Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram on Wednesday admitted that it was a “genuine mistake” and “human error” that had crept in the list of “50 most wanted'' fugitives that was given to Pakistan in March 2011. The list included the name of terror accused Wazhul Kamar Khan (mentioned as Khan Wazhul Kamar). He was later found to be living in a suburb of Mumbai.
Addressing journalists here, Mr. Chidambaram said the inclusion of Wazhul Kamar Khan in the list was a “genuine oversight” by the Mumbai Police and also a “lapse” on the part of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) in not reflecting the information received by it while preparing the list in March 2011. The Minister's admission of a “mistake'' in the list of “most wanted'' fugitives came a day after the goof-up was exposed in the media.
While taking responsibility for the error, Mr. Chidambaram also used the opportunity to hit back at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), saying that it was not such a “monumental mistake” of “calamitous consequences.” He was responding to a question on the BJP's charge that the goof-up by his Ministry had embarrassed the country. “The Opposition must have moments like this to attack the government,” he added.
Recalling the statement of the then Home Minister during the NDA regime, Mr. Chidambaram, without taking any names, said the then Home Minister did not know that three terrorists in custody were taken out of jail in December 1999 and taken to Kandahar by the then Foreign Minister. “Let me ask the BJP leaders if this episode marks the level of maximum incompetence, then what was that? If this brought embarrassment to the country, did that statement not bring disgrace to the country? I think you should allow for some political exchanges on this and should not make this into an eight-column news story,” Mr. Chidambaram said.
Furnishing details of how the mistake had occurred, he said in a statement released by the Home Ministry: “It now transpires that the Mumbai Police arrested Wazhul Kamar Khan on May 21, 2010. However, this information of arrest and for consequent deletion of the Red Corner Notice was not sent by the Mumbai Police to the CBI.” Wazhul Kamar Khan is an accused in the 2003 Mulund blasts.
The Minister said that the CBI made further enquiries with the Mumbai Police on January 27 this year. The Mumbai Police vide letter of May 17, 2011 requested the cancellation of the Red Corner notice as “the subject is no more wanted by Mumbai Police on account of his arrest on May 21, 2010.” He said the CBI had already removed the name of Wazhul Kamar Khan from the list of wanted persons.
However, Mr. Chidambaram disclosed that it was gathered that the Mumbai Police had in January this year conveyed to the subsidiary office of the IB in Mumbai that Wazhul Kamar Khan had been arrested.
“This information, unfortunately, was not reflected in the list of fugitives maintained by the authorities and was overlooked while a list was prepared in March 2011,” he said.
Mr. Chidambaram said it would, therefore, be clear that the failure to formally communicate the fact of the arrest of Khan on May 21 last to the CBI resulted in the name being retained by the agency.
“It is possible that the said failure was the result of a genuine oversight by the Mumbai Police. At the same time, there was also a lapse on the part of the IB in not reflecting the information received by it while preparing the list in March 2011,” he said.
Asked whether Wazhul Kamar Khan had travelled to Pakistan, Mr. Chidambaram said his name had figured in the 2007 list of wanted criminals and terrorists suspected to be in Pakistan.