WikiLeaks expose: Nawaz Sharif believed 26/11 attackers were Pakistani
- Mar 23, 2011, 14:22 PM IST
One of the cables released by WikiLeaks reveals that Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif believed without a doubt that the terrorists who attacked Mumbai on November 26, 2008, were Pakistani in origin.
According to a cable leaked by whistleblower site WikiLeaks and published by The Hindu, a US official claimed that one of the terrorists spoke in a Pakistani accent.
The cable (181951: confidential) sent by Acting Principal Officer Clinton Taylor of the U.S. Consulate in Lahore on December 9, 2008, describes how the Pakistan Muslim League (N) leader told a visiting delegation of U.S. Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham that he had listened to the phone call made by one of the attackers to an Indian TV channel, and even though the individual claimed he was Indian, he had heard a Pakistani accent.
Although, Nawaz Sharif later refused claims that the terrorists were from Pakistan, at the December 6 meeting, he showed no signs of being in doubt of their Pakistani origins.
“The people involved were from this country — I am convinced,” Mr. Sharif is quoted as saying. “We must take strictest action against those elements.” Once India produced concrete evidence, “we should proceed whole hog,” he declared.
Nawaz Sharif was perhaps trying to stay in the good books of US and in doing so securing his prospects as a future leader of the country.
Further cementing his image as a secular and fair politician, he also told the senators that his party had acted responsibly with the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) to fight terrorism.
He also mentioned that while he was the Prime Minister he had offered Pakistan's support for the Gulf War and discussed in great detail with U.S. President Bill Clinton how to deal with extremist forces in Afghanistan. “Who could be more committed to fight against terrorism?”
He highlighted his part in signing the Lahore Declaration with Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Playing on Musharraf’s role in launching the Kargil operation, he made it amply clear that he himself thought of it as the “the biggest blunder he committed.”
His party had refrained from using India to score political points, he said, adding that the PML(N) had strongly condemned the Mumbai attacks, and if there was evidence to prove Pakistani links, “we must take action.”
The people responsible for Mumbai, Mr. Sharif said, “are also operating in Pakistan — we face those forces here.” He mentioned the assassination of Benazir Bhutto the year before, his own narrow escape from bullets fired at his election rally on the same day as her killing, the Marriott bombing in September 2008, and a ghastly bombing in Peshawar a day before his meeting with the senators.
Sharif said he was committed to help the government “eradicate this menace.”
Many disagreed with Sharif:
Some members of his party did not agree with his view.
In a cable sent on December 3, 2008 (181158: confidential), Bryan Hunt, principal officer at the U.S. Consulate detailed a conversation with Ali Haroon Shah, PML(N) member and a former legislator in the provincial assembly, who said Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has started a “blame game” before any evidence appeared. He said India had many insurgent groups, any of which could have carried out the attack.
Mr. Hunt wrote that he had met Lahore High Court Judge Bilal Khan. The judge welcomed the December 1 statement from the White House saying the U.S. had found no evidence to indicate that the Pakistan government had planned the attacks. The judge took this as absolving “all Pakistanis of responsibility,” Mr. Hunt wrote.
The diplomat clarified to the judge that while there was no indication that the Pakistan government had a hand in the attacks, groups operating in Pakistan, specifically in Punjab, were the most likely culprits.
A senior Lahore lawyer who was present at the meeting told him that from the photographs, the attackers “looked south Indian.”
With some foresight, Mr. Hunt commented that “the innocence felt by most Punjabis will make it difficult to crack down on Pakistani perpetrators.”