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In the News Mumbai: The Pakistan Connection
November 29, 2008
“India used to say [about Kashmir] that there is a cross-border terrorism going on. We always said that there's an indigenous freedom struggle, and we never call them terrorists.”
In the aftermath of the brutal assault on Mumbai, attention has turned to the question of who did it, and why. Fairly or otherwise, suspicion has fallen on Pakistan.
For a bit of historical context on whether and how India's next door neighbor and bitter foe might have figured in these events, we turned to our own Martin Smith, who has covered Pakistan and environs for FRONTLINE over many years and multiple films, including Return of the Taliban (2006), and with colleague Marcela Gaviria, In Search of Al Qaeda (2002), and The War Briefing (2008).
In 2002, Smith interviewed Pervez Musharraf, then president of Pakistan, for In Search of Al Qaeda, and pressed him on the country's involvement with Kashmiri militants. You can read that portion of the interview online. And here are Smith's thoughts, looking back:
I have been very upset over the events this past week in Mumbai and have followed the news closely. Just a few months ago, on a sweltering but quiet afternoon, I stood in the lobby of the Taj Majal Palace Hotel waiting for a friend... Now I am home in New York wondering who was responsible for this week's blood bath. There is speculation that the terrorists were members of Lashkar e Taiba (Army of the Pure), a Pakistani guerrilla army fighting over disputed territory in Kashmir. I recall discussing Kashmiri militants with Pakistani President Musharraf in a 2002 interview. At that time, I wanted to know why his government had not cracked down harder on them even though they were known to have strong links with al Qaeda and regularly crossed into India to attack and kill civilians. He hemmed and hawed and made some attempts to defend them as freedom fighters, not terrorists. And, he insisted he knew of no affiliations with al Qaeda. This was preposterous: 21 members of one Kashmiri militant group, Harkat al Mujahideen, were reported killed in an August 1998 US missile attack on an al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. I confronted Musharraf about this. Subsequent to that interview it has been reported that members of Lashkar i taiba were also killed in those attacks. Under US pressure following 9/11, Musharraf made some attempts to crack down on Kashmiri fighters but after some arrests, he released most all of them....