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Ajmal’s nationality confirmed

January 08, 2009


ISLAMABAD, Jan 7: Pakistani authorities, during the course of their own investigations into the Mumbai carnage, have established that the only surviving terrorist Ajmal Kasab is a Pakistani national.

After a series of conflicting statements by various officials representing different sections of the government, it was officially acknowledged that DawnNews TV’s news item about the official investigation report regarding Ajmal Kasab’s identity was correct.

Earlier, a high-ranking government official had told Dawn that the preliminary finding had provided enough information to conclude that the man at present in India’s custody was from a Punjab village, and perhaps belonged to a militant group that was bent upon destabilising the region by undermining the peace process.

The official, who requested anonymity, said the authorities were examining all parts of the puzzle on the basis of their own investigation, as well as the information provided by India and the Americans.

However, he said there was no doubt in the minds of the investigators that the captured terrorist was a Pakistani. “Sadly, it has been established that Kasab is a Pakistani national.”

But within minutes of the revelation, confusing, and somewhat conflicting, statements started emanating from different sections of the government in Islamabad. While the Indian television channel CNN-IBN quoted Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Mehmud Ali Durrani as saying that Ajmal Kasab’s identity as a Pakistani had been established, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir told the same channel that it was premature to say anything because the investigation was continuing.

In the midst of all this, American news agency APTN quoted Information Minister Sherry Rehman as confirming that Ajmal Kasab in fact was a Pakistani national. The minister later confirmed it to Dawn that “he is Pakistani” and that investigations are ongoing.

Similarly, the Foreign Office which at the initial stage appeared either detached from reality or completely out of the loop, admitted by broadcasting through the state-run PTV that Ajmal Kasab was indeed a Pakistani national.

During the course of Dawn’s own investigation, a number of senior officials in the interior ministry and police said that investigations were started soon after initial reports had suggested that Ajmal Kasab might be a Pakistani national. But the authorities wanted to be doubly sure about his identity because there was no record of Kasab and his family in the national database maintained by Nadra. Details of preliminary investigations submitted to the government have still not been made public.

The official who confirmed to Dawn about the preliminary investigation report said Kasab was son of Amir Kasab and Mrs Noor Illahi. But the identity of other militants killed in Mumbai is yet to be established. Senior security officials, however, said that preliminary investigations had established that the militants were operating on their own and had absolutely no link with any section of the country’s security apparatus.

A top ranking western diplomat also confirmed to Dawn that there was no linkage between the terrorists who carried out the Mumbai carnage and the Pakistani security agencies, particularly the ISI. “There is ample evidence to prove that most of the terrorists belonged to Pakistan,” the diplomat said. “But there is not even a shred of evidence to suggest that the ISI or any other Pakistani intelligence agency had any links with these terrorists,” the diplomat said.

“And this is not based on what the Pakistanis have been telling us, as we have double checked it on our own,” the diplomat added.

The remarks belie the latest claim by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who on Tuesday had tried to up the ante by directly accusing the Pakistani security apparatus of being involved in the Mumbai carnage. Pakistan has already rejected the Indian accusation in strongest terms.

In a related development, a statement by Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani also said the Pakistan’s investigations into the Mumbai attacks had made progress. He said that some information of an interim nature on Indian investigations had been received. He did not elaborate.

Punjab’s dusty town of Faridkot became the centre of attention soon after the deadly Mumbai attack as the Indian authorities captured Kasab and claimed that he belonged to Faridkot. The town was thronged by local and foreign media and conflicting reports came out about the identity of Kasab.

At that time the government had, for obvious reasons, decided to adopt a tight-lipped policy, maintaining that only a thorough investigation, based on concrete information, could establish whether Kasab was a Pakistani national, and a resident of Faridkot.

Answering a question about consular access to Kasab, a senior official said the militant had damaged Pakistan ‘like no other’. “We are not yet sure when to ask for consular access. We may not ask for it. He is involved in a heinous crime,” the official said. Kasab also wrote a letter to the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi. Pakistani authorities said they were examining the letter.