Press Trust of India
Sunday, November 30, 2008 8:56 PM (New Delhi)
Under severe attack in the wake of Mumbai terror strikes, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday night declared that legal framework will be strengthened in the battle against terrorism and a federal investigation agency will be set up.
After a marathon five-hour-long discussions at an all party meeting convened by him to discuss the Mumbai terror strikes that left nearly 200 persons dead, the Prime Minister said the country stands united in fighting terrorism and legal framework would be strengthened in this regard.
"We will pursue the setting up of a federal investigating agency within a time-frame," he said in his concluding remarks promising the parties that the government would get back to them within a fortnight.
When the BJP and AIADMK insisted on stringent laws like POTA to tackle terrorism, the new Home Minister P Chidambaram said the prime minister has already referred to strengthening the legal framework.
However, Left parties opposed any "draconian" measures like POTA but were open to suggestions for strengthening provisions in the existing laws to combat terror.
The government also came under attack from ally Samajwadi party whose chief Mulayam Singh Yadav said the ruling dispensation was weak and must own up responsibility.
"Come out with something concrete within 15 days," Yadav told the government.
In his opening remarks, the Prime Minister said the government has decided to strengthen air and maritime security and create four NSG hubs in various parts of the country.
Strengthening and augmentation of special counter-terrorism forces like the NSG would be done expeditiously and a legal framework will be formulated, he said.
Sharing the country's "anger and outrage" over the Mumbai attacks, he appealed to parties to rise above political considerations to meet the challenge unitedly.
Both L K Advani and Rajnath Singh skipped the meeting. The reason for their absence was that they were busy campaigning.
Briefing reporters after the meeting, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said political parties unequivocally condemned the dastardly terrorist attack and expressed heartfelt sorrow and condolences to the innocent victims and paid homage to the brave security forces.
On various measures to be taken by the government, he said the scourge of terrorism will be fought with total determination and all means and measures to fight this menace would be made available.
Intelligence agencies will be tasked to provide specific pinpointed and actionable intelligence and creation of a new mechanism for establishing greater coordination among agencies of the Centre and states.
CPI leader A B Bardhan cautioned the government against any military misadventure against Pakistan. Parties felt that the government in Islamabad was weak but Indian action should not lead to strengthening fundamentalist forces like Taliban.
RJD chief Lalu Prasad made a veiled attack on BJP for targeting ATS chief Hemant Karkare, who was killed while fighting terrorists, in connection with the Malegaon blast investigation.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh also came under attack at the meeting from some parties for visiting the Taj hotel with Bollywood film maker Ram Gopal Varma.
They alleged it showed his casual attitude.