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Pakistan Dithers Again

Highlights

Pakistani media commentators have apprehended that the anger and resolve at the all-party meeting in Peshawar may not last more than a week. The government failed to take and announce tough decisions

Pakistani media commentators have apprehended that the anger and resolve at the all-party meeting in Peshawar may not last more than a week. The government failed to take and announce tough decisions

The Pakistan government, chastised by the heartless mass killings of students in Peshawar, has detained Zakiur Rahman Lakhvi, mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, again for three months under the Maintenance of Public Order. It has also decided to appeal against the bail in superior courts, abiding in a sense, by its own decision, taken in the wake of the Peshawar murders, not to distinguish between good Taliban and bad Taliban.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif deserves a single cheer, but no more, for respecting India’s sentiments at losing 170-plus people in that carnage. Lakhvi directed the entire operation in Mumbai that night. He and six others are on trial in Pakistan under pressures from the world community. India has produced enough evidence and supplied it. But, typical of the adversarial neighbour, Pakistan has rejected it, trashing it as “hearsay’, “not actionable,” “rumours” etc. The case has seen little progress with Pakistani investigators either refusing to cooperate with their Indian counterparts or handling evidence in a lackadaisical manner.

India has rightly protested at both the prosecution of the seven accused in the Anti-Terror Court in Islamabad, as also the investigation by the authorities into the larger conspiracy surrounding the Mumbai attack case, proceeding at a glacial pace. Islamabad has its own compulsions with lax judicial processes and worse, lawyers and judges mortally scared of militants. Nine judges have come and gone in the last five years. Anti- India slogans were shouted, hailing the release of Lakhvi’s mentor, Hafiz Saeed, during one such court proceeding.

Despite the public anger over Peshawar killings, the government has yet to display a strong resolve. Pakistani media commentators have apprehended that the anger and resolve at the all-party meeting in Peshawar may not last more than a week. The government failed to take and announce tough decisions. Everything was left to a committee to be headed by the Home Minister. A great opportunity could be frittered away for lack of a political will. There is already evidence of that. Maulana Abdul Aziz of the Lal Masjid in Islamabad has justified the Peshawar killings and refused to condemn them.

When scores of civil society activists demonstrated and lit candles outside the mosque on Thursday evening, they were threatened by the cleric. On his complaint, the police arrived in full battle gear and ordered the protesters to disperse. Indeed, a case is registered, not against the priest but against the demonstrators. The Lal Masjid incident is both important and significant. It was after the siege of this mosque in 2007 by the government, to clear it of militants, both local and foreign, that former dictator Pervez Musharraf’s political downfall began and the Tehrik Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was born. Will Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government, fighting the TTP in tribal areas, heed the mosque clergy’s defiance in Islamabad, right under its nose, and act?

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