Calling Pakistan’s bluff, India on Monday said JuD chief Hafiz Saeed had never been arrested in connection with Mumbai terror attacks even though its Interior Minister Rehman Malik claimed so.
Making a statement in both Houses of Parliament, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said Malik, who just concluded his visit here, was “misinformed” about the actual reasons for the arrest of Saeed whom India blames as the main conspirator in the 26/11 attacks.
“From the papers given to us, it is clear that the detentions of Hafiz Saeed in the aforesaid cases were for other reasons and not for his role as a conspirator in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.
“Therefore, I can only say that Rehman Malik appears to have been misinformed in the matter,” Mr. Shinde said in Rajya Sabha, where BJP sought to corner the government, alleging that it had not responded strongly to controversial comments made by the Pakistan minister.
Mr. Shinde noted that Mr. Malik “has been telling us repeatedly that he had arrested Saeed thrice and that, on each occasion, he was let off by the courts for lack of evidence.
“We had been given to understand by the Interior Minister of Pakistan that Hafiz Saeed had been arrested on charges of being a part of the conspiracy for the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks,” he said.
He said when India pursued the matter, Pakistan had given the papers pertaining to the detention of Saeed in 2002 and 2009.
During his talks with Mr. Malik, Mr. Shinde said Pakistan has been told that it was of “paramount importance” to bring those guilty of the terror strikes to justice to ensure that the Indo-Pak peace process proceeds in an atmosphere free of terrorism and violence.
“On a larger plane, it was stated that terrorism is affecting all aspects of the relationship and that we must deal with this menace effectively,” he said.
In the Lok Sabha, senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha demanded that no talks should be held with Pakistan till the culprits of Mumbai terror attacks and the prime conspirator Saeed were handed over to India by Islamabad.
Maintaining that Mr. Malik’s statements during the visit had “hurt the prestige of the country”, he attacked Mr. Shinde for not countering his Pakistani counterpart and remaining “silent” during the entire period.
In the Rajya Sabha, BJP Deputy Leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said it was “a deliberate design” by Pakistan not to take action against Saeed as he enjoyed “the protection of the Pakistan government”, adding that this was “very disturbing”.
He charged Mr. Shinde with being “conspicuously silent” on many contentious issues raised by Mr. Malik during his visit, including that of the Babri Masjid demolition which he termed as “interference in the internal affairs of India.”
“If this was to be done, then why was he called,” Mr. Prasad posed. Later, members in the Upper House sought a discussion on the issue and Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P J Kurien agreed to the demand on the “serious” issue.
In his statement, Mr. Shinde said he especially mentioned to Pakistan the fact that “our investigations have shown that Hafiz Saeed was one of the masterminds of the 26/11 attack conspiracy and Pakistan has yet to take effective action to charge him.”
“I reiterated the value of the voice samples for establishing the identity of those who were audacious to be caught on tape while directing the attackers,” he said, adding he also emphasised the need to respond to the Letters Rogatory sent to Islamabad following the investigation by the National Investigation Agency.
Referring to the cases of non-compliance of Red Corner Notices against the absconders of 1993 Mumbai blasts case in which 400 people were killed, the Home Minister said this was “a blot on our bilateral cooperation in bringing fugitives from law to justice.”
“The D-company operatives, led by Dawood Ibrahim, still evade arrest,” Mr. Shinde said, adding that the US had recently designated Ibrahim has a “specially designated global terrorist” and another person of his group as “a drug kingpin.”
Shinde said that during Malik’s visit, he commended to Pakistan the mercy petition by the family of Sarabjeet Singh, who has been imprisoned there for more than 20 years.
The Pakistan side raised the issue of progress in investigation in the Samjhauta Express blast, he said, adding that it was clearly told to Islamabad that the progress of the probe could not be equated with the Mumbai terror attacks.
Shinde said New Delhi has already conveyed its approval to Pakistan Judicial Commission’s visit to India to complete the“cross examination” of four witnesses.
India also emphasised to the Pakistan side the need to ensure that the revised terms of Reference/Agreement needed to be worked out carefully in consultation with the senior law officers of both sides so that this time there are no legal lacunae.
“Accordingly, it was agreed that a team from India will visit Pakistan this week to settle this document so that the Judicial Commission may come at the earliest” when the courts open here in January, he said.
The Home Minister said that the visiting Minister was also told that this year India has seen concerted attempts by terrorists to infiltrate across the Line of Control in J&K and these have occurred across several sectors of the LoC.
Noting that there have been a large number of cases of unprovoked violation of the ceasefire, he said, “Our inputs indicate that the number of terrorist camps and launching pads in PoK remain intact. Thus, we are yet to see effective action on ground.”