Pakistan backtracks on 26/11 trial, seeks 'more evidence'; India says talks will continue
Days after agreeing to expedite 26/11 Mumbai attacks trial, Islamabad backtracked on the issue, evoking a sharp response from the ruling BJP which said that talks with Pakistan will continue on the lines of Ufa joint statement made by the two countries and Congress-led Opposition questioning the gesture.
Islamabad: Days after agreeing to expedite 26/11 Mumbai attacks trial, Islamabad backtracked on the issue, evoking a sharp response from the ruling BJP, which said that talks with Pakistan will continue on the lines of Ufa joint statement made by the two countries and Congress-led Opposition questioning the gesture.
Adviser to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that Islamabad needs more information to take the Mumbai terror attacks trial forward.
“We need more evidence and information to expedite the trial,” Aziz said. He was quick to add that Pakistan's Prime Minister had also raised the Samjhauta blast case during talks with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi and sought details on the progress in the case.
Aziz also stressed that no dialogue process will take place with India unless Kashmir issue is not included in it. Pakistan stays firms on its principled stance on the issue with dignity and honour and no compromise will be made on it, he said.
Aziz took the new line on the 26/11 case hours after Pakistan did a U-turn stating that voice sample of LeT operations commander and Mumbai attack mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi is not likely to be provided, two days after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif gave a commitment in this regard to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi.
Importantly, PM Sharif had faced criticism for no mention of the Kashmir in a joint statement that mentioned terrorism and the need to expedite the Mumbai trial.
Prosecution team's chief Chaudhry Azhar said that four years ago, a Rawalpindi court, handling the Mumbai terror attack case, had dismissed an application for obtaining voice sample of Lakhvi on the ground that no such law exists in the country that allows obtaining of voice sample of an accused.
Azhar said that the Pakistan government will not file a fresh petition in the anti-terrorism court requesting for obtaining voice sample of Lakhvi in the 26/11 case. Lakhvi is presently out of bail due to lack of evidence.
Lakhvi's lawyer Rizwan Abbasi too said his client cannot be forced to give a voice sample as it is against the Constitution of Pakistan. "There is no as such law in Pakistan which can force anyone to submit voice sample. If my client wishes he will not submit sample of voice," said Abbasi.
Downplaying Pakistan NSA Sartaj Aziz's remarks that no dialogue with India will take place without including Kashmir issue, the ruling BJP today said such statements are intended for domestic audience and bilateral talks will proceed on the lines of Ufa joint statement of the two countries.
BJP, which had termed as "game-changing" the outcome of talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif, asserted that the joint statement will guide bilateral engagements.
"A lot of statement coming from others are also possibly intended to address their domestic constituencies. As fas as we are concerned, the discussion, engagement will largely happen on the lines of the joint statement," party spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao said.
Rao said the Ufa joint statement talked about the engagement of officials of both sides at different levels. "The bilateral engagement will proceed along the line of the joint statement," he said.
Reacting to Aziz's remarks, former Home Secretary and now BJP MP RK Singh accused Islamabad of behaving irresponsibly on the issue.
“The entire 26/11 conspiracy was planned in Pakistan, we have provided enough proof to the country in the past,” Singh was quoted as saying by the ANI.
Hitting back at Islamabad, Singh said, “The Pakistan Government is controlled by ISI, however, we will stick to the Modi-Sharif joint statement (on expediting the 26/11 trial.”
Singh went on to say that “Pakistan's notorious spy agency Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) knows that if a proper investigation is done in the Mumbai attacks then many of its officers will be
26/11 case prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam also reacted by saying, “The attitude of Pakistan shows that its does not want to move against the perpetrators of 26/11 attacks. I am surprised that he (Aziz) asks for such evidence when it is abundantly clear that the conspiracy was hatched on Pakistani soil.”
As Pakistan sought "more evidence" from India on the 26/11 case and asserted that Kashmir tops the list of key issues, Congress today mounted a sharp attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi accusing him of adopting a "lopsided" policy towards Islamabad.
Referring to comments by Sartaj Aziz's comments, Congress asked Modi to justify holding a bilateral meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Ufa in Moscow on Friday.
"It is very clear that Pakistani establishment does not want the perpetrators of Mumbai terror strike to be punished. With this background, where was the justification to have a meeting at the level of two Prime Ministers. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is answerable to the country," Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said.
Another party spokesperson RPN Singh too targeted Modi as he said it was "unfortunate that he has been engaging in "kneejerk reactions" as far as diplomacy with Pakistan was concerned.
"It is because of this lopsided diplomacy he has followed with Pakistan, we have over one thousand ceasefire violations...I appeal to the Prime Minister to take corrective steps so that people like Lakhvi are arrested and tried and outfits of Pakistan abetting terror in India are banned," he said.
However, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh welcomed move to revive talks between India and Pakistan but hoped that Islamabad "means business."
"That the two countries are talking to each other is a good thing," he told PTI on the sidelines of an iftaar hosted by Congress President Sonia Gandhi here.
Singh hoped that Pakistan "means business" in holding talks with India. "Well, I hope Pakistan means business," he said.