Friday, November 23, 2012

What's making the news today

Today’s articles continue the discussion about the execution of Ajmal Kasab. It’s very big news here at the moment. The first article is from “The Australian”, the second is from “The Diplomat” & the remainder from “The Guardian”:

Mumbai killer Ajmal Kasab hanged 'for political gain'

  • by: Amanda Hodge, South Asia correspondent
  • From: The Australian
  • November 23, 2012 12:00AM
INDIA'S government has been forced to defend its timing for the hanging of Mumbai terrorist Ajmal Kasab this week against accusations from opposition parties and Pakistan that it rushed the execution for political mileage.

The Congress-led administration is now under pressure to hasten the execution of at least one other death row inmate, Afzal Guru, convicted and sentenced eight years ago for the 2001 deadly bombing of India's national parliament in New Delhi.

Kasab was hanged on Wednesday morning at Pune's Yerwada jail under a strict cloak of secrecy, with an announcement made more than an hour after his burial within the prison grounds.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party has questioned the decision by President Pranab Mukherjee, formerly the government's long-standing finance minister, to skip the queue and reject Kasab's mercy plea, though his was the last petition received.

Pakistani media too questioned the timing, with conservative English-language newspaper The Nation, a mouthpiece of Pakistan's security apparatus, suggesting it was a "well-thought plan by India's 'deep state security apparatus' to unleash a propaganda campaign against Pakistan's ISI".

In India, The Indian Express regretted the taint of political expediency over the execution in an editorial that blamed both sides of politics for attempting to gain mileage from the issue.

"Each day (Kasab) spent in prison was sought to be projected as the weakness of a terrorist-appeasing government," it read. "The government, in turn, visibly equivocated and spoke of queues.

"In such a context, the timing of the execution could be read as politically expedient for a besieged government poised on the edge of a crucial parliamentary session."

Kasab's execution, after a two-year trial and appeals process, represents particularly swift justice in India, where the legal system can take years if not decades.

In a curious defence of the timing, newly-appointed Foreign Minister Salman Kurshid explained it as an administrative clearing of the decks by a new president not wishing to be burdened by old issues.

"Why it happened now is the change of office from one president to another," he said. "A new president wanting to start with a sense of purpose and not wanting to continue burdened with files that were obviously in the presence of the office for a while."

Mr Kurshid said he hoped Kasab's hanging would prompt Pakistan to bring to justice those suspected of training and directing the 10 Pakistani gunmen during the three-day siege of Mumbai in which 166 people were killed.

He said Pakistan's delay in handing over evidence, including voice samples taken from conversations between the gunmen and their handlers, would not set back relations between the neighbours.


By Rajeev Sharma
November 23, 2012

On the morning of November 21, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government executed Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving gunman in the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack. What is striking about the execution of Kasab, a Pakistani national, was that it was carried out in almost complete secrecy.

This is all the more remarkable when one considers that this is the first time in the history of independent India that a foreigner has been executed in the country. Politically speaking, Kasab’s hanging is a development fraught with deep foreign and domestic implications.

The government accorded budget-level secrecy to Kasab’s hanging and the news of his execution came as a complete surprise to all but a few top officials. In fact, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde told reporters that even UPA Chairwoman Sonia Gandhi was not informed of the execution beforehand.

To the public, the execution seemed unlikely even while the Indian government secretly began its “Operation Kasab” several weeks ago. Sources said President Pranab Mukherjee had rejected Kasab’s mercy plea on November 5 (though this was only made public recently) and signed the necessary orders. This was followed by Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and the government of the Indian state of Maharashtra, where Kasab was excuted, also signing the necessary orders on November 7 and 8, respectively. About a week later Union Home Secretary RK Singh formally told Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai in a letter that the decision on Kasab’s execution had been made while ordering that the convict’s family in Pakistan to be notified. Kasab himself was informed of the decision on November 12; 9 days before his hanging. On the night of November 19 he was moved from Mumbai’s Arthur Road jail to Pune’s Yerawada jail, which is authorized to host executions.

Kasab’s execution also had international consequences. For example, just days before the Indian government opposed a non-binding UN resolution against the death penalty that no less than 130 countries, with some countries, such as the U.S., lending their support to the resolution despite the fact that they employ capital punishment at home.  

A more delicate matter was how to handle the situation with Pakistan, which Kasab was a citizen of. India informed Pakistan of the impeding execution on Tuesday, the day before the execution, but Pakistan has not acknowledged this communication at the time of this writing. Indeed, Pakistani officials stationed in India refused to accept a formal letter from Indian officials about the imminent hanging, forcing the latter to fax a copy of it to Pakistan.


Pakistani Taliban demand return of Mumbai terrorist's body

Group threatens revenge against India unless body of executed Mohammad Ajmal Kasab is given to familyback

  • Associated Press in Peshawar
  •, Thursday 22 November 2012 10.35 GMT
Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving gunman from the 2008 Mumbai attacks, was executed by India. Photograph: Reuters

The Pakistani Taliban have threatened revenge unless India returns the body of a Pakistani man executed for his role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people.

Spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan demanded that Mohammad Ajmal Kasab's body be given back to his family or handed over to the Taliban.

"If his body is not given to us or his family, we will, God willing, carry on his mission," Ahsan told The Associated Press by telephone from an undisclosed location. "We will take revenge for his murder."

India secretly hanged Kasab on Wednesday and buried his body at the jail in the city of Pune where he was executed.

Indian external affairs minister Salman Khurshid said on Wednesday that the government would consider any request from the Pakistani government or Kasab's family to hand over his body, but no such request had been received.

Kasab was the lone surviving gunman from the three-day attack in Mumbai, India's financial capital, which targeted two luxury hotels, a Jewish centre, a tourist restaurant and a crowded train station.

The nine other gunmen were killed during the siege.

The attackers entered Mumbai by boat on 26 November, 2008, carrying cellphones, grenades and automatic weapons. Their rampage through the city was broadcast live on television, transfixing the nation and the world.

It severely damaged relations between Pakistan and India, nuclear-armed neighbours who have fought three major wars against each other.

After Kasab was captured, an Indian judge sentenced him to death in May 2010 for waging war against India, murder and terrorism, among other charges. Kasab confessed that the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba was behind the Mumbai attack.

The gunmen were in regular phone contact with handlers in Pakistan during the siege.

Indian officials accuse Pakistan's intelligence agency of working with Lashkar-e-Taiba to plan the attack – an allegation Islamabad denies.

Lashkar-e-Taiba was formed with the help of Pakistani intelligence over two decades ago to put pressure on India over the disputed territory of Kashmir. Pakistan has since banned the group but has seemingly done little to crack down on the militants. Many analysts believe they still have state support.

Unlike Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistani Taliban have focused their fight against the Pakistani government, not India. The group has rarely spoken out about issues related to India, making its comments about Kasab unusual.

Ahsan, the Taliban spokesman, said the group was unsure whether Kasab was working on behalf of Pakistani intelligence, as the Indians claim, which would make him suspect in the eyes of the Taliban.

"If he was used by someone, then it was between him and God," said Ahsan. "If he did all this to please God and was not used by someone, we will complete his mission."

India offered no official comment on the Taliban's threat. However, an Indian government official said it will be a test for the Pakistani government to see whether it will allow its soil to be used again for an attack on India.

India has complained that Pakistan is not doing enough to crack down on the militants responsible for the Mumbai attack. Seven people including Lashkar-e-Taiba's chief military commander, Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi, are facing trial in Pakistan for suspected links to the attack. But the proceedings have moved very slowly.

  • © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.


Mumbai terror attacks: surviving gunman hanged in India

Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab is executed in Pune in India's first use of death penalty since 2004

  • The Guardian,

  • Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab during the attacks on Mumbai in November 2008. Photograph: Sebastian D'souza/AP

    Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab, the only gunman to have survived the 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai, has been hanged in the central Indian city of Pune and buried in the prison yard.

    The execution – carried out days before the fourth anniversary of the attacks – was the first in India since 2004 and only the third in the past 17 years. The Indian minister for home affairs, Sushil Kumar Shinde, announced the execution, saying the president, Pranab Mukherjee, had turned down Kasab's appeal for clemency. "It was decided then that on 21 November at 7.30 in the morning he would be hanged. That procedure has been completed today," Shinde told reporters on Wednesday morning.

    Kasab, 24, was the only survivor of the group of gunmen who killed more than 160 people over three days in a string of attacks targeting luxury hotels, a railway station, tourist cafes and a Jewish centre. A photograph of Kasab walking through Mumbai's main railway station with an AK-47 assault rifle and a rucksack crammed with ammunition became an enduring image of the attack.

    Sachin Kalbag, editor of Mumbai's popular MidDay newspaper, said news of the execution had brought "considerable relief across the city and joy in some pockets where the most murders were committed.

    "Any happiness is not over the execution but because there is now some kind of closure for the families of those who died that day," he said.

    Leaders of Lashkar-e-Taiba – the extremist group blamed by India for the attacks – said Kasab "was a hero and will inspire other fighters to follow his path".

    The Pakistan Taliban said they were shocked by the hanging. "There is no doubt that it's very shocking news and a big loss that a Muslim has been hanged on Indian soil," a spokesman told Reuters.

    Others in Pakistan said the execution of Kasab would make it harder to prosecute those who co-ordinated the attack by mobile phone from a house in Karachi, the southern Pakistani port city.

    "If we are to go after the network we have to have living evidence, but now we only have what is in the files," said Khalid Munir, a retired army colonel. "[Kasab] may have only been an operator, a foot soldier for those guiding him, but he could have given more information, given evidence in the Pakistani courts. The Bombay case ends here," he said.

    Pakistan's interior minister, Rehman Malik, has in the past said the country has been unable to take action against Hafiz Saeed, the cleric accused of heading Lashkar-e-Taiba, because evidence provided by India is "vague and insufficient". Delhi has denied the claim.

    Talat Masood, a former general, said the more important problem was a lack of political will in Pakistan. "If they were really determined they could punish these people, but the problem is the weakness of the state," he said. "They think that at the moment they can't afford an angry reaction from the militants."

    Pakistan has denied that its security agencies are in any way connected to the attack and says it is prosecuting seven suspected militants for their role.

    Testimony to American and Indian investigators from David Headley, a Pakistani-American involved in the plot, implicated junior officials within the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan's main military security agency. There was no evidence that senior officials had knowledge of the plot, or at least its full extent, Headley indicated.

    Human rights groups criticised the execution. "The hanging of Ajmal Kasab marks a concerning end to [India's] moratorium on capital punishment. Instead of resorting to the use of execution to address heinous crime, India should join the rising ranks of nations that have taken the decision to remove the death penalty from their legal frameworks," said Meenakshi Ganguly, the south Asia director of the campaign group Human Rights Watch.

    On Tuesday a United Nations committee adopted a draft resolution calling for a moratorium on capital punishment. India was among 36 countries – including Pakistan, the US, Singapore, Egypt, Japan, China and Sri Lanka – who opposed the resolution, citing the right of each sovereign nation to decide its own legal system.

    Few analysts thought the killing of Kasab would interfere with political efforts in Delhi and Islamabad to improve relations between the two countries. On Tuesday the Pakistani president, Asif Ali Zardari, ratified a long-planned relaxation of visa requirements for Indians travelling in Pakistan.

    Indian analysts, however, say a repeat attack like that of 2008 could bring about a war between the two countries and criticise precautions taken to prevent such an attack. The absence of sectarian violence after the attack has been seen as a testament to the strength of India's secular democracy. Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan, who runs the Delhi-based English-language Milli Gazette newspaper, said Indian Muslims had no "concern" for Kasab. "Any terrorist should be hanged. He should have been executed long ago," Khan told the Guardian.

    • This article was amended on 22 November 2012 because the original described the Milli Gazette as an Urdu-language newspaper

    • © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.


    Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab: film-loving boy who became mass killer

    Mumbai gunman, who has been hanged in India, remembered as a baby-faced, playful teenager before his radicalisation

    • Reuters in New Delhi
    •, Wednesday 21 November 2012 14.01 GMT

    Indians in Gauhati celebrate the news of the execution of Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab. Photograph: Anupam Nath/AP

    When police asked Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab whether he felt pity for the people he gunned down during one of India's bloodiest militant attacks, he said he had given it some thought beforehand. He had been told "you have to do these things if you're going to be a big man and get rewarded in heaven", according to video footage of his interrogation, in which he talked of his training and handlers.

    Captured as he tried to escape in a stolen car, Kasab was the only survivor among 10 gunmen who killed 166 people on a three-day rampage across Mumbai in 2008, spraying bullets and throwing grenades as they hit some of the city's most famous landmarks.
    Kasab was hanged in secret on Wednesday in the western city of Pune, just days before the fourth anniversary of the attacks. He had no last request. Friends in his home village in Pakistan's Punjab province remember a boisterous, playful boy who loved films and karate. His aunt said she was proud of him.

    But the film of Kasab as a baby-faced youth toting an AK-47 on a killing spree at a crowded Mumbai railway station, became the face of the carnage often described as India's 9/11. The violence, which India blames on the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, temporarily ruptured a fragile peace process between the traditional foes.

    Kasab was charged with 86 offences, including murder and waging war against the Indian state, as part of a charge-sheet that filled more than 11,000 pages. The twists and turns of his trial captivated a country that remained in fear of further attacks.

    "For the lives of the innocents who were killed in the attacks perpetrated by Mr Kasab, justice has been done," Sanjeev Dayal, director general of Maharashtra police, told Reuters. "Their souls may now find some solace."

    At the start of his trial, Kasab smiled and occasionally broke into laughter. He initially confessed to the killings, only to later retract his statements and claim he had travelled to Mumbai in the hope of landing a Bollywood film role.

    Reports of his tantrums while in prison, including throwing his prison food into the bin and demanding mutton biryani, sparked outrage in the Indian media.

    "Though Kasab has been hanged, our sorrows continue and we have to live a painful life," said Kalpana Shah, the wife of a property developer who was killed in the attacks. "It was such a cruel incident. But what can be done? We have to live with it," she said, wiping back tears.

    Kasab was from the village of Faridkot, Punjab – Pakistan's farming belt. Indian authorities say he was born in 1987, although his age became the subject of a dispute at the trial, as his lawyers argued he was not even 17 during the attacks and should be tried in a juvenile court.

    A former classmate, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said Kasab had left his village in search of work when he was a poor teenage labourer. Another schoolmate remembers taking karate lessons with him.

    Haji Mohammad Aslam, Kasab's neighbour who owns a shop where his family lived, said: "He comes from a very humble but noble, honest family. His father was a street vendor selling snacks on a cart. Kasab did not send any money home and his family is still as poor as they were before he left. He was probably trapped by some religious group.

    "He was very active, always jumping around. He loved watching films," Aslam said. "He would stay out until midnight watching TV in shops and street restaurants. He grew up in our hands; he was a playful boy and it's not possible that he did all this."

    According to investigators, Kasab said he had undergone months of commando-style training in an Islamist training camp organised by Lashkar-e-Taiba and conducted by a former member of the Pakistani army. Lashkar made its name fighting Indian rule in Kashmir but was also blamed for an attack on the Indian parliament in 2001 that brought the two nuclear-armed rivals close to a fourth war.

    Kasab was one of a squad of 10 who entered Mumbai on three inflatable speedboats shortly after dusk on 26 November 2008. The group had sailed across the Arabian Sea from Karachi for days, hijacking an Indian trawler on their way and killing its crew. The group fanned out, attacking targets including two luxury hotels, a bar popular with tourists, and a Jewish centre.

    Kasab was filmed walking through the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, a grand train station and Unesco world heritage site, shooting nearly 60 people and leaving them to die in pools of blood.

    An effigy of Kasab, with a noose around his neck, was hung from the entrance gate of the station by a rightwing local party. A crowd of about 30 shouted "Pakistan murdabad" (death to Pakistan) as they beat the effigy, which had shoes hung around its shoulders.

    In contrast, a senior commander of Lashkar celebrated Kasab as a "hero" who would inspire others to follow in his footsteps. "This news is hell for us," Shahnaz Sughra, Kasab's aunt, told Reuters. " … Even if he did something wrong, we just want his body.

    Even if he did something wrong, I am proud that he taught the enemy a lesson in their own country."

    • © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

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