By Robert Birsel
ISLAMABAD, Jan 8 (Reuters) - Pakistan’s security agencies had recommended confirming the surviving Mumbai gunman was Pakistani, the country’s former national security adviser said on Thursday, adding he was sacked because the prime minister was out of the loop.
India had said for weeks the captured gunman, Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, was Pakistani. Pakistan had stonewalled, saying his name was not on a national database and it was investigating.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani fired National Security Adviser Mahmud Ali Durrani on Wednesday, shortly after he and other officials confirmed to reporters that Kasab was Pakistani.
Newspapers in India interpreted his dismissal as punishment for revealing the truth, while Pakistani media speculated it showed a split in power circles in Islamabad.
Durrani said authorities, including security agencies, had already decided to confirm the gunman was Pakistani.
"It had been decided yesterday that we would tell the world that he is a Pakistani because hiding that makes no sense," Durrani told Reuters in a telephone interview.
"The security agencies recommended it," he said.
India blames Pakistan militants for the strikes in November by 10 gunmen that killed 179 people and have revived tension between two nations that have fought three wars since 1947.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stepped up a war of words on Tuesday, saying for the first time the assault "must have had the support of some official agencies in Pakistan".
Pakistan has denied any involvement by state agencies.
Durrani said he was dismissed because Gilani had not been informed about the decision to confirm Kasab’s nationality and the prime minister had felt the need to exert his authority.
"The prime minister happened to be ignorant. He was in Lahore and he didn’t know about it. He was out of the loop," Durrani said.
Gilani’s office said Durrani had been sacked "for his irresponsible behaviour for not taking the prime minister and other stakeholders into confidence".
A political insider, with knowledge of the circumstances of Durrani’s dismissal, said Gilani was angered by the admission of Kasab’s nationality without either involving him or readying the public for the news.
"It should have been done in a more organised manner," the source said. "The mood in the country had to be prepared."
Durrani’s dismissal was the latest incident since the Mumbai attacks to raise questions about who is in charge in Pakistan.
"BEST FOR PEACE"
The political insider said Gilani had made a stand against President Asif Ali Zardari, perceived as pro-Western and dovish towards India, to side with the military and hawkish elements of the bureaucracy. Durrani shared Zardari’s outlook and had the president’s confidence, the source said.
The Pakistan paper the News, in an editorial headlined "Cracks at the top?", asked if there was a gulf between the prime minister and the president, and whether that gulf stretched beyond the two.
Durrani, a retired general, became national security adviser to the nine-month-old civilian government having served as ambassador to the United States when former army chief Pervez Musharraf held the presidency.
Durrani said the confirmation of Kasab’s nationality should help ease tension between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
"Obviously, this would help the situation with India and that is the primary concern, that you tell the world, tell India."
Pakistan has rejected Singh’s accusation of involvement by state agencies, saying India was ratcheting up tension and risked destroying all prospects of a serious investigation.
Earlier on Wednesday, Gilani had said Pakistan’s investigation was making progress.
India sent a dossier of evidence to Pakistan this week that New Delhi said linked Pakistani militants to the attacks, including data from satellite phones and what it describes as the confession of the surviving attacker.
Durrani, who had been involved in behind-the-scenes diplomacy" in a peace process with India that was launched in 2004 but is now on an Indian-imposed "pause", said he had a clear conscience.
"I was doing what is best for Pakistan, I was doing what is best for peace between India and Pakistan." (With additional reporting by Simon Cameron-Moore; Editing by Jerry Norton)