Cablegate: Most Punjabis Believe Indian Groups Are Behind Mumbai
R 031302Z DEC 08
FM AMCONSUL LAHORE
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 3842
INFO AMCONSUL CHENNAI
NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI
C O N F I D E N T I A L LAHORE 000313
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/3/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER PK IN
SUBJECT: MOST PUNJABIS BELIEVE INDIAN GROUPS ARE BEHIND MUMBAI
CLASSIFIED BY: Clinton Taylor, Acting Principal Officer, Consulate Lahore, U.S. Department of State. REASON: 1.4 (d)
1. (C) Summary: Although a few Punjabis see the possibility the Mumbai attacks could have been launched in Pakistan, overall politicians and lawyers in Punjab province believe that India should look to internal insurgent groups as the sole actors of the Mumbai attacks. After Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's initial reaction blaming Pakistan, which angered Punjabis, they welcomed the December 1 statement from the White House, saying that the U.S. government had found no evidence implicating the Pakistan government, which they saw as absolving Pakistan of any responsibility. The innocence felt by most Punjabis will make it difficult for the government to crack down on Pakistani perpetrators. End Summary.
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India Should Look Inside For Blame, Politicians Say
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2. (C) Punjabi politicians reacted angrily to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's initial announcement that pinned responsibility for the November 27 attack on Mumbai on Pakistan. Ali Haroon Shah, a former Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Member of the Provincial Assembly (MPA) lamented November 28 that Singh had started a ""blame game"" before any evidence appeared. He noted that India has many insurgent groups, each of which could have enacted the attack, and he questioned the evidence cited by Indian officials. Moreover, he added, he had heard that the Pakistan Army has found uncircumcised, dead bodies in the tribal areas, which indicated the presence of Sikh soldiers in Taliban camps.
3. (C) During a December 2 meeting with High Court Judge Bilal Khan, a senior advocate and Khan's former partner also argued that Indian groups were likely culprits. He, and another senior attorney, wondered how only ten people could have carried out such a large operation. Moreover, he noted, the perpetrators did not look Pakistani, but the photos that he had seen depicted men who ""looked south Indian."" Judge Khan welcomed the December 1 statement from the White House saying that the U.S. had found no evidence implicating the Pakistan government, which, he felt, absolved all Pakistanis of responsibility. Poleconoff clarified that the U.S. government had said that there is no evidence to indicate that the Pakistan government had planned the attacks, but the most likely culprits remained groups within Pakistan, and specifically Punjab.
4. (C) Several PML-N opposition politicians also interpreted the U.S. government announcement as a vindication of Pakistan. In a December 2 meeting with Poleconoff, MPA Mehr Ishtaq Ahmed, a senior vice-president in the PM-LN Lahore chapter, doubted that Pakistanis had any role at all in the Mumbai attack. He and fellow PML-N MPA Rai Ejaz Ahmed Khan, an attorney, believed that India's intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), had incited the riots in Karachi as retaliation for the Mumbai attacks, sustaining a policy that aims to destabilize and break up Pakistan. [Note: See Karachi septel. The unrest in Karachi, which has resulted in over 50 dead since November 30, most likely stems from ethnic conflict. End Note.]
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Pakistani Groups Capable, Say Others
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5. (C) Chaudhry Fawwad Khan, a prominent attorney affiliated with Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PMLQ), in a December 1 conversation with Poleconoff, recognized the likelihood that a Pakistani group based in Punjab had sponsored the attack. He theorized that a group such as Lashkar-e-Taiba or Lashkar-e-Jhangvi had cooperated with the Taliban, which wanted to use the attack to spark a conflict between India and Pakistan, which would then prompt the Pakistan Army to shift its troops from the northern areas back to the Indian border. If true, this would be a good sign of the pressure felt by the militants, he offered. Asked whether other Pakistanis might feel similarly, he and his law partner Raja Amir Khan, who had contested a Pakistan People's Party (PPP) MPA seat in the February elections, said that the Urdu press had spread conspiracy theories that led people to blame India. Pervaiz Malik, the PML-N Finance Secretary and advisor to Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, also acknowledged December 2 the possibility of a Pakistani group's involvement in the attacks.