US for Mumbai suspects’ trial in Pakistan: report


Islamabad : The US administration is urging Pakistan to ensure that the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attack are punished within the country instead of being extradited to India, a media report said Friday.

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“The Bush administration has informed the government of Pakistan that it would like it to initiate ‘prosecution with sufficient efforts to ensure conviction’,” Dawn, quoting sources, said in a dispatch from Washington.

“This indicates a clear change in the US attitude which previously backed the Indian demand that some of the suspects be extradited to India,” the newspaper added.

The change apparently has also been noticed in New Delhi, where External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said Thursday that the US pressure on Pakistan to act against the Mumbai perpetrators had “not produced tangible returns”, Dawn noted.

India had asked Pakistan to hand over three suspects – mob boss Dawood Ibrahim, Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar and Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi of the Lashkar-e-Taiba that New Delhi says staged the Nov 26-29 Mumbai attacks that killed more than 170 people, including 26 foreigners.

Mukherjee said in an interview to a news channel Thursday that an FBI team currently in Pakistan had shared with Pakistani authorities “strong evidence” of the LeT’s involvement in the Mumbai attacks.

He also insisted that an extradition treaty was not needed for handing over the three suspects.

US officials, Dawn said, had earlier supported the Indian demand “but the change in their attitude followed a realisation in Washington that it would not be easy for the Pakistani government to extradite key Lashkar-e-Taiba leaders to India”.

“In their negotiations with US officials on this issue, the Pakistanis insisted that the extradition of Pakistani citizens to India – particularly when the two countries did not have an extradition treaty – would have unpredictable consequences for the government.

“The Pakistanis argued that the resulting political instability would not only weaken the government but could also harm the war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda militants in Afghanistan as Pakistan played a key supporting role in this war,” Dawn said.

The “softening” of the US attitude was also linked to a crackdown in Pakistan on the LeT and other militant groups.

“The move appears to have convinced Washington that Pakistan is serious about uprooting militant groups that use its territory for conducting attacks inside India and Afghanistan,” the newspaper said.

The Americans, who have “stayed involved” with the investigation, “also noted with satisfaction that Pakistani authorities were seriously interrogating the suspects involved in the Mumbai attacks and looked determined to find out those responsible”, the newspaper maintained.

The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported Wednesday and Thursday respectively that Pakistani authorities had obtained confessions from LeT members of their involvement in the Mumbai carnage.

The NYT quoted a Pakistani official as saying that the “most talkative” of the LeT leaders being interrogated is Zarar Shah, the group’s communications chief.

Lakhvi is also said to be cooperating with the investigators.