We’ll insist that the criminals are brought to trial, says Home Minister
Edited excerpts from an interview with Home Minister P. Chidambaram by Karan Thapar, to be broadcast by CNN-IBN on March 22:
Let’s start with your response to Pakistan’s 30 questions related to the Mumbai terror strike. According to The Hindu, barring Ajmal Kasab’s confessional statement, Pakistan has been given every primary investigative document available with the Mumbai police.
Which means you’ve given Pakistan far more than it asked for?
They asked questions. And if I was asking that question, I would expect a complete answer. So we gave complete answers which would have satisfied me if I was the questioner.
Pakistani papers quote Pakistani officials as saying the information given is irrelevant...
These are sources which do not want attribution. These are, I think, not very responsible people. I think anyone who sees that 401-page document, any lawyer, will know everything Pakistan wants to take the investigation forward is there.
According to them, Kasab’s confessional document hasn’t been given.
That’s a confession before a judicial magistrate. And, therefore, they want a certified copy of that document. A certified copy… can only be given if it is certified and given to us by the court. We’ve applied and once the court gives us a certified copy, we will pass it on…. It’s a public document...
The Hindu claims you’ve given the Pakistanis CDs containing all the conversations between the terrorists and their handlers in Pakistan. How many hours of conversation is this, and what sort of details do they reveal?
…[I]t runs to several hundred minutes. Each mobile telephone has been used for quite a long time. I think one of them kept it open for several minutes at a time.
Do you have evidence that’s either conclusive or points a finger to official organisations or agencies in Pakistan?
That I cannot say now. That will require investigation on Pakistan soil. It will require going to the controllers, the handlers, and then interrogating them. And finding out whether they had masters of their own. That access has not been given to us.
So at the moment, you may suspect that official agencies are involved but you don’t have evidence to prove it?
No, I will put it this way. Given the overwhelming evidence that we have, I am entitled to presume that official agencies were involved. That presumption of course is a rebuttable presumption, but that can be rebutted only if evidence to the contrary is available in the investigation.
Who is Colonel Saddatullah? Do you believe he’s a member of the Pakistani government, or is he a retired official?
I don’t know. All that we know is that there is a name that appears in the conversation. So we need to go there to investigate. Pakistan has not allowed India to investigate. Pakistan has not given the Federal Bureau of Investigation the right to investigate. Please remember, a few Americans were killed, and the FBI, by American law, is obliged to investigate. FBI asked [for] access; that has been denied. And if Pakistan is also unwilling to investigate, where do we go from here?
It is believed that Colonel Saddatullah is a member of what is called the Special Communications Organisation; this has close links with the Corps of Signals of the Pakistan Army. If that is established, would that then prove official agencies were involved?
Do you have reason to believe these links I am talking about could be established?
I don’t know. Unless someone is allowed to investigate.
Speaking not just as Home Minister, but as an eminent lawyer, do you believe you’ve given them enough so they can press charges, particularly against people like Lakhvi and Zarar Shah [Lashkar-e-Taiba leaders]?
They’ve enough information to interrogate Lakhvi and others. Of course, it has to be completed with further investigation on Pakistani soil and interrogating the suspects.
Recently Hafeez Mohammed Saeed’s [Lashkar founder] detention period was increased by two months, but have any charges been pressed against him?
Not to my knowledge.
What about Masood Azhar? The Pakistanis claim they don’t know where he is. They say he may not even be in Pakistan.
Which is laughable, isn’t it?
You believe Masood Azhar is in Pakistan?
That’s what my people and my intelligence tell me. He is in Pakistan.
Do you believe that in the circumstances of political turmoil, the Pakistani government has either the time or the inclination to pursue the Mumbai terror prosecution?
It’ll be sad if they have neither the time nor the inclination, but I’m not going to take my eyes off the ball. We’re going to remain focussed on this matter. We’ll apply pressure. We’ll use coercive diplomacy. We’ll insist that the criminals are brought to trial.
Would there have been some level of Indian or local involvement in the Mumbai attack?
The investigation does not reveal any such involvement, except two Indians who prepared the maps.
Has Pakistan done enough to dismantle the terror infrastructure on its soil?
None, to the best of knowledge.
Given that the IPL would provide easy, soft targets for the terrorists to strike — large audiences, captive in stadiums — do you think it would be better not to hold the IPL?
Security for the IPL must be provided by the State governments. Because every IPL match takes place in one or other city in a State. Therefore we have asked the State governments to take a call on whether they can provide the security. My obligation is to provide the intelligence now and in the days ahead, which I will. But I made it clear that I cannot exempt any State government from giving the Election Commission forces which they promised. I’ve also made it clear I cannot spare any Central paramilitary forces.