Rawalpindi (Pakistan), July 27 (ANI): Chances of the Lashkar-e-Toiba network being dismantled in Pakistan in the immediate future appear remote, in spite of Islamabad purportedly showing a willingness to prosecute the group, the New York Times reports.
Brief appearances before a court of the five men who allegedly organized terrorist strikes in Mumbai last year suggest that Pakistan is taking the first steps to bring them to justice, but behind these first glimmerings of the case, sympathies for Lashkar-e-Taiba and its jihadist and anti-Indian culture run deep in the country, raising a serious challenge to dismantling the network.
According to the NYT, the Lashkar-e-Taiba membership extends to about 150,000 people.
It quotes a mid-level officer in the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, as saying that together with the Jaish-e-Muhammad, the Lashkar could put Pakistan "up in flames."
The risk notwithstanding, the officer claims that the jihadis "were good people" and could be controlled.
Obama administration officials say they continue to press the Pakistanis to guarantee prevention of a sequel to November's Mumbai attacks, in which more than 160 people were killed in a rampage across two five-star hotels, a Jewish center and a busy train station.
A surprise confession last week by Ajmal Amir Kasab, the sole surviving attacker made clear that Lashkar-e-Taiba has the capacity to quickly and inexpensively train young men from villages into intensely driven, proficient killers.
Kasab's account has been largely discounted in Pakistan as being forced by Indian investigators.
Pakistan has claimed that it had severed ties with the Lashkar-e-Taiba in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on America, under pressure from the Bush administration to join its campaign against terrorism. The interior minister, Rehman Malik, said in an interview that the group's infrastructure was "no more intact."
But Obama administration officials say they are still trying to understand the state of relations between Pakistan and the group.
Among the most likely versions, they say, none would tamp down hostilities between Pakistan and India.
The possibilities include that Lashkar-e-Taiba remains a lever of the Pakistani state; that the group and others have realigned themselves quietly behind the interests of Pakistan and could be used covertly; and that the groups have broken away from the official security apparatus and are running independently.
A senior Pakistani official reinforced the last option, saying the connections between Pakistan's spy agency and Lashkar-e-Taiba were so sundered that it was a matter of regret that the military could no longer control them.
The overarching goal of Lashkar-e-Taiba, which operates under the front of a charity, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, is the defeat of India. It also embraces a strong anti-Israeli platform and adheres to Ahl-i-Hadith, a strain of the Wahabi sect of Islam.
On those doctrinal grounds, Lashkar-e-Taiba has much in common with the goals of Al Qaeda, terrorism experts say. (ANI)