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Mumbai blasts: US Congressman alleges Pak link

By Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC
Last updated on: July 19, 2006 12:50 IST
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Congressman Frank Pallone, New Jersey Democrat, and the founder and former co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, took to the House floor on Tuesday alleging a Pakistani link to the ghastly serial blasts in Mumbai last week and saying that Islamabad had effectively torpedoed the promising India-Pakistan peace process. 

"I rise today to express concern about Pakistan's links to last week's terrorist attacks on Indian civilians," Pallone said, "although slow moving, the peace process between India and Pakistan was promising and I'm afraid that Pakistan now stands in the way of further progress." 

After he once again expressed his deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims of these devastating attacks, Pallone said the attacks both in Mumbai and earlier in Srinagar, "were senseless attacks of terrorism and violence,"and expressed confidence that "Indian officials will find the person or organisation responsible for these disasters and bring them to swift justice." 

The lawmaker informed his Congressional colleagues of India's "strong commitment to fighting terrorism in all its forms," and said, "Like the United States, nothing has deterred their firm policy to fight this regional and global menance." 

But "unfortunately", he argued, "Pakistan has not proven this same commitment. The government still lacks the appropriate law and order that is necessary to deter terrorist cells from looming and growing within their borders." 

"Over the past few days, it is becoming clearer that the terror units responsible for the attacks in India, including in Jammu and Kashmir, were initiated and supported by elements in Pakistan. All leads are now pointing to the involvement of Lashkar-e-Tayiba, a terrorist organisation that has received support from Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence," Pallone said. 

"Lashkar-e-Tayiba is a group active in the anti-Indian insurgency in Kashmir," he said. "Although the group is outlawed in Pakistan, it continues to function under other guises. In fact, their leader Hafiz Muhammad Saeed enjoys freedom in Pakistan despite this official ban on his organisation by the Pakistani administration," he added. 

Pallone also pointed out that the LeT is "also blamed for several other attacks on Indian soil in recent years, including the attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001 that almost instigated another war between the two countries. Since then, India and Pakistan have been engaged in peace talks over Kashmir. Violence had declined until recent weeks." 

He said that though no 'official' deal over Kashmir has been made yet, "talks between the countries have led to prisoner releases, increased tourist visas to each country and bus and train links across the divided region." 

"However," Pallone said, "Pakistan's failure to rein in terrorist organisations operating within its borders is threatening the peace process," and noted, "despite having vowed in 2004 not to allow any part of the territory under its control be used by terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e-Tayiba, the Pakistani government has simply watched while terrorist attacks took place in Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of the country." 

"Pakistan has not implemented its promise to stop the terrorism," the lawmaker said and asserted that instead, "acts of violence continue to occur on their watch and the people of India and Kashmir are suffering." 

Pallone said that it's high time that Pakistan, instead of simply rhetoric, "begin to demonstrate their commitment to the global war on terrorism. It must live up to its end of the bargain and control the violence. Otherwise, it will become exceedingly difficult for India to sustain the peace intiative." 

In showering kudos on the people of Mumbai and Jammu and Kashmir, he said their spirit "has demonstrated very strongly that terrorism cannot and will not succeed in destroying a people or a nation." 

"My only hope is that these attacks strengthen the resolve of the government of Pakistan in combating Islamic terrorism. Pakistan must not let Islamic extremism undermine the peace process," he added.

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Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC