Outlook India Mag.
New York (PTI): Terming Pakistan as the centre of world terrorism, noted author Salman Rushdie has said the fact is that terrorist organisations are all based in that country.
Rushdie also slammed Pakistan for its "cynical denial" that the terrorists involved in Mumbai strikes were not its nationals.
"The fact is the world's terrorist organisations are all based in Pakistan. Taliban are there, al-Qaeda are there, LeT is there. They are all there with the active support of the Pakistani intelligence," he said while participating in a panel discussion at the Asia Society.
Noted authors Mira Kamdar and Suketu Mehta were other two panelists at the discussion organised jointly by the Asia Society, the South Asian Journalist Association (SAJA) and the Indo-American Arts Council. All three authors draw their links to Mumbai.
While Rushdie was born there, Mehta grew up in the city. Kamdar lost her cousin and cousin's husband in the November 26-29 terror attack in which more than 170 people were killed.
The three acclaimed authors lashed out at Pakistan and its leadership for not taking any action against terrorists and denying that those responsible for the Mumbai strike were Pakistani despite credible proof.
"British Prime Minister Gordon Brown two days ago said that British intelligence, following up leads of various terrorists' activities, informed him that 75 per cent of what they studied led back to Pakistan," Rushdie said. Islamabad "can't go on pretending that there is no evidence. That's all garbage".
He said that "when the President of Pakistan pretends that there is no evidence against somebody, he is also complicit in that. It is time to say to Pakistan this has to stop. You can't be a member of the free group of nations, if you are among the world's sponsor of terrorism, which is what now they have been".
The Mumbai strikes, he said, were marked by brutality by the attackers and incompetence of government and security agencies in responding to them.
Expressing skepticism that Islamabad would dismantle the terror groups, the panelists, during the discussion, said the world community should send a clear message to Pakistan that terrorists are becoming a liability to that country and it is in its own interest to dismantle them.
The U.S. administration too came in for strong criticism for considering former President Pervez Musharraf an "ally in fighting terrorism" and giving billions of dollars to him without any condition that the money should be used to fight terrorists.
"We have treated Pakistan with velvet gloves and what we have got in result is zero," he said.
Rushdie said that only two months ago the Zardari government authorised the purchase of an armoured vehicle for a Lashkar-e-Toiba leader. "So he is driving around Pakistan in an armoured vehicle purchased by the army of Pakistan."
The panelists recalled that Musharraf was responsible for aiding Lashkar-e-Taeba to fight in Kashmir during his years in the army and Rushdie said he put up a western face to the Westerns but was mullah to extremists.
Rushdie strongly attacked Booker Prize winner Arundhiti Roy for linking the Mumbai terrorist attacks to Kashmir, Gujarat riots and demolition of Babri Masjid.
The terrorists, the participants said, are driven by a different philosophy and ideology and want to take the world back into the medieval ages.
But they agreed that terrorists failed in their apparent bid to split Hindus and Muslims and ignite communal riots as both the communities condemned the attacks and vowed to unitedly fight terror.
Visibly agitated at Pakistan's involvement in the terrorist attack, Suketu Mehta said, "ISI should be declared a terrorist outfit. They are behind the attack on Indian Embassy in Kabul. They are behind the attacks in Bombay (as Mumbai was called ea rlier). They should be banned first and foremost for the sake of Pakistan itself."
"Pakistan needs to understand -- and I think there should be a concerted effort on the part of the world community to help Pakistan understand -- that these groups are a liability now, they are not an asset but a liability for Pakistan," Kamdar said, adding she does not even consider Pakistan a country.
** Suzanna Arundhati Roy has given anti-India comments in the past too.