'Doing our best to ensure perpetrators of Mumbai attacks are punished'
Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Wednesday rejected India's claims that Pakistan was not doing enough to punish those responsible for the Mumbai terror attacks. Malik said Islamabad is willing to cooperate and listen to New Delhi's grievances.
"We want friendly relations with India and we are willing to cooperate and listen to all their grievances. At the same time we are doing our best to ensure the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks are punished," Malik told reporters on Wednesday night at Karachi.
Home Minister P Chidambaram on Wednesday said that confidence cannot be restored between India and Pakistan till Islamabad takes action against the "real culprits" responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
Talking to a delegation of Pakistani journalists in New Delhi, Chidambaram said all evidences regarding Mumbai attacks had been handed over to Pakistan. New Delhi recently handed over to Islamabad a list of five individuals linked to the Mumbai incident, including an army officer, but no action had been taken by Pakistani authorities so far, he said.
Malik confirmed that India had handed over a fresh dossier but said he had not looked at it yet.
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Image: Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik
Photographs: Faisal Mahmood/Reuters
'Sincere in our efforts to fight terrorism'
"I can assure the Indian government and the people that we are sincere in our efforts to fight terrorism and we will ensure that those behind the Mumbai attacks don't go unpunished," Malik said.
"We had proposed a joint judicial commission to be set up for the Mumbai attack case but Indian authorities have not responded as yet," he said.
Malik said that the government had arrested seven people involved in the Mumbai attacks and were facing trial.
"We are holding their trial on fast track basis and I can assure Indians that if they are found guilty they will be punished," Malik said.
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Image: A member of the anti-terrorist squad runs in front of the burning Taj Mahal hotel during a gun battle in Mumbai
Photographs: Arko Datta/Reuters
'We don't think terrorists deserve to be shown any leniency'
He insisted that the Pakistan government was sincere about fighting terrorism and not allowing anyone to use its soil to carry out terror attacks anywhere else. "We have said enough is enough and we are down hard on terrorists because we don't think they deserve to be shown any leniency," Malik said.
But the minister said that if India had grievances over Pakistan's handling of the Mumbai terror attack suspects, Pakistan also had its share of grievances.
"We sincerely want to have friendly relations with India and I say the only way forward is to bring our grievances to the table and discuss and sort them out," Malik said.
He added that Pakistan had also asked India to share information about the attack on Samjhauta Express and had also sent a questionnaire on David Headley, but it was still waiting for a response from the Indian government.
Malik described Headley as a double agent. "We can't just act on his accusations," he said.
Image: India's most wanted
'Attack on Samjhauta Express not done by ISI'
In response to Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram's remarks on Wednesday that confidence between the two countries cannot be restored till Pakistan takes action against the "real culprits" behind the Mumbai incident, Interior Minister Rehman Malik indicated that New Delhi should provide more evidence to enable Islamabad to act against other suspects.
"The delay in that trial is not on our part because we had a demand for a judicial commission (to visit India). Our interior secretary met their home secretary and we spoke of our request for the judicial commission (and we hope) India will respond to that and allow it," he said.
Chidambaram said India had asked Pakistan to arrest five more suspects, including an Inter-Services Intelligence officer identified only as Major Iqbal. This officer was allegedly the handler of Pakistani-American David Headley, who played a key role in planning and conducting surveillance for the Mumbai attacks. Malik contended that India needs to provide more proof for Pakistan to act against individuals like Major Iqbal.
"Believe me, I don't have an Aladdin's lamp that if someone says I should apprehend Major Iqbal, I will be able to do it. Major Iqbal is a generic name. I had sent them 36 questions about Headley but I have not got a reply as yet," he said.
The Interior Minister again sought to rubbish Headley's testimony at the Chicago trial of Tahawwur Rana, another key suspect in the Mumbai incident. "I think the Indian law enforcers and authorities realise in their hearts that he was and is a double agent. He makes nine visits to India, so many visits to Pakistan and Europe. Where did he get the finances from? Somebody must have been giving it," he said.
Malik also raised India's investigation of the 2007 bombing of the Samjhauta Express cross-border train in which 42 Pakistanis were killed. He contended that Indian "intelligence and forces" were behind the attack though the ISI was blamed.
"Today their own (Indian)... investigators they have proof... that the attack on the Samjhauta Express was not done by Pakistan's ISI.
I have requested that the accused should be handed over... we will ask for the accused because they killed Pakistanis," Malik said.
Image: A policeman stands outside a burnt carriage of a Samjhauta Express train
Photographs: Desmond Boylan/Reuters