Pakistan denies Mumbai involvement, pledges cooperation

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Nov 28 2008 11:01 PM | Updated as of Nov 29 2008 07:27 AM

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan struck a conciliatory tone Friday and denied accusations of involvement in the Mumbai attacks, while Pakistani press warned India to stop pointing the finger of blame across the border.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani pledged in a Friday telephone call to his Indian counterpart that he would send the chief of the country's powerful intelligence service to India to help investigate the attacks.

And in a televised press conference Friday evening in which he detailed his conversation with Indian premier Manmohan Singh, Gilani again denied Pakistan had anything to do with Wednesday's atrocity, which killed about 135 people.

"I am saying it again, that we have nothing to do with the attacks in Mumbai," Gilani said. "We condemn it, the whole nation has condemned it. We are already the victim of terrorism and extremism."

Gilani went on to speak of his commitment during the phone call to send the Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) chief to help Indian investigators and share intelligence.

"When we are not involved, we have nothing to hide. Therefore one should not feel guilty," Gilani said.

The pledge to send the ISI lieutenant general Ahmed Shuja Pasha to Mumbai is a significant gesture by Pakistan's government, which was elected to power in February ending the eight-year military rule of General Pervez Musharraf.

It is also notable because India has in the past accused the ISI of helping attacks on Indian targets by militants, including last July's bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Gilani said that Singh had told him that a preliminary investigation indicated the attack originated from the Pakistani city Karachi.

"I said, 'Mister Prime Minister, we want to maintain excellent relations with our neighbour. We have to focus on real issues -- both are poor countries.'" Gilani told reporters.

"Both the countries are facing the problem of poverty, hunger and disease. We have to focus on real issues and we don't want to fight with each other."

Their conversation came a day after the Indian premier said in a television address that planners of the atrocity were based "outside the country" and warned against "neighbours" providing a haven to anti-India militants.

Although he did not specifically say Pakistan, his statement was widely interpreted to be a veiled accusation and triggered many denials from Pakistan's government.

"In previous cases they have acted like this, but later it all proved wrong," defence minister Ahmed Mukhtar told AFP, referring to previous claims from India of Pakistani involvement in terrorist attacks.

Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari made a separate telephone call to Singh Friday and pledged his government would cooperate with India "in exposing and apprehending the culprits and the masterminds behind the attacks," official news agency the Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

Officials throughout Pakistan's government have deplored the Mumbai attacks and denied any role in the plot, which could unhinge recent efforts to reach a peace agreement between the two countries over the disputed area of Kashmir.

Pakistani press on Friday also urged India to stop blaming its neighbour as it gave prominent coverage of the coordinated terrorist attacks.

Local English-language daily The News led with the headline: "India gives Pakistan a dirty look."

"Indian intelligence, under fire for failing to pick up on the threat, is anxious to lay blame elsewhere," the newspaper said.

An editorial in the Daily Times newspaper said the televised remarks by India's premier seemed "to be an attempt by Dr. Singh to pre-empt criticism from the Hindu right wing".

"Ongoing investigations into some (past) terrorist attacks that were alternately blamed on Indian Muslims and Pakistan have shown that they were actually carried out by a Hindu terrorist network," the editorial said.

Pakistani newspapers universally condemned the violence in Mumbai, and urged Pakistan and India to work together to combat terrorism.

"Although one can understand the anger and concern which is widely felt, one would still advise the exercise of constraint in this hour of crisis," Pakistan's influential English-language daily Dawn newspaper said.

"There is need for confidence-building between the two countries."