Mumbai: Pakistani terrorist Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, the only gunman on trial for the terrorist attacks on Mumbai, on Tuesday told a court his handlers had instructed him to fire at people indiscriminately and take hostages at the city’s main railway terminus.
Kasab, who made a dramatic confession before special judge M L Tahilyani on Monday, said his handlers had given him detailed instructions for the attack on the CST Railway Terminus.
“I want to give a message to perpetrators across the border,” said Kasab.
Judge Tahilyani then adjourned the court for Tuesday, as the prosecution wanted more time to go over Kasab’s statements.
Kasab on Monday admitted before the court he was a Pakistani and narrated in chilling detail the events leading to the killing spree that left 180 people dead.
In a dramatic twist to the case, Kasab also recounted how he and his associates undertook the sea voyage from Karachi to Mumbai to attack 13 locations in Mumbai on the night of November 26, 2008.
He recounted how Lashkar-e-Toiba militants had trained him and then packed him for the attack on Mumbai.
A day after confessing to his involvement in the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, Ajmal Kasab made some more revelations in court on Tuesday.
When the judge asked him how he came to know that Pakistan had accepted him as a citizen. Kasab replied, “I came to know through people on duty in jail.”
While pleading guilty on Monday, the 26/11 accused had said that he was confessing because Pakistan had accepted him as its citizen.
Kasab came up with more details of the plot today. He said, “We were told to fire indiscriminately at CST.”
“We were told to take people hostage on the upper floors of CST and were also told to fire at anyone who came to rescue the hostages,” he added.
Following Kasab’s confessions, the trial court was adjourned till Wednesday.
Source : IBNlive and NDTV
A suicide bomb attack on a luxury hotel in the north-west Pakistani city of Peshawar, has killed 11 people and injured at least 52.
Reports say gunmen stormed the outer security barrier at the Pearl Continental Hotel before blowing up a vehicle in the car park.
One foreign citizen – a UN employee – was killed and several were injured.
A series of bombs have hit cities including Peshawar since a government crackdown on Taliban militants.
Jill McGivering, BBC News
The PC is a well-known landmark in Peshawar. Often used by foreigners but also by Pakistani officials and businessmen, it is known for good Western as well as local food and 5-star service. All factors which may have contributed to its becoming a target.
When I visited recently, there was a whole series of security checks. First of vehicles, as they drove in, past heavy concrete barriers. Then of people, screened by metal detectors and bag searches.
But suicide bombers and gunmen are hard to stop. There are clear echoes of the devastating assault on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad last September.
Security in Peshawar has worsened dramatically in the last year. Many of those who can afford to move have taken their families to Islamabad or beyond – abandoning a city now becoming consumed by fear and violence.
Peshawar, the main city in the country’s north-west, is not far from the Swat valley, where the government offensive has been concentrated.
Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani swiftly condemned the attack but the blast hardly comes as a surprise, says the BBC’s Chris Morris, in Islamabad.
While there was no immediate claim of responsibility for Tuesday night’s attack on what is the most prominent hotel in Peshawar, our correspondent says most people will assume it to be the work of the Taliban.
A symbol of Peshawar’s contact with the rest of the world, a place where government officials and foreign dignitaries are accustomed to staying, has been attacked, he adds.
The attack killed a Serbian UN refugee agency worker and the injured include a British man and a German national, Peshawar district coordination officer Sahibzada Anis said.
At least a dozen UN employees were staying at the hotel at the time of the explosion.
‘Shouting and running’
Eyewitnesses told the BBC News website the blast could be seen up to 5km (3 miles) away. The blast left a large crater and parts of the hotel were destroyed.
I saw the red light from there blowing and then I heard a huge sound
BBC News website reader in Peshawar
Three men riding in a truck approached the main gate of the hotel and opened fire at security guards before driving inside, police official Liaqat Ali told AP, quoting witness accounts.
“They drove the vehicle inside the hotel gates and blew it up on reaching close to the hotel building,” he added. Ali Khan, a hotel waiter, said he had been working when the attack happened.
“I was in the Chinese restaurant when we heard firing and then a blast,” he told Reuters news agency. “It was totally dark and people started shouting and running.”
An injured man, Jawad Chaudhry, said he had been in his room on the ground floor when he heard gunshots, then a big bang.
“The floor under my feet shook,” he said. “I thought the roof was falling on me. I ran out. I saw everybody running in panic. There was blood and pieces of glass everywhere.”
Musa Khan, a BBC News website reader in Peshawar, said he was far away when the blast happened but could tell it was “huge”.
“I was in the university lawn with my friends,” he said. “I saw the red light from there blowing and then I heard a huge sound.”
Another Peshawar reader, Imran, said window panes 5km away had been shattered while a third, Samee Uddin, reported gunshots and then a “huge cloud of smoke [which] could be seen from more than 3km away”.
The Pearl Continental, usually just called the PC, is a well-known landmark in Peshawar, often used by foreigners, Pakistani officials and businessmen.
Correspondents say it runs a series of security checks, first of vehicles as they drive in past heavy concrete barriers, then of people who are screened by metal detectors and bag searches.
Government forces launched an offensive earlier this year to crush a Taliban-led uprising in the Swat valley aimed at enforcing Sharia law.
Taliban leaders have promised to launch revenge attacks on major Pakistani cities and claimed a bombing in Lahore last month which left at least 28 people dead.
A devastating suicide bomb attack on the Islamabad Marriott hotel last September killed at least 53 people and injured more than 266.
Fidayeen-e-Islam, a little-known Pakistani militant group, told the BBC it had carried out the attack with the aim of stopping US interference in Pakistan.
In an attempt to restore peace in the restive Swat Valley, the Pakistan government had signed a controversial peace deal in March with the Taliban-backed group Movement for the Enforcement of Syariah.
The following month, the Taliban extended their grasp beyond Swat to within 60 miles of Islamabad, the nation’s capital, forcing the army to resume military operations.
This move brought fresh international attention to Pakistan’s economic and social problems. But within the country, the rise of the Taliban has focused attention on a different question: what does Islam mean for Pakistan?
Talk to any Pakistani Muslim about their faith and the most common statement you will hear is: “Islam is a complete code of life”. If pressed further, they may elaborate that Islam – unlike Christianity – does not distinguish between church and state, and that from an Islamic perspective there is no such thing as purely secular legislation.
Push even further and you are likely to hear that the solution to all of Pakistan’s problems is to make its laws consistent with Islam.
This seeming consensus is misleading, however, because there is, in reality, very little agreement on what Islam actually entails in terms of legal, enforceable rules.
While each school of thought within Islam – four major schools within Sunni Islam and one amongst Shiite Muslims – has its own clear and detailed laws relating to inheritance, marriage and divorce, everything beyond the limited arena of ‘personal laws’ is open to debate.
For some people, Islamic law means imposing veils on women and beards on men. For more left-leaning Pakistanis, Islamic law means common ownership of property. For those inspired by Sufi tradition, Islamic law means a respect for the overarching principles of love, kindness and charity.
The real problem then is not that Pakistanis want Islamic laws, but the manner in which those laws are determined. In this regard, Pakistan has struggled from the very beginning with two distinct legal identities.
The first identity was the secular administrative identity inherited from the British in 1947. The second was the Islamic identity espoused by most of its citizens.
Pakistan’s constitutions of 1956, 1962 and 1973 were based on a secular, Westminster-style political model in which the parliament was sovereign.
Thus, it was the job of Parliament not only to make laws but also to ensure that all laws were in conformity with the principles of Islam or Syariah.
This model was then radically undermined by General Zia ul Haq following his military takeover in 1979. Zia’s first attempt to justify his rule was to argue that he had – quite literally – been directed by God to impose Islamic law upon Pakistan.
When his attempts to claim divine inspiration ran thin, Zia was forced to restore democratic rule, but not before he had tinkered with the constitution, creating a Federal Shariat Court charged with ensuring that all legislation was in conformity with Islamic laws. The actual effect of his attempted Islamisation of most laws was minimal, except for laws relating to women’s rights.
This change, however, raised the question of who could decide whether a law was in conformity with Islam.
Zia’s austere and rigid model of Islam was largely imported from Saudi Arabia and deferred to religious extremists who, bolstered by massive amounts of Middle Eastern funding, consistently argued that laws were to be decided by people like them, and not by Parliament.
These conservative figures became public spokespersons for Islam, even though their beliefs had limited public support.
Given the instinctive veneration most Pakistanis have for Islamic law, the end result was a paralysis in which people rejected doctrines of hate at a personal level but lacked the intellectual and institutional leadership to articulate a strong, unified response.
General Pervez Musharraf’s military takeover in 1999 led to the collapse of parliamentary democracy that had been in place since 1987 after Zia’s death. This created a political vacuum in which the ability to define what was Islamic was ceded – almost by default – to well-funded religious extremists.
This political collapse was accompanied by a continuing failure of all democratic governments in Pakistan to provide basic necessities like education, health, energy and clean water for all its citizens, which in turn have allowed fundamentalists to expand their zone of influence.
For example, the madrassah (religious schools), some of which might have extremist leanings, provide free education for children while government-run schools are routinely fraught with administrative and financial setbacks. Not surprisingly, the areas in which the Taliban are now ascendant are also the least developed.
The first step toward regaining security in Pakistan is certainly for the army to take control of the areas that were ceded to the militants.
But in the long run, Pakistan will not regain the ‘middle way’ of Islam for its people until it can show that a parliamentary democracy can deliver the basic needs of its citizens, and a more articulate Islamic leadership recovers its indigenous voice.
FEISAL NAQVI is a lawyer based in Lahore, Pakistan. This article first appeared in The Washington Post/Newsweek and was written for the Common Ground News Service.