Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said Thursday that Ajmal Amir Kasab, who has been sentenced to death for the 2008 Mumbai attack, should be hanged. This could be a new strategy from Pakistan, which is trying to change its image of following double standards about terrorism.
Speaking to Indian journalists on the sidelines of the SAARC summit in the Maldives, Malik said, Kasab is a terrorist. He is a non-state actor. He should go to gallows.
This statement shows a notable change considering that after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, it was only in January 2009 that the government acknowledged that Kasab was a Pakistani but with a specification that he was a 'non-state' actor.
Despite mounting evidence, Pakistani officials, including President Asif Ali Zardari, had initially denied that Kasab was a Pakistani national. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had confirmed that Kasab was from the village of Faridkot, and criticized Zardari for cordoning off the village and not allowing his parents to meet anyone.
In the aftermath of the U.S. raid on Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden, Pakistan had no choice but to clarify its stance. The Obama administration had raised serious disbelief in claims that Pakistani officials didn't know bin Laden was hiding in a three-storey, walled compound just a short walk from Pakistan's military training centre.
India is still demanding answers regarding the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. Jihadi groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad, which export terror to India, have been getting strong support in Pakistani soil.
After initially denying that Pakistanis were responsible for the attacks, Pakistani authorities finally admitted in January 2009 that Ajmal Kasab was a Pakistani and registered a case against three other nationals.
A few members of Jamaat ud-Dawa were arrested by Pakistan and put its founder under house arrest, but he was freed a few days later. India has charged that Inter-Services Intelligence officers provided support to Lashkar-e-Taiba militants who carried out the attacks, which is also a charge still denied by Pakistan.
Declaring Pakistan as a terrorist state was possible in many situations. But the U.S. needs Pakistani support in its operations in Afghanistan. For this reason, the U.S. has long been tolerating the Pakistani double game, Indian officials believe.
But last month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a blunt message to Pakistan, saying Islamabad could not keep snakes in its backyard to strike its neighbors. The U.S. demanded greater cooperation from Pakistan to help squeeze the Haqqani network responsible for attacks in Afghanistan.
We should be able to agree that for too long extremists have been able to operate here in Pakistan and from Pakistani soil. No one who targets innocent civilians, whether they be Pakistanis, Afghans, Americans or anyone else should be tolerated or protected, said Clinton.
The increasing pressure from the U.S. is definitely making Pakistan change its stance. But there is still a long way to go since it continues to be the epicenter of terror.