Pakistan’s government has begun rallying support at home and abroad as tension flared with old rival India after the bloody militant assault on the Indian city of Mumbai.
India said yesterday that it had proof of a Pakistani link to the Mumbai attacks that killed nearly 200 people, raising the prospect not only of a breakdown of peace efforts between the nuclear-armed nations but of confrontation across their border.
Pakistan condemned the assault as a “barbaric act of terrorism” and denied any involvement by state agencies.
It has vowed to cooperate in fighting terrorism but backtracked on a decision to send the chief of its spy agency to India to help with the probe — a move likely to revive questions about who is in charge of the shadowy organization.
Pakistan has also said it would move troops from its western border with Afghanistan, where security forces are battling al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters as part of the US-led campaign against militancy, to the Indian border if tension escalated.
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani telephoned opposition politicians late on Saturday to brief them on the crisis.
“These political leaders assured the prime minister of their full support and cooperation at this critical juncture,” Gilani’s office said.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi spoke by telephone to the foreign ministers of China and the United Arab Emirates as well as EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, and told them that Pakistan had promised all help to India.
The attacks came after Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, widower of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto who was assassinated last year, had made bold moves to improve ties with India.
Zardari, battling Islamic radicals at home, told Indian television on Saturday that he would cooperate in the investigation and act decisively if any Pakistani link was found.
“If any evidence comes of any individual or group in any part of my country, I shall take the swiftest of action in the light of evidence and in front of the world,” he told CNN-IBN.
The Mumbai assault bore the hallmarks of Pakistan-based militant groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba or Jaish-e-Mohammed, which was blamed for the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament.
Lashkar-e-Taiba and a Kashmiri militant leader denied any role. Instead, the little-known Deccan Mujahideen claimed responsibility.
A senior Pakistani security official denied the involvement of any Pakistani institution in the Mumbai attack and said the war on terror would not be a priority if tension escalated.
Meanwhile, the Pakistani prime minister canceled a trip to Hong Kong to concentrate on addressing growing tensions with India after the Mumbai terror attacks, officials said.
Gilani was due to attend the Clinton Global Initiative summit tomorrow and Wednesday but an official from his office said he would instead deal with Indian allegations that terrorists who killed 195 people in its financial hub came from Pakistan.