Pakistan fired the national security adviser hours after Indian media quoted him as saying the surviving Mumbai attacker was Pakistani, a sign of strain on the weak civilian administration as it tries to respond to heated Indian allegations over the deadly assault.
Mahmood Ali Durrani was fired on Wednesday because “he gave media interviews on national security issues without consulting the prime minister,” said Imran Gardaizi, spokesman for Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.
The decision was an odd turn of events because other Pakistani officials, including the information minister, confirmed Mohammed Ajmal Kasab’s nationality the same day to domestic and international media outlets.
Durrani has been an active proponent of improving India-Pakistan ties, authoring papers on the subject and bringing retired and serving Indian military personnel to Pakistan to encourage better military relations.
His national security appointment was controversial from the start — some considered the former ambassador to Washington too pro-US — so this could have been an excuse to get rid of him, political analyst Talat Masood said.
“It definitely reflects on the confusion that prevails in Pakistan in the functioning of the government and the indecisiveness over how to deal with India,” he said.
Pakistan’s civilian government, which came to power earlier this year after more than eight years of military rule, has multiple power centers, including both a president and prime minister who are vocal and visible. The military remains a powerful presence, and the military-run spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), is believed to have a high degree of independence.
India says Pakistani militants were behind the November siege that killed 164 people in its financial hub.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said this week that Pakistani authorities must have had a hand in the complex, three-day siege. New Delhi also handed Islamabad evidence this week that it says proves Pakistanis were behind the attacks.
The ISI is believed to have helped establish Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group India alleges masterminded the attack, but Pakistan has denied any of its state institutions were involved in the Mumbai bloodshed.
Its admission on Wednesday that Kasab, the only one of 10 gunmen who survived, was a Pakistani national came after weeks of saying there was no proof and that the young man was not registered in its national identification databases.
The Pakistani government appeared to have made a political calculation that acknowledging Kasab’s nationality would help more than hurt its global standing, political analyst Rasul Bakhsh Rais said.
“When they say this now, I think the international community will take it as a positive,” Rais said. “It paves the way for cooperation between India and Pakistan, and might help rehabilitate trust and confidence in Pakistani authorities — that they are taking steps to rein in these militants.”
Although Pakistan’s young government has said terrorism is a major challenge facing the country, it also has wavered from tough rhetoric about its willingness to defend itself to conciliatory language in offers to cooperate with India.
Both nuclear-armed countries say they want to avoid war. They have already fought three in their 61-year history, two over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.