Fight terror or face aid cut: USA to Pakistan

NEW YORK: Describing Pakistan a “failed State,” an influential American lawmaker has underlined the need for the US to tie aid to Islamabad with 
the Islamic nation ensuring that the lawless areas bordering Afghanistan are not used by terrorists to launch attacks like in Mumbai.

If Pakistan is not able to do that, the United States itself should go in, Congressman Frank Pallone told a meeting organised by the Indian community to pay homage to the victims of Mumbai terror attacks and to call on the Indian government to take tough measures to ensure that such incidents are not repeated.

Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Pakistan-based militant group, had the backing of the Islamic nation’s spy agency ISI, which shared intelligence with Lashkar and provided protection to it in the Mumbai terror attacks, a media report said on Monday.

American intelligence and counterterrorism officials were quoted by the New York Times as saying that LeT has quietly gained strength in recent years with the assistance of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which has allowed the group to train and raise money while other militants have been under siege.

Officials said though there is no hard evidence yet to link the spy agency to the Mumbai attacks, ISI shared intelligence with Lashkar and provided protection for it.

The ISI has shared intelligence with Lashkar and provided protection for it, the officials told the paper, and investigators are focusing on one Lashkar leader they believe is a main liaison with the spy service and a mastermind of the attacks.

“People are having to go back and relook at all the connections,” one American counterterrorism official, who was among several officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to the paper, was quoted as saying.

American and Indian officials believe that one senior Lashkar commander in particular, Zarrar Shah, is one of the group’s primary liaisons to the ISI. “He’s a central character in this plot,” one American official said.

As a result of the assault India’s financial hub, American counterterrorism and military officials say they are reassessing their view of Lashkar and believe it to be more capable and a greater threat than they had previously recognised.

Pakistani officials have denied any government connection to the siege on November 26-29, in which nearly 200 people were killed in Mumbai.

More than 500 people, including a large number of community leaders belonging to all ethnic political parties, business and activist organization, attended the meeting where a petition was circulated for signatures urging the US government to move a resolution in the UN Security Council seeking to declare Pakistan a terrorist state.

Paying moving homage to the victims at the meeting held in Fords in New Jersey, about 50 kilometres from here, the Democrat from New Jersey also called on Pakistan to take strong action against the organisations which are advocating secession of Kashmir from India to ensure that they do not continue their activities.

But Pallone, who is the founder of the Congressional Caucus on India, cautioned against going to war with Pakistan, saying it would be a “huge mistake.”

The continuing terrorist attacks on India, he opined, bring out the need for more close cooperation with the United States in fighting and rooting out the scourge.

“I believe that going to war would be a huge mistake. I think, we have to look at this in a broad perspective,” stressed Pallone, the member of the US House of Representatives.

Pallone said terrorism has affected the United States, India and Western Europe. “I think the lesson that needs to be learned is that the terrorists want more violence. They are basically opposed to negotiations,” stressed Pallone, the US Representative from New Jersey.

Another influential lawmaker Senator Robert Menendez, Chairman of the subcommittee on foreign assistance, also called for ending aid to the countries which are unwilling to fight terrorism in their own territories.

After several Indian community leaders made passionate speeches, Menendez said he would bring their view as also the fact the interests of India and the United States coincide so far fighting terrorism is concerned to the attention of the lawmakers.

Expressing their full support to whatever steps the Indian government takes, the community leaders called for strong measures to fight terrorism and warning Pakistan in no uncertain term that New Delhi would not tolerate terrorist planning attacks on India from its soil.

On their part, they pledged to continue to lobby with lawmakers to keep a steady pressure on Pakistan to take urgent steps to fight terrorists on its territory and linking aid to its successes in reining in terrorists.

Stressing the need for the United States to put more pressure on Pakistan, Pallone said it is essentially a failed state as the central government does not control most of the territory.

It is clear that even when it outlaws an organization, it continues to work through agitations, madrassas (religious schools) and social activities, Pallone underlined.

He said if they (terror group) continue to exist by providing educational opportunities and social services, the Pakistan government has to go there and provide those services and not let these groups do the job.

From the Indian perspective, Pallone said the most important lesson is to work with US and other countries to step up their security. That means sharing intelligence about terrorist cells, increasing cooperation among law enforcement agencies and knowhow on dealing with such situations, he said.

Paying tribute to India for being model of cooperation and religious tolerance, he decried the efforts of the terrorists to pose as if they are Indian Muslims.

The Congressman from New Jersey also advised foreigners planning to visit India against postponing their trip. They should not allow terrorists instill fear in them, he added.

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