London: Pakistan opposition leader Nawaz Sharif's brother and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif "tipped-off" the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) about impending UN sanctions after the terror group attacked Mumbai in November 2008, reveals a US cable exposed by WikiLeaks. The tip-off helped the outfit to clean out its bank accounts before they could be raided.
The Guardian reported that six weeks after LeT gunmen killed 166 people in the Mumbai carnage, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari told the US of his "frustration" that Shahbaz Sharif's government in Punjab province helped the terror group evade UN sanctions.
A month earlier, Shahbaz Sharif "tipped off" the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), LeT's charity wing, "resulting in almost empty bank accounts", Zardari told the US ambassador to Islamabad, Anne Patterson.
US diplomats weren't able to confirm the allegation, but they admitted that JuD did appear to have received a warning from somewhere.
The cable in January 2009 said: "Information from the Ministry of the Interior does indicate that bank accounts contained surprisingly small amounts."
Senator Pervaiz Rashid, an adviser to Shahbaz Sharif, however, said: "There's nothing true in it."
"Zardari is our political opponent and he wants to topple our government."
He said Shahbaz Sharif couldn't have known about the UN sanctions as the UN coordinated its action with the federal government and not the provincial one.
The embassy cables have for the first time revealed the drama that unfolded behind the scenes after the Mumbai attacks in which 10 gunmen from Pakistan sneaked into India's financial capital and unleashed mayhem for over three days.
The media report said that US diplomats found themselves playing the role of harried intermediaries to prevent a war between Pakistan and India.
A week after the 2008 terror attack an Indian official said his government was distinguishing between Pakistan's civilian government, "which India believed was not involved in the attacks", and the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI).
"We are not yet ready to give ISI a clean chit," the official said.
The US embassy became alarmed four weeks later by Indian plans to release a "sanitised" intelligence dossier that, they feared, could scuttle intelligence sharing or thwart efforts to prevent a second attack.
The note read: "There are still Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) sleeper and other cells in India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan, as well as many law enforcement leads which need to be pursued."
The cables show that Pakistan's generals who are normally antagonistic towards India appeared to be conciliatory, the daily reported.
Almost six weeks after the attack in Mumbai, Pakistan's Army Chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, said he was "determined to exercise restraint in his actions with India".
"If there is any clue about another attack," he told General David Petraeus at his Rawalpindi headquarters, "please share it with us."
General Shuja Pasha, the intelligence chief, in late 2009 travelled to Oman and Iran to "follow up on reports he received in Washington about a terrorist attack on India".
He sent warnings to Israel "about information about attacks against Israeli targets in India".
Earlier in the year, he told Patterson, information about a second attack on India had "come his way", which he conveyed to Delhi via the CIA.
US diplomats noted that the secretive trial of Lashkar leader Zakhi ur Rehman Lakhvi and six other suspects "is proceeding, though at a slow pace".
American officials observed that there is "no smoking gun tying the Mumbai LeT operation to ISI" but are less sure if the spy agency has, as promised, cut all its ties.
"Despite arrests of key LeT/JuD leaders and closure of some of their camps, it is unclear if the ISI has finally abandoned its policy of using these proxy forces as a foreign policy tool," notes a briefing to the US special envoy Richard Holbrooke in February 2009.
First Published: Thursday, December 02, 2010, 15:01