Hafiz Saeed’s arrest will take time: Pakistan

New York, Sep 24 (IANS) In a startling volte face, Pakistan admitted Thursday that Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks had not been arrested as had previously been thought, saying this would “take time”.

At the same time, Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that the prosecution of Saeed, the founder of terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), should not be made a precondition for resuming the sub-continental dialogue process that India froze in the wake of the Nov 26-29, 2008 Mumbai carnage that claimed the lives of over 170 people, including 26 foreigners.

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“When the leads culminate in some evidence that he is a criminal, I will not waste a moment. He will be arrested. But it will take time,” Malik told NDTV news channel in an interview here.

“We have to follow our law. As we are respecting the investigation and the courts of India, I request you to request our courts. Wait for some time. The court process has started. We mean business. Whatever we have committed on all forums, we mean business,” Malik added.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had confirmed Tuesday that Saeed had been arrested the previous day after two first information reports (FIRs) were registered against him under the anti-terrorism act.

On Thursday, Saeed’s lawyer had denied the arrest, saying an appeal had been filed against the FIRs in the Lahore High Court.

Reiterating that India had not presented adequate evidence against Saeed, Rehman maintained that his prosecution should not be made a precondition for resuming the India-Pakistan dialogue process.

“As far as Hafiz Saeed is concerned, please do not make this a precondition. Because you know yourself that what you have given us is not evidence,” Malik contended.

When it was pointed out that India had submitted evidence of Saeed’s role in the Mumbai mayhem, Rehman replied: “Look, there is a difference between leads and evidence. If we can arrest (Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman) Lakhvi, why would we not arrest Saeed?

“The only request that I am making to India is give us credible evidence. I am not rejecting those leads. Only three weeks have passed. Give me some time to investigate. You have seen two FIRs in Faisalabad. It is not window dressing. Believe me,” the interior minister added.

When it was pointed out that the FIRs were not in connection with the Mumbai attacks, Malik said: “He was instigating people. So the FIR was registered.”

Turning to the peace process, Malik said: “I think Pakistan’s offer of composite dialogue must be accepted. There is no harm in sitting together. Even enemies sit together. We do not treat you as enemies. Let us be friends.”

Noting that he hoped to meet his Indian counterpart P. Chidambaram, Malik said: “I expect to meet my counterpart. I have no hang-ups with that.”

“My appeal to India would be that move away from the past. We need to have a fresh start. Let’s first identify our issues. You identify your issues as we have done. We are ready to take this forward,” he added.