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Pakistani Envoy Details Government’s Response to Mumbai Investigation

December 4, 2008 at 6:35 PM EDT
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As pressure grows on Pakistan in the wake of the Mumbai attacks, Pakistan's Ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, details Islamabad's view on the assault and reacts to allegations of Pakistani links to the assailants.
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TRANSCRIPT

RAY SUAREZ: Joining us now is Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani.

Mr. Ambassador, welcome. You heard Secretary of State Rice call in your country for robust cooperation, and she says she’s been promised it. What has the Pakistani government undertaken to do? What are you going to do in response?

HUSAIN HAQQANI, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States: Well, the most important thing to understand is that Pakistan feels the pain of our neighbors.

Now, we do have a burden of history. There are people in Pakistan who think that there are elements in India who do not want Pakistan to continue existing as a separate state. There are people in India who feel that there are elements in Pakistan that would continue to attack India through terrorist means.

Because of that, the discourse between our nations always becomes angry. But the fact of the matter is that, from the day the attacks took place, Pakistan’s position has been that we understand India’s pain and, if evidence is shared with us, we will act on it.

So now that the evidence is beginning to be shared, we are acting on that. And I will not get into the details of that, because it involves intelligence matters.

But let me just say, Pakistan will take action against any elements inside Pakistan that are found to be responsible for a terrorist attack against our neighbor or anywhere else in the world. And no one will be spared as long as we are told what the evidence is against them and as long as we know who we are targeting.

Pakistan will 'act on evidence'

Husain Haqqani
Pakistani Ambassador
These terrorists, whether they are in Pakistan or elsewhere in the world, they are our enemy as much as they are India's.

RAY SUAREZ: You say act on evidence that's presented to you. Is the Pakistani government even willing at this point to concede that the attackers in Mumbai came from Pakistan, that Ajmal Amir Qasab, who's been -- who survived the attacks and is giving information to the Indian government, is, indeed, from your country?

HUSAIN HAQQANI: All I'm going to say is that, instead of prejudging where a certain person is from, we will go by what the evidence is.

But if the evidence is presented -- and certain evidence is being shared with us now -- as soon as we get that evidence, we will act on it.

The fact of the matter is, no one has accused the state of Pakistan, which is different, by the way, from the past. In the past, the allegation used to be the government of Pakistan planned the attack. This time, even our friends in India are not accusing the government.

They are not accusing the state of Pakistan. They are accusing elements in Pakistan. And we certainly are prepared to look at that allegation. And we are willing to act against those people as much as the Indians are.

Let us be honest about it. These terrorists, whether they are in Pakistan or elsewhere in the world, they are our enemy as much as they are India's.

RAY SUAREZ: You say these people are as much your enemy as India's. Today India asked your country to arrest, to detain, and turn over to India 20 people who are involved in some of the more prominent violent groups from your country, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed. Are you going to help with that endeavor?

HUSAIN HAQQANI: We will certainly act as we have promised. And you've heard Secretary Rice say she accepts what we have assured the United States of.

We will not go into the details of the individuals and what the lists are that have been shared between India and Pakistan.

Look, let's look at what's been happening in the last few days. There is the 24-hour news cycle. We have heard several accounts of what happened. We will hear most of them.

But the important thing is that the government of India, the government of Pakistan, and our friendly governments, like the government of the United States, should know exactly where we all stand.

And I think today everybody is confident that the intention of the government of Pakistan is to make sure that no one -- Lashkar-e-Taiba, any other group -- uses Pakistan as a base for militant terrorist operations against anyone.

Attacks had multiple purposes

Husain Haqqani
Pakistani Ambassador
If India and Pakistan stop looking at each other as rivals or enemies and start thinking of each other as neighbors who have had problems, but who have a future together, then, of course, the terrorists have no cause left.

RAY SUAREZ: It's said in Pakistani cities by international journalists, by citizens of your country that Lashkar-e-Taiba operates in the open, that people know where its houses are, that people know where its leaders, like Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, are. Are they now in danger of arrest?

HUSAIN HAQQANI: Ray, if I answer that question in the affirmative, you know that many of these guys are going to go underground, because I'm sure some of them are watching your show, if not on television, certainly on the Internet. So let's not get into the specifics.

All I'm saying is that let us be very clear. There is a history, and I acknowledge that history. We will not get bogged down with that. The important thing is that the new elected Pakistani government is very clear that no terrorist organization, no organization that engages in terrorism is going to be allowed to operate out of Pakistan.

And another thing, we are not going to judge terrorists by their causes. We are going to judge them by their actions. So basically anybody who engages in terrorism is a terrorist for us, irrespective of what cause they espouse.

RAY SUAREZ: Did the attack on Mumbai come at a time when there was actually a thaw, when the momentum was moving in the other way in Pakistani-Indian relations?

HUSAIN HAQQANI: Well, my view -- and I have said that several times in the last few times -- is that the purpose of the attacks was threefold.

First, of course, it was to attack in India and cause the carnage that was caused.

The other intended target was Pakistan's fledgling democracy, to threaten the democratic regime that has emerged in Pakistan after several years of dictatorship.

And the third target was the India-Pakistan peace process. If India and Pakistan stop looking at each other as rivals or enemies and start thinking of each other as neighbors who have had problems, but who have a future together, then, of course, the terrorists have no cause left. So they want our countries to come to the brink, to be at each other's throats.

And in that sense, I think that the carnage of Mumbai has had a very negative impact. But the important thing is that the leadership in India needs to assuage the feelings of the people of India, reassure them that the government in Pakistan is a different government, that there is a leadership in Pakistan that looks upon India as a neighbor and not as an enemy, and wants to befriend it. And so let's move in that direction.

U.S. role in Pakistan-India talks

Husain Haqqani
Pakistani Ambassador
The United States is a friend of India, and the United States is a friend of Pakistan. And friends, of course, can always help remove misunderstandings.

RAY SUAREZ: Earlier this week, the United States' highest-ranking military officer was in your country, today our highest-ranking diplomat. What role does the United States have in steering a course between India and Pakistan at the current time?

HUSAIN HAQQANI: Well, the United States is a friend of India, and the United States is a friend of Pakistan. And friends, of course, can always help remove misunderstandings.

The United States also has a tremendous technological capability which helps in producing very good actionable intelligence. And it can be a reliable source of intelligence, instead of the "Spy vs. Spy" kind of intelligence that the Indians and the Pakistanis have often given to each other in the past. So I think that is the main role of the United States.

But more important than that, the United States can help build Pakistan's democratic future. Pakistan's democratic government has inherited an economy that is in shambles. We have large pockets of extremist ideology in our country. Only 58 percent of our school-going-age children go to school.

This is, of course, the collective impact, the cumulative impact of many, many years of wrong policies. And I think the United States has a role in helping Pakistan overcome the burden of history in that -- in its domestic realm and also help India understand that there is a new Pakistan that can be a partner of India, a democratic Pakistan that can be a partner of a democratic India in making the lives of Pakistanis and Indians better in the future.

RAY SUAREZ: Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, Mr. Ambassador, thanks.

HUSAIN HAQQANI: Thank you for having me.