ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – The Pakistani government on Wednesday abruptly fired its national security adviser after he confirmed that the surviving gunman captured in the Mumbai attacks is a Pakistani, a key piece of evidence contained in a dossier amassed by India on alleged Pakistani complicity in the three-day assault.
Retired Army Gen. Mehmood Ali Durrani’s confirmation of the nationality of Amir Ajmal Kasab, the only surviving assailant, is the first by a senior Pakistani official and followed weeks of denials by Islamabad that any of the terrorists were Pakistani.
Durrani’s ouster suggests that a struggle is raging in the Pakistan government over responding to the Indian dossier and material gathered by the U.S. that blames the November attacks on a Pakistan-based Islamic militant group with ties to a Pakistani intelligence agency.
The attacks on two major tourist hotels, a Jewish center and other sites in India’s financial capital left 163 people dead and stoked serious tensions between India and Pakistan, the nuclear-armed rivals that have fought three wars since winning independence from Britain in 1947.
A U.S. government consultant, who asked not to be further identified to speak more frankly, said that India, which for years has been battling fighters from Lashkar-e-Taiba and other Pakistan-backed militants on its side of the disputed Kashmir region, has warned the White House that it won’t tolerate another strike by extremists linked to Pakistan.
“The Indians have said that if there is one more attack – it doesn’t have to be a Mumbai – all hell will break loose. This is what they’ve told the White House,” he said.
The Bush administration is pressing Pakistan to bring to justice those who were responsible for the attacks. It fears that retaliatory steps by India could ignite a conflict that would end Pakistan’s crackdown on al-Qaida and Taliban fighters along the border with Afghanistan.
The U.S. government consultant said the Bush administration already has shared large amounts of intelligence with India and Pakistan linking the Mumbai assailants to senior figures of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba extremist group, including at least one in Pakistani custody.
Durrani, a former ambassador to the U.S., confirmed that Kasab was Pakistani in an interview with a television channel, Dawn News, while an Indian station, CNN-IBN, also claimed to have gotten a similar story from him.
A statement from Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s office said that Durrani was sacked “for his irresponsible behavior” and a “lack of coordination on matters of national security.”
Durrani was dismissed even though other Pakistani officials, including Information Minister Sherry Rehman, acknowledged the accuracy of his disclosure on Kasab.
His disclosure came after New Delhi leaked the entirety of its dossier to news outlets.
The document contained some chilling transcripts of intercepted phone calls between the attackers and their handlers, who seemingly were directing the operation from Pakistan.
The document, however, contained nothing to establish a link between the terrorists and the Pakistani government, the army or the powerful Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, a claim made loudly by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other senior officials.
Much of the “proof” contained in the file also appeared to be circumstantial at best.
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