Pakistan keen to help in 26/11 probe: minister

By Muhammad Najeeb, IANS,

Islamabad : Pakistan Thursday said it wants to help India “wholeheartedly” in the probe into the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, but would not hand over the suspects named by New Delhi.

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Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said, “No one should doubt our sincerity in this regard, we want to help India in the investigations wholeheartedly… I repeat there should be no doubt in this regard.”

He, however, said Pakistan will not hand over the suspects named by India in the Mumbai attacks, and if proved guilty they would be prosecuted according to local laws.

“They will be prosecuted in the country and would not be handed over to India,” Qureshi said in a GEO TV programme while replying to a question whether Pakistan will hand over the people named by India as suspects in the attacks.

He also refused to comment on a Wall Street Journal report that quoted Pakistani officials as saying that arrested Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) leader Zarar Khan has admitted links with the terrorists who carried out the Mumbai attacks.

“I don’t want to comment on the report at this stage as it can effect the investigations by our agencies,” said the minister in reply to a question on the journal’s report.

Qureshi said that Islamabad wants to establish good relations with India and is ready to resume dialogue with immediate effect.

About Indian prisoner on death row in Pakistan, Sarabjit Singh, the minister said, “Let’s sit down together and all issues can be resolved… even the much bigger issues and conflicts can be resolved through dialogue.”

On the recent bomb blast in Lahore and media reports that four Indians have been arrested for planting the bomb, the minister said that he saw these reports in the media and, “I request the media people for responsible journalism.”

Qureshi said he could not reveal the identity of those arrested for the blast at this stage but would certainly provide details once investigations are completed.

He said issues with India cannot be resolved without talking directly. “We are ready to talk to India and can hold such talks with any level… we are worst hit by terrorism, our hotels are being targeted, our innocent citizens are being targetted… How can we tolerate terrorism?”

He said that Pakistan has come under tremendous pressure after the Mumbai blasts.

“We were facing three challenges – to avoid any confrontation with India; to avoid international isolation; and to avoid internal destabilization,” said the minister, adding he was in New Delhi when the attacks took place and “I had seen the anger and disturbance in the eyes of Indians.”

The minister said it was due to the government’s planning that “we succeeded in avoiding international isolation, rather several countries have backed Pakistan in its quest for peace in the region”.

Qureshi said the exchange of lists of nuclear installation by both the countries was a positive sign. “I think it’s good omen that both countries continued with this practice of exchanging such a vital information,” he said.

Pakistan and India Thursday exchanged lists of civilian nuclear facilities under an agreement of 1988. The practice is continuing since 1992 and both countries routinely exchange lists on the first day of every year.