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‘We can identify with India’s pain’

The Mumbai attacks were aimed at disrupting the fragile Indian-Pakistani peace process and provoking conflict between the neighbours, says Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.

world Updated: Dec 09, 2008 22:54 IST

The Mumbai attacks were aimed at disrupting the fragile Indian-Pakistani peace process and provoking conflict between the neighbours, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari wrote in a New York Times commentary published on Tuesday.

“The Mumbai attacks were directed not only at India but also at Pakistan’s new democratic government and the peace process with India that we have initiated,” Zardari wrote.

“Supporters of authoritarianism in Pakistan and non-state actors with a vested interest in perpetuating conflict do not want change in Pakistan to take root.”

He called for redoubling peace efforts and for both countries to work together to fight terrorism.

“To foil the designs of the terrorists, the two great nations of Pakistan and India, born together from the same revolution and mandate in 1947, must continue to move forward with the peace process.”

He said that “reconciliation and rapprochement is the best revenge against the dark forces that are trying to provoke a confrontation between Pakistan and India, and ultimately a clash of civilisations.”

Zardari, referring to his wife and former premier Benazir Bhutto who was killed at a campaign rally in December last year, said he understood the pain of the victims’ families in Mumbai.

“The terrorist attacks in Mumbai may be a news story for most of the world. For me it is a painful reality of shared experience,” he wrote.

“We can identify with India’s pain. I am especially empathetic. I feel this pain every time I look into the eyes of my children.”

He said the Mumbai rampage was part of a wider threat facing the region, with Pakistan and India facing a common enemy.

“The terrorists who killed my wife are connected by ideology to these enemies of civilisation.”

The president’s commentary came as Pakistani officials on Tuesday quizzed an alleged “key planner” of the Mumbai attacks while the US urged further cooperation with Washington and New Delhi to prevent follow-on strikes.

The attack soured ties between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

India handed Islamabad a list of 20 terror suspects, with demands for their arrest and extradition.

Zardari cited the arrests of the suspected Mumbai plotter along with another 15 people over the weekend as proof of his country’s commitment.

“As was demonstrated in Sunday’s raids, which resulted in the arrest of militants, Pakistan will take action against the non-state actors found within our territory, treating them as criminals, terrorists and murderers,” he said.

But calling on India to exercise restraint, he said “we caution against hasty judgments and inflammatory statements.”

“The challenge of confronting terrorists who have a vast support network is huge; Pakistan’s fledgling democracy needs help from the rest of the world.”