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Pakistan’s English media Friday front-paged but did not lead with the death sentence awarded to Ajmal Amir Kasab for his role in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, focusing instead on an emerging dispute between the government and the judiciary on reopening a graft case against President Asif Ali Zardari.

There were no editorials but this was not surprising as Pakistani newspapers normally take more than a day to react to events of this nature.

The only comment, as it were, was by the Dawn’s New Delhi correspondent, who noted: ‘As an Indian judge closed a sordid chapter in Delhi’s ties with Islamabad on Thursday by handing the death sentence to the sole surviving Pakistani gunman involved in the November 2008 carnage in Mumbai, the Indian government signalled that a more serious threat to the country’s internal security came from a Maoist rebellion raging in central and eastern India, not from across the border.’

‘In an unusual advisory that seemed to presage the government’s shift in focus away from Pakistan, whose foreign minister is widely expected to resume talks with his Indian counterpart later this month, the Indian home ministry warned that it was the Maoists that planned to overthrow the Indian state in a bloody revolt, currently located in the central Indian forests,’ Jawed Naqvi wrote.

Dawn, as also The News, carried an identical 400-word agency report on Kasab’s sentence. Daily Times carried a similar report, but compressed it to less than 100 words.

‘Indian judge sentences Kasab to death,’ said the headline in The News. ‘Kasab sentenced to death on four murder counts’, the headline in Dawn said. ‘Ajmal Kasab sentenced to death’ said the headline in Daily Times.

Writing in The News, under the headline ‘Kasab’s sentence draws cautious Pak response’, Mariana Baabar noted that Islamabad’s response might have been ‘cautious’, but ‘the authorities did not mince words while strongly condemning what happened in Mumbai’.

The reference was to Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit’s weekly briefing hours after the Kasab judgment was delivered during which he said the verdict would be closely examined before a comment was offered.

Baabar also pointed out that Pakistan seemed to be distancing itself from Kasab.

‘The spokesman underlined that while it was incumbent upon the government to provide assistance to its nationals abroad, if possible, it was also important to note that ‘we need to make a distinction as to where assistance is legitimate and where it is not’,’ she wrote.

She also said that during the briefing Basit ‘was careful not to use the words ‘composite dialogue’ that the Indians have become allergic to’. India had suspended the sub-continental dialogue in the wake of the Mumbai attack.

The Indian and Pakistani prime minister, at their April 29 meeting on the sidelines of the SAARC summit in Thimphu, had mandated their foreign ministers and foreign secretaries to work out the modalities of restoring trust, paving the way for substantive dialogue covering all issues between them.

Kasab was Thursday sentenced to death for his role in the 26/11 carnage by a special court in Mumbai that said he had no right to live.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court Thursday came down hard on the government after the attorney general informed it that a $60 million graft case against President Zardari could not be reopened. This case, as also those against some 160 others, including the president’s slain wife Benazir Bhutto had been closed after then president Pervez Musharraf had promulgated an amnesty against graft in October 2007.

The Supreme Court had nullified this last year and ordered that all the cases be reopened

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