Caution, anger, sympathy in Pakistan

Agencies Posted: Nov 21, 2012 at 2213 hrs
Islamabad, Lahore Pakistan reacted cautiously Wednesday to the hanging of Ajmal Kasab, saying that it condemned terrorism “in all its forms” and was willing to cooperate with other countries to eliminate it. But across the country to which Kasab belonged, news of the execution was received with a mix of anger, sympathy, embarrassment and denial.

Islamabad said it had not received any request from Kasab’s family to bring back his body even though an aunt of his was quoted as saying that they wanted his body back. Any request from Kasab’s family to bring back the body would be handled in accordance with Pakistani laws, Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters in Islamabad.

“No member of Ajmal Kasab’s family or relative has requested the government (to bring the body back). When any member of the family makes a request, then we will take it up with the Indian government,” he said. Malik reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to the war on terrorism, saying any person involved in a terrorist act should meet his “logical end”.

“As far as his hanging is concerned, you know the resolve of Pakistan and our stated position that we are against terrorism. If there is a terrorist and if someone has done an act of terrorism, I think that terrorist should meet his logical end,” he said.

Leading rights activist Ansar Burney offered to help in bringing back the body if Kasab’s family got in touch with his organisation. He said he had no sympathy for Kasab but the family had the right to bury the body in accordance with Islamic traditions.

Pakistan’s Taliban movement expressed shock over Kasab’s execution. “There is no doubt that it’s very shocking news and a big loss that a Muslim has been hanged on Indian soil,” Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan told Reuters.

A senior Lashkar commander called Kasab a hero and said he would inspire more attacks.”To die like Kasab is the dream of every fighter,” the commander told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.

Talking to Reuters from his home village of Faridkot, Kasab’s aunt Shahnaz Sughra said she was proud of him and wanted his body back. A school mate remembered a boisterous child who loved karate “but never harmed anyone”. Villagers threw stones and slapped around journalists who went to the village.

“This news is hell for us,” Sughra told Reuters by phone. “...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.”

A PTI report from Lahore said Pakistani security and intelligence agencies barred journalists and television cameramen from entering Kasab’s hometown in Punjab province, hours after his execution.

The security personnel, who were in plain clothes and pretended to be villagers, stopped reporters from entering Faridkot village, located 150 km from the Punjab capital of Lahore, several journalists said.

The personnel tried to snatch cameras from crews of some TV news channels and manhandled them when they argued they had come to Faridkot to film and interview Kasab’s neighbours.

“The men from the security agencies in the guise of villagers were deployed on the road leading to Kasab’s neighbourhood. They asked us to go back and not to try to defame Pakistan,” a correspondent of a leading English daily, who did not want to be named, told PTI.

He said the men tried to snatch cameras from the crews of Express News, Channel 5 and Apna TV and manhandled some media representatives when they insisted on entering the neighbourhood.

“Why are you bent on defaming our country? Don’t play into the hands of an enemy country,” the correspondent quoted one of the men as having said. “Go back home and forget interviewing people of this village,” he further quoted the man as having said.

A journalist of Express News told PTI that he contacted the district police chief and informed him about the behaviour of the plain clothes personnel.

“The police officers told us that it was better for us to leave the place as the villagers are very angry over the Kasab episode. They do not want to talk,” the journalist said.

Kasab’s Pakistani nationality has been a sensitive issue and reporting by the Pakistani media on most matters related to the assault, including the ongoing trial of seven Pakistanis, has mostly been perfunctory.

“There was a general impression that Kasab, like Afzal Guru, would not be hanged but this development has obviously put Pakistan in a bit of a shock,” said Raza Rumi, editor of The Friday Times.

However, the debate on Kasab’s execution on social networking and micro-blogging sites such as Twitter and Facebook and the websites of newspapers was more heated, with some suggesting that Indian death row prisoner Sarabjit Singh should be hanged for his alleged involvement in a string of bombings in Pakistan in 1990.