26/11: Pak to block lawsuit against ISI in US

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.

Last Updated: May 11, 2011, 20:07 PM IST

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
Abbotabad 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.

PTI