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EDITORIAL: The Foreign Office (FO) in Islamabad took strong exception on Sunday to the US State Department statement urging Pakistan to do more to hold Ziaur Rehman Lakhvi, leader of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), to account. It may be recalled that India had named Lakhvi as the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. A key figure in the Jamaat-ud Dawa, a charity believed to be a front for LeT, he was convicted earlier this month by an anti-terrorism court on charges of terror financing and sentenced to five years imprisonment and a fine of Rs 300,000. While welcoming the conviction in a Twitter post, the State Department said Lakhvi’s crimes “go beyond financing terrorism”. “Pakistan should further hold him accountable for his involvement in terrorist attacks, including the Mumbai attack.”

The US surely is aware that in cases where two jurisdictions are involved cooperation is essential. Proving conspiracy in a different jurisdiction is far more complex for prosecutors than the State Department seems to suggest. Legal experts from both sides need to work together to collect incriminating evidence. In the Mumbai case, Pakistani investigators were refused access to any of the suspects, including Ajmal Kasab, the only purported perpetrator captured alive. Some in India, however, have argued that since section 188 of the Pakistan Code of Criminal Procedure lays out that “when a citizen of Pakistan commits an offence at any place without and beyond the limits of Pakistan … he may be dealt with in respect of such offence as if it had been committed at any place within Pakistan”, Pakistan should have tried Lakhvi and his associates on its own. But courts cannot convict any suspect on the say-so of anyone, in this case the US and India. The courts need impeccable evidence/witnesses to give a fair verdict. In the present instance, as the FO spokesman pointed out, the legal process had remained stalled due to reluctance by the Indian side to send witnesses for cross-examination by the Pakistani court.

Islamabad, on the other hand, has provided international community with a dossier containing irrefutable evidence of India’s state sponsorship of terrorism. Unveiling the dossier last November, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had described in great detail Indian intelligence agencies’ activities, including establishing of a consortium between breakaway factions of the TTP and Baloch insurgent groups – BLA, BLF and BRA - as part of a “grand design” to destabilize this country. Between 2001 and 2020, he said, Pakistan had faced 19,130 terrorist attacks and suffered more than 83,000 casualties in the war against terrorism. Terrorists have remained focused on Balochistan claiming many more lives during the recent months. That India is behind these nefarious acts is without a doubt considering that no less a person than the country’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval had publically stated his ‘offensive defence’ strategy to undermine the security and integrity of Pakistan. Given these facts the FO has rightly asked the State Department “to reserve its concern for the active aiding, abetting, planning, promoting, financing and execution of terrorist activities by India for which sufficient irrefutable evidence has already been provided.” Let the State Department say something about it.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021