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Pakistan: National Security Adviser Fired | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistan fired its national security adviser amid tensions following the Mumbai attacks, a possible sign of divisions in the weak civilian government over how to react to Indian and international demands it crack down on the alleged masterminds.

Mahmood Ali Durrani, a former ambassador to the U.S. and seen by critics as too friendly with Washington, was fired late Wednesday because “he gave media interviews on national security issues without consulting the prime minister,” said Imran Gardaizi, spokesman for Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

The decision came hours after Indian media quoted Durrani as saying the surviving Mumbai attacker was Pakistani. Other top Pakistani officials separately confirmed Mohammed Ajmal Kasab’s nationality to media outlets the same day.

The government’s acknowledgment that Kasab is Pakistani — something India has long alleged — followed weeks of its saying there was no proof and he is not in its national identification databases.

Durrani, a former general, has advocated improving India-Pakistan ties, writing papers on the subject and bringing retired and serving Indian military personnel to Pakistan to encourage better military relations.

He said he had “conducted myself to the best of my ability” and he remained committed to peace between India and Pakistan.

“I wish this government a lot of luck,” he told The Associated Press on Thursday. “They have a lot of problems to deal with, and I wish them the very best because my loyalties are to my country.”

His national security appointment was controversial from the start because some considered him too pro-American — so the government may have been looking for an excuse to get rid of him, said political analyst Talat Masood.

Still, 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.”

Pakistan’s civilian government, which came to power last year after more than eight years of military rule, has multiple power centers, including 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, is believed to have a high degree of independence.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said this week that Pakistani authorities must have had a hand in three-day siege in Mumbai that killed 164 people. New Delhi has also handed Islamabad evidence 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.

Ahsan Iqbal, a spokesman for Pakistan’s main opposition party, said Wednesday’s developments were the latest instance of confusion over who is in charge in Pakistan. He noted that an initial Pakistani offer to send the head of the spy agency to India to assist the Mumbai investigation was quickly revoked after apparent grumbling by the military.

“We need to show that decision-making in the country is very coordinated,” Iqbal told Dawn News TV. “We should not look like we’re making decisions in total panic or in total confusion.”

Although Pakistan’s young government has said terrorism is a major challenge, it also has wavered in its rhetoric on India from tough talk about its willingness to defend itself to conciliatory language in offers to cooperate. The government also has taken steps against groups allegedly linked to the attacks, but ruled out handing any detained suspects over to its longtime rival.

Pakistan says it is examining the information handed over by 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.