NEW DELHI – India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) probing the 26/11 attack, is likely to visit Pakistan in mid-January while a Pakistani judicial panel could visit India next week, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Saturday as he met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to press him to visit Pakistan and his native village.
“Whatever trust deficit was there, it was removed,” he said of his talks with Indian leaders. Malik, who also met National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, sought to deflect the negative publicity evoked by his purported comparison of 26/11 with Babri Mosque’s demolition and offered an investigation into the death of Captain Saurabh Kalia in Kargil.
According to Indian news agencies, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told Rehman Malik during the meeting that his visit to Pakistan was dependent on the progress in bringing to book those responsible for the Mumbai attacks. “People ask me about Bombay (Mumbai),” Malik quoted the prime minister as saying when asked when he would visit Pakistan, an invitation that was renewed Saturday.
Malik told reporters after the meeting that the prime minister spoke about the need for progress in the Pakistani probe into the attacks.
In an interview with NDTV news channel before his meeting with Manmohan, Malik said the issue of judicial commission was discussed during his meeting with Indian Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde Friday evening. “Yesterday we worked out a way forward so that the (Pakistani) judicial commission could come next week,” Malik said. Malik said he had invited the NIA in the middle of January. “Let the FIA director general and NIA sit together and resolve issues,” Malik said. An eight-member Pakistani judicial commission visited India in March following a bilateral agreement, but did not cross-examine the witnesses. It is expected to do so during its next visit to the country and present its findings to the Pakistani court trying the 26.11 attack accused.
Shinde also took up the matter of voice samples of the 26/11 handlers, which India hopes has a match with the ones on tape giving directions during the Nov 26-29, 2008 attack. Malik said according to Pakistan’s law, the voice samples cannot be given unless the permission is given by the accused himself.
“We have moved the high court on the matter of (Lashkar-e-Tayyaba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi’s voice sample and it is pending there,” he said, adding the high court was reminded about it two weeks ago. He said his government was taking steps to expedite trial of the seven people, including Lakhvi, in a Rawalpindi court.
On LeT founder Hafiz Saeed, Malik said he had been bailed out thrice by the court and “We have been stopped from arresting him; these are the orders of the high court.”
Malik who is on a three-day visit to India addressed a luncheon hosted by the Indian Supreme Court Bar Association. He said that he could issue arrest orders for Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed from India if New Delhi provided evidences against him. He repeated his statement of Friday, asking India to provide substantive evidence against him that can stand the test of court.
Speaking to reporters later, Malik said he had spoken about Babri mosque in context of inter-faith harmony. “9/11, 26/11 happened. There were blasts in Quetta and Bombay (Mumbai). Babri mosque demolition happened. We want any such incident should not happen in India or Pakistan,” he said and added his intention was not to hurt any person
Referring to Pakistan’s invitation to Manmohan Singh to visit Pakistan, Malik said he told the prime minister that people of his native district, Chakwal, wanted to meet him. Referring to Pakistan’s invitation to Manmohan Singh to visit the country, Malik said he told the prime minister that people of his native Chakwal district wanted to meet him.
He said Manmohan Singh was not only a prime minister but also enjoyed respect globally. “If he does not come, the people of Pakistan will be disappointed,” Malik said. The minister said he explained to the prime minister the steps taken to bring to book those involved in the 26/11 attacks.
On his remarks on Kalia, Malik said in his interview: “My full sympathies are with the family. Since the matter concerns the ministry of defence, I will take the information and have it investigated. The cause of death is not yet determined. Had he been tortured, how could you expect that we would have given such a body back, knowing the reaction it would elicit?” He also said that India had never raised with Pakistan in any way the issue of Kalia’s death.
Malik denied he had equated the demolition of the Babri Masjid with terror attacks. “When I spoke of Babri, I never compared it with terror acts,” he said, adding: “What I said is that we do not want ugly incidents. I Never made such a comparison,” Malik said. He accused the media of creating the agenda for the India-Pakistan talks, terming it not fair.
Speaking exclusively to Headlines Today Executive Editor Rahul Kanwal, Malik said he will probe Capt Kalia’s case once he returns to Pakistan. “I never meant to insult Capt Kalia.” On the issue of pending trial against perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the interior minister said, “We recognise that the 26/11 trail is an irritant for India. The delay in the case is due to judicial process. “However, he added that the Pakistan government is doing its best to bring the guilty to book.
Malik virtually rejected India’s demand for action against Hafiz Saeed on the basis of dossiers provided so far, saying hard and substantive evidence is needed to arrest him. “There is a difference between information and evidence,” he said.