Pakistan has made a good start in detaining two suspected commanders of last month's coordinated assault on the Indian financial capital of Mumbai, and now it must persevere against the banned Islamic militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba and its network of support. The arrests of Lashkar operations chief Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi and his deputy, Zarrar Shah, come amid mounting evidence that extensive planning and training went into the attacks from Pakistan. The nine dead gunmen came from Pakistan, and a survivor in custody reportedly told Indian police that another 20 militants trained with them there for such suicide missions. The gunmen are said to have traveled to Mumbai by boat from the Pakistani port of Karachi, equipped with grenades, AK-47 rifles and 17.6-pound bombs, and communicated with handlers in Pakistan.
President Asif Ali Zardari has promised that anyone involved in the attacks will be tried and punished, and we understand that he faces many obstacles. Lashkar was founded with the help of the Pakistani military's main intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, to fight Indian rule in Kashmir, and elements within the ISI are still believed to support Lashkar and other militant groups. Zardari, who was elected after his wife, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated by alleged Islamic extremists, has even less control over the security apparatus than his predecessor, Pervez Musharraf. Furthermore, he risks a public backlash at home if he is seen to be acting at the behest of India or the United States, and apparently it is for that reason he has said he will not honor Indian requests for extradition of the suspects. If that's the case, he must put them on trial in Pakistan.
Previous Lashkar attacks have been met with a lackluster response: a roundup of militants, who were held for months and then released. Zardari must ensure that the culprits are punished this time, and he must go after their network, weeding out supporters in the military and provincial police forces, demobilizing fighters and outlawing their allied charity, Jamaat ud-Dawa. The head of Jamaat ud-Dawa is the founder of Lashkar, who quit days before the group was banned in 2001 after its attack on the Indian Parliament in New Delhi.
Zardari must do all this not only to deliver justice to India and prevent retaliation but to show Pakistanis he means business. As he wrote in the New York Times this week, the Mumbai attacks were directed at Pakistan's government and the peace process over Kashmir as well as at India. Lashkar is a violent extremist organization that Pakistan has outlawed. If Zardari doesn't put enough muscle behind that, he will prove that his laws are weak, and that he is too.