Conceding that “non-state actors” were hampering India-Pakistan relationship, the visiting Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Friday said he would order the arrest of Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of the Mumbai terror attacks, the moment he got credible evidence.
“We have to follow the law of the land. And of course [satisfy] the [Pakistani] court ... There has been a lot of propaganda about Hafiz Saeed. I assure you that we are still investigating the [Indian] evidence. And if that evidence can stand the test of courts of international standards, I will order his arrest even before returning home. We have no love lost for Hafiz Saeed,” Mr. Malik told journalists here on arrival. He is on a three-day visit to operationalise the historic visa agreement between the two neighbours that was signed in September.
Mr. Malik noted that Pakistan was receiving dossiers that had only information and no evidence. The statement of Ajmal Kasab, the Pakistani national and Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist who was hanged last month after having been convicted in the 26/11 case, on Saeed’s involvement in the Mumbai attacks was not enough, he said. “It needs further corroboration … I will make public official documents from the court’s judgment where Hafiz Saeed has been declared innocent.”
Referring to the execution of the gunman, he said: “When Ajmal Kasab was hanged. I was the first one to come on television and [I] gave the statement that we respect the judgments coming from your courts. Similarly when the trial is going on [in Pakistan] I have already told you that it is on fast track and of course we have gone to every level to make it on the fast track.”
Mr. Malik said non-state actors were playing havoc with the relationship between the two countries, both facing the scourge of terrorism for many years. “I come with a message of love and peace from the people of Pakistan. I do not want any negativity today. What I want is a positive message, positive view forward … Let’s forget the dark days, let’s enter with shining stars, with smiling faces and clear hearts.”
The Pakistani Minister, however, raised the issues of Babri mosque demolition and Samjhauta train blasts. “We do not want any 9/11. We do not want any Bombay blasts, we do not want any Samjhauta Express, we do not want any Babri mosque issue and we can work together not only for peace in Pakistan and India, but also for the region.”
Mr. Malik said the “journey to peace is progressing very well” because of the meetings between the leaders of the two countries. For this, I must give full credit to my leader, President [Asif Ali] Zardari, the Prime Minister, and equal credit to the Prime Minister [Manmohan Singh] and [former Home Minister and now Finance Minister] P. Chidambaram.”
The two nations formalised the new visa agreement in the presence of Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and Mr. Malik. However, it was decided that the visa-on-arrival scheme would come into effect from January 15, 2013 and the ‘Group Tourist Visa’ from March 15 next.
The relaxed visa rules are expected to improve people-to-people contacts, besides promoting religious tourism and trade and cultural ties.