Pakistan fires national security adviser

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The Independent Online

Pakistan has fired its national security adviser amid tensions with India over the Mumbai attacks, a sign of strain on the weak civilian administration as it responds to growing pressure to track down and punish the alleged masterminds.

Mahmood Ali Durrani, a former ambassador to the US and seen by critics as too friendly to Washington, was fired late Wednesday because "he gave media interviews on national security issues without consulting the prime minister," said Imran Gardaizi, spokesman for prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

The decision came hours after Indian media quoted Durrani as saying the surviving Mumbai attacker was Pakistani. At around the same time, other Pakistani officials, including the information minister, confirmed Mohammed Ajmal Kasab's nationality to domestic and international media outlets.

Durrani, a former general, has been an active proponent of improving India-Pakistan ties, authoring papers on the subject and bringing retired and serving Indian military personnel to Pakistan to encourage better military relations.

His national security appointment was controversial from the start because some considered him too pro-American - so this could have been an excuse to get rid of him, said political analyst Talat Masood.

"It definitely reflects on the confusion that prevails in Pakistan in the functioning of the government and the indecisiveness over how to deal with India," he added.

Pakistan's civilian government, which came to power earlier this year after more than eight years of military rule, has multiple power centres, including a president and prime minister who are vocal and visible. The military remains a powerful presence, and the military-run spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, is believed to have a high degree of independence.

India says Pakistani militants were behind the November siege that killed 164 people in its financial hub.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said this week that Pakistani authorities must have had a hand in the complex, three-day siege. New Delhi also handed Islamabad evidence this week that it says proves Pakistanis were behind the attacks.