In Kasab's Pakistan home, none wants to talk about him

In Kasab's Pakistan home, none wants to talk about him

Ajmal KasabNo one wants to talk about the village's most infamous son: Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, who along with nine other men allegedly stormed multiple targets in India's Mumbai on November 26, 2008, killing 166 people in a 60-hour siege.

"It's better not to mention him to them, otherwise you'll land in trouble and they might beat you," warns Hussain Rizwan, a 30-year-old gym owner from the neighbouring village who refuses to give directions to Faridkot.

Sitting on the side of the road, Rizwan tells AFP: "People from the village don't talk about Kasab. They feel insecure and fear a possible reaction by the government or attack by India."

Kasab was the lone survivor of the militant team which struck a railway station, two luxury hotels, a cafe and a Jewish centre in a raid on India's biggest city that has been dubbed the sub-continent's "9/11".

New Delhi has said all the attackers were Pakistani and accused Pakistani state agencies of involvement in the bloody siege, sending relations between the nuclear-armed foes to the lowest ebb in years.

Now standing trial in Mumbai, Kasab has confessed his role, claiming he was trained by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which along with similar Islamist groups finds disenfranchised youth of rural Pakistan a fertile recruiting ground.

Tucked away in the wheat fields of Punjab, where the sun scorches in summer and winter blows a chill, Faridkot has changed little in the last year.

Most of the men in the village of up to 10,000 people are low-paid manual workers struggling to get by, tilling the fields on the plains surrounding the settlement some 26 kilometres from the Indian border.
On the streets, rickety home-made carts provide cheap transport to impoverished villagers, while old trucks shift grain to the market.

Pakistan's foreign office in January confirmed that Kasab's family hailed from the village, but residents claim no knowledge of him.
"Fifty years ago, this was a small town of 60 houses and everybody knew everybody, but now any old person could live here and no one would recognise him," said 70-year-old Muhammad Sadiq Kharal.
"There are more than a thousand houses in town -- he (Kasab) might have come here, lived for some time and left."
Mayor Mustafa Watoo denies his existence, telling AFP: "There is no mention of this name in the citizen records in my union council.

"Even the butcher families don't know his particulars. You must ask India and other people who say he lived here."
India and Pakistan, which gained independence from British rule and split in 1947, have fought three bitter wars, and the Mumbai attacks stalled a fragile four-year peace process between the historic rivals.

Under pressure from India, a Pakistani court is trying seven men linked to LeT -- albeit behind closed doors in agonisingly slow proceedings.

One of the most notorious Pakistan-based militant organisations, LeT until recently focused on training and sending insurgents to battle India in the disputed mountain region of Kashmir.
The group is blacklisted by the United States and United Nations, and is banned in Pakistan, although the intelligence agencies here have been accused of covertly backing LeT's past operations in Kashmir.
Jamaat-ud-Dawa, one of the country's biggest charities, is allowed to operate, however, despite being widely viewed as the political wing of LeT, which Pakistan outlawed after an attack on the Indian parliament in late 2001.

The deep rifts between Pakistan and India are keenly felt in Faridkot, where a vein of nationalism occasionally surfaces amid the blanket silence.
"Kasab can't be one of us. Had he been from here he would have given his life not surrendered," said 36-year-old shopkeeper Zafar Iqbal.

"He brought a bad name on our village. He should be put on trial in Pakistan and exposed. Patriots don't surrender but accept martyrdom."

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