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Concerned over tardy pace of 26/11 case: India to Pak

By Rezaul H Laskar
Last updated on: May 24, 2012 10:21 IST
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India on Thursday said it has provided additional evidence against Lashkar-e-Tayiba founder Hafiz Saeed and other perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attacks to be used by Pakistani authorities to prosecute them, while expressing concern at the tardy pace of proceedings in the case.

Home Secretary R K Singh said that Indian authorities had provided their Pakistani counterparts additional proof against Saeed while the Pakistani judicial commission that visited Mumbai in March had gathered evidence against the perpetrators of the terrorist assault on India's financial hub in 2008.

The additional evidence should be presented in the Pakistani court and used to prosecute the terror suspects, he told the media at the conclusion of the first day of two-day talks with his Pakistani counterpart, Interior Secretary Khwaja Siddique Akbar.

At the same time, Singh said the 2008 Mumbai attacks should not be equated with the 2007 bombing of the Samjhuata Express train.

The assault on Mumbai was an incident of cross-border terrorism while the train bombing had occurred within India, he pointed out.

Indian authorities had arrested and charge-sheeted those responsible for the bombing of the Samjhauta Express, Singh said.

Before the beginning of the talks, Singh had expressed concern at the tardy prosecution of the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks.

"It seems that the progress in judicial proceedings against them (persons charged with involvement in the Mumbai incident) is very slow. Many persons who are the actual accused have not been brought before the courts," Singh told reporters this morning.

Singh said he was confident the discussions would be successful "as terrorism affects us all and we are committed to fighting the scourge of terrorism in all its forms and manifestation so that the cost it imposes on our primary objective of rapid economic and social development in the subcontinent is negated".

"This is in the interest of our two countries, the region and beyond," he added.

During the talks, the two sides discussed a wide range of issues, including terrorism, drug trafficking, a relaxed visa regime, networks involved in circulating fake currency and humanitarian matters, including the release of civilian prisoners and fishermen held in jails in both countries, official sources told PTI.

The Indian side also demanded handing over of fugitives allegedly sheltering in Pakistan, including mob boss Dawood Ibrahim and several Indian Mujahideen leaders, sources said.

The Pakistani side raised the issue of action against those responsible for the bombing of the Samjhauta Express, which killed nearly 70 people, including 42 Pakistanis.

The two delegations gathered at a hotel in the heart of Islamabad for the talks.

The last round of talks between the two secretaries was held in New Delhi in March last year.

The inclusion of National Investigation Agency chief S C Sinha and other officials involved in the probe of the Mumbai attacks in the Indian delegation was a clear indication of New Delhi's intention to push for the prosecution of perpetrators of the terrorist assault on India's financial hub.

Seven Pakistani nationals, including LeT operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, have been indicted for planning, financing and facilitating the deadly attacks that killed 166 people in November 2008.

However, their trial by an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi has stalled for over a year due to various technical reasons.

Despite the visit of the Pakistani judicial delegation to Mumbai in March to gather evidence and record the statements of key Indian officials, no headway has been made in the trial in recent weeks.

Indian officials have said the Pakistani side has not acted on evidence provided by New Delhi that linked several serving and retired military personnel to the attacks.

Islamabad has also not responded to New Delhi's request for voice samples of the seven suspects arrested in Pakistan.

India's demand for action against Hafiz Saeed was strengthened after the US recently offered a $10 million bounty for the LeT founder.

Islamabad has claimed that the evidence provided by New Delhi is not sufficient to take legal action against Saeed, who has led several massive rallies against the US and India in recent months.

Ahead of the talks, Indian officials said the two sides had given the finishing touches to a new relaxed visa regime that will for the first time include group tourist visas, visas on arrival for senior citizens and children and year-long multiple-entry visas for businessmen.

The two secretaries are expected to ink the pack by the conclusion of the talks on Friday, official sources said.

However, some reports in the Pakistani media claimed that the visa agreement is unlikely to be signed as the Pakistani cabinet had not approved it at its last meeting yesterday.

The reports said Interior Minister Rehman Malik had not brought the agreement before the cabinet for approval.

An unnamed Interior Ministry official was quoted as saying by The Nation newspaper that authorities had decided to delay the signing of the new visa agreement till the next meeting of the Home and Interior Secretaries.

The two countries have been working on the draft of the new visa agreement for over a year.

In his arrival statement in Pakistan, Home Secretary Singh said he was looking forward to "frank and meaningful" discussions with his Pakistani counterpart.

"We have come with an open mind and a constructive spirit to take forward our engagement and resolve all issues through bilateral dialogue," he said.

The talks between the Home and Interior Secretaries are "foundational to most other aspects of our bilateral engagement, as the resumed dialogue process, other CBMs and enhanced people-to-people contacts can only succeed in an atmosphere free of terrorism and violence", Singh said.

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Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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