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Pak to block lawsuit against ISI chief in US

News18test sharma |

Updated: May 11, 2011, 6:59 PM IST
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Pak to block lawsuit against ISI chief in US
The lawsuit alleges that ISI chief Shuja Pasha helped the LeT conduct the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Islamabad: Pakistan is preparing to block a lawsuit in a US court that alleges complicity of its spy chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha in the audacious 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, on the grounds that it will pour "gasoline on the
fire" of Indo-Pak relations.

The country's military-run ISI has roped in American lawyers, who are moving to quash the lawsuit in a Brooklyn court by arguing that if the case proceeds, it "will fuel violence and extremism" that will threaten Pakistan government and pour "gasoline on the fire" of relations between Pakistan and India, NBC News reported.

The lawsuit, filed last year by relatives of two Jewish victims of the Mumbai attacks, alleges that Pasha and his predecessor Nadeem Taj helped the LeT conduct the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people, including six Americans.

It charges that the ISI provided "critical planning, material support, control and coordination" of the Mumbai attacks under the leadership of Pasha and Taj.

This allegedly included providing funding to David Coleman Headley, a Pakistani-American who has pleaded guilty in a US federal court to conducting surveillance for the Mumbai attacks under the direction of an ISI case officer,
whom he identified only as "Major Iqbal".

The lawsuit is based in "large part on evidence developed by the FBI linking the ISI to the operatives of the LeT terror group who are charged with conducting the operation", the report said.

According to a brief filed last week by lawyers Kevin Walsh and Allen C Wasserman on behalf of the ISI, the Pakistan government "regards any assertion of jurisdiction over its high officials" by a US court "as an intrusion on its
sovereignty, in violation of international law".

The brief argues that Pakistan is a "wartime ally of the United States" in the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and that the lawsuit will damage that alliance.

The two American lawyers are with the Dallas-based firm of Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell, whose lobbying arm, Locke Lord Strategies, represents the Pakistan government in Washington.

The firm reportedly was paid over two million dollars in fees since it signed a contract with the Pakistan government in 2008. The chief of the firm's Pakistan lobbying account is Mark Siegel, a close aide of slain former premier
Benazir Bhutto.

James P Kreindler, the lawyer who filed the lawsuit against ISI on behalf of relatives of the victims of the 26/11 attacks, said recent developments, including the indictment in Chicago of Pakistani-Canadian businessman Tahawwur Hussain Rana and the aftermath of the US raid on Osama bin Laden's Abbottabad hideout, had made his case "many times stronger".

As a result of those developments, "the Pakistanis have no credibility and they're playing a double game", he contended.

The Pakistan government has said it will defend the ISI officials named in the lawsuit.

It has, however, given no indication that it will defend LeT founder Hafiz Muhammad Saeed and other LeT leaders who have been accused of playing a key role in the attacks.

Kevin Walsh, the lead US lawyer for the ISI, declined to comment beyond what was filed in the court brief.

He said the Pakistan government has denied the allegations that an ISI officer assisted the Mumbai attacks.

"I'm a lawyer, not a lobbyist," Walsh replied when asked if he was representing the ISI as part of his firm's lobbying contract with Pakistan.

The court filing comes amid mounting tensions between the US government and Pakistan over suspicions that some elements of the ISI continue to maintain ties to various terrorist groups, including LeT, that are aligned with al-Qaeda.

Those suspicions have been fuelled by the discovery that bin Laden lived for years in a compound close to the Pakistan Military Academy in Abbottabad, a garrison city that is home to thousands of soldiers.

Pakistan has failed to turn over to the US accused co-conspirators linked to the Mumbai attacks.

One of those is "Major Iqbal", charged with assisting the attacks in an indictment unsealed by US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's office last month.

Headley is expected to testify as the star witness in the trial later this month of Rana.

Rana has been accused of providing Headley with cover while he conducted surveillance in India for the attacks.

First Published: May 11, 2011, 6:59 PM IST
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