After a week of breathing fire on Pakistan for failing to crack down on the militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), which India blames for orchestrating the lethal Mumbai attacks of last month, New Delhi reacted with caution to reports of a Pakistani raid that led to the arrest of an alleged Mumbai mastermind. Indian security analysts are concerned that the move may be a feint by Pakistan's all-powerful military to buy time. "If the reports are true, the raids show some movement forward," says defense expert C. Uday Bhaskar. "But given how the civilian and military establishments are aligned in Pakistan, it is always a case of two steps forward, one step backward."
The raid in Muzaffarabad, the capital of the Pakistani half of the disputed territory of Kashmir, targeted the main local office of the Jama'at-ud-Da'awa (JuD), a charitable organization that terrorism experts say became the legal front of the banned LeT. Soldiers entered the office after a 3 p.m. deadline for its occupants to surrender had passed. Some 30 people fled. Local residents report that they heard fighting and machine-gun fire but no heavy weapons. The army has refused to comment. Latif Akbar, a leader of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party in Muzaffarabad, told TIME that he's "very worried about the law-and-order situation. There will be retaliatory attacks [by militants] for sure." (See pictures of Mumbai as it sifts through the rubble.)
Among those reportedly taken into custody was Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, who India believes was in charge of training LeT operatives for suicide attacks. Indian authorities refused to comment on the reports, saying they were awaiting official confirmation from the Pakistani government that they had acted on a diplomatic protest served on the Pakistan High Commissioner to New Delhi on Dec. 2, seeking "strong action" against those responsible for the Mumbai attacks. (See pictures of Mumbai's days of terror.)
Indian security analysts, meanwhile, were not only reticent but also skeptical of both the Pakistani authorities' ability and their willingness to crack the whip on the many terrorist groups operating on Pakistani soil. Mistrust of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) runs deep among Indian intelligence and security circles far more than in the U.S. particularly since the late 1980s, when the ISI was accused of aiding a fierce insurgency in India's border state of Punjab. Many believe that the ISI-Pakistani-army nexus holds the country in a vise, severely curtailing any civilian government's power to take any meaningful action against the many terrorist movements operating in Pakistan, whether on the border with Afghanistan or in Kashmir.
Vikram Sood, former head of India's external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), is even more skeptical and thinks the raid may only be a means to buy time. "It would be quite surprising for the Pakistani army to do this," he says. "The LeT has been their favorite." He points out that no raid has taken place at the JuD headquarters in the city of Muridke near Lahore. The LeT allegedly morphed into the JuD after 2001, when the LeT was banned by Pakistan after it was accused of masterminding a botched yet deadly attack on the Indian Parliament. The JuD denies it is the same organization. However, it continues to be headed by Hafiz Saeed, the LeT founder who figures on India's most-wanted list. (See more pictures of the Mumbai massacre.)
A day before the raid, TIME spoke with Muhammad Yahya Muhahid, the JuD's secretary of information, who defended Hafiz Saeed, saying he is merely a religious scholar and cleric, denying his role in any of the terrorist acts. "Our organization has again and again made it public that it has no relations with the Lashkar-e-Toiba," Muhahid said. "Hafiz Saeed does not head the Lashkar-e-Toiba. The Jama't-ud-Da'awa does not consider any activity, carried out by any person, group or state, in any place, anywhere in the world, in which unarmed civilians and public places are targeted, to be right. We have already condemned the Mumbai attacks." Muhahid said that "India wants to implicate him just to protect its own Hindu extremists."
Responding to speculation that India might stage military strikes against institutions and camps it believes may be LeT-militant strongholds in Pakistan, Muhahid said, "If our educational facilities are attacked, we will put pressure on our government to respond to India in the same coin."
In India, there is pressure for continued pressure on Pakistan. Even so, says former Indian intelligence chief Sood, things will get a lot worse before they get any better. "Just today there's been an attack on 160 NATO vehicles in northwestern Pakistan," he says. "I expect more bombings, even in Pakistan. There's going to be no let-up. There may be more suicide bombings." He says the task of ridding Pakistan of terrorists cannot be left to the Pakistani authorities. "It should be taken up by an international force," he says.
Many analysts are doubtful about the significance of the Muzaffarabad raid because they believe Pakistan's past attempts to crack down on terrorists have been merely cosmetic. "They have banned organizations, taken their leaders in custody, then put them under house arrest, only to release them and let them get back to their activities," says B. Raman, former head of the counterterrorism wing of the R&AW. "They need to show us that this time it will not be a farce. They should either deport those accused of the Mumbai attacks or allow an Indian police team to visit Pakistan and interrogate them." Raman believes greater pressure from the U.S. and from Israel, which lost nine citizens in the Mumbai carnage, may make a crucial difference this time. "As of now, there is tremendous anger among the Americans and the Israelis," he says. "But we need to see how things will be two, three months later." With reporting by Ershad Mahmud / Rawalkot