Former Pakistan National Security Advisor (NSA) Mahmud Ali Durrani on Monday admitted that a terrorist group from his country carried out the 2008 Mumbai terror attack and hoped Islamabad will act against detained LeT founder Haafiz Saeed, the mastermind.
Durrani’s admission at the 19th Asian Security Conference held at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses here is the first by any high-ranking Pakistani official that confirms India’s stand that the Lashkar-e-Taiba plotted and executed the carnage nine years ago.
“I hate to admit that the 26/11 Mumbai attack carried out by a terror group based in Pakistan on November 26, 2008 is a classic trans-border terrorist event,” said Durrani, who was the NSA when 10 Pakistani terrorists sailed into Mumbai and committed mayhem over three days.
But he insisted that the Pakistan government had no role in the mayhem masterminded by Saeed and LeT operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, who got bail in 2016 after years of alleged sluggish trial in Pakistan.
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Pakistan’s failure to conclude the trial in the case has been one of the major strains in bilateral relations. New Delhi has maintained that it has shared evidence to prove that the 10 attackers were trained at a Lashkar camp in Pakistan.
Durrani said as the then top security official in Pakistan, he had offered assistance to India in probing the Pakistani link into the strike but “unfortunately mistrust overruled common sense” at that time.
“I called my counterpart in India (Shivshankar Menon) and said if you allow we will send two people for investigation to sit with you in Mumbai. But because of mistrust it was not allowed,” he said.
Durrani also hit out at Saeed a terrorist commander who carries a $10 million-reward announced by the US. “Hafiz Saeed has no utility. I hope they (Pakistan government) will punish (him).”
Saeed was put under house arrest on January 30. The Lashkar founder, who now runs a banned Jamaat-ud-Daawa charity, was detained after the Mumbai terror attack in November 2008 but was freed by a court in 2009.
The Mumbai mayhem left 166 Indians and foreigners dead. While nine of the Pakistani terrorists were killed, one, Ajmal Kasab, was caught, tried and hanged. Pakistan has also listed the Lashkar founder under the country’s Anti-Terrorism Act a tacit acknowledgment of his links to terrorism.