashmir that also has al-Qaeda links, and which analysts say has had ties with Pakistani intelligence in the past.

Before meeting Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, the leaders of an eight-month-old civilian government in Islamabad, Rice first met army chief General Ashfaq Kayani at army headquarters in nearby Rawalpindi.

Traffic was blocked and no people were in sight aside from security personnel lining roadsides as Rice’s motorcade passed through two cities living under constant threat of attacks by militants linked to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. How much leverage the United States, particularly the outgoing Bush administration, has over Pakistan is debatable. Withholding financial or military support could add to instability in the Muslim state.

The country is in the midst of a fragile transition to democracy after more than eight years of rule under former army chief Pervez Musharraf, and analysts say the new government does not have full control over the army’s affairs. — Reuters