Nirupama Subramanian

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister says the government is examining evidence

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan said on Thursday that it has launched its own investigations into the possible involvement of its nationals in the Mumbai attacks and has made “considerable progress.”

In an interview to Geo Television, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, however, declined to comment on a report in the Wall Street Journal that the detained Lashkar-e-Taiba operative Zarar Shah had confessed to the group’s involvement in the attacks as it could affect the investigations.

“We have done our own investigations, and we have made considerable progress, but to speculate on what that is at this point could affect the quality of those investigations,” the Foreign Minister said in the course of the 40-minute interview in Urdu.

Nuanced remarks

In nuanced remarks, Mr. Qureshi appeared to acknowledge that Pakistan had been shown some evidence by the U.S. and the U.K. He said the government was examining what it had, and along with what “the world has told us” and the evidence that India has said it will provide, would take steps in the “best interests” of the country.

The Foreign Minister said if the evidence and investigations led to Pakistan, the government would have to take the necessary steps to bring those involved to justice, as it involved the credibility of the nation.

“We cannot fudge to the world; we cannot lie to the world. Pakistan’s credibility is at stake, and as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I will say that we cannot put Pakistan’s credibility at stake, and, nor should we, as a responsible state.”

Mr. Qureshi said Pakistan had launched its own investigations in its own interests too. “Leave aside what the world is saying, leave aside what India is saying. We have to look in-house, examine our own matters and make an honest assessment,” he said.

Seeks proof from India

But, the Minister said, evidence from India was vital if the perpetrators had to be brought to justice, as the charges would have to be made to stick in court under legal cross-examination. Ruling out extradition of any Pakistanis to India, Mr. Qureshi said if any individual was found involved in the Mumbai attacks, he would be tried under Pakistani law.

“We do not have an extradition treaty with India,” he said. It was extremely important, Mr. Qureshi said, for India and Pakistan to keep their communication channels open in order to co-operate. The Pakistan government had made “forward looking, constructive proposals” for a joint investigation and to send a high-level delegation to India, he said, but New Delhi had neither responded nor yet turned down these proposals.

“Please do not doubt our sincerity, and please do not doubt our commitment to national interest. We will not sacrifice the supreme national interest,” he said, in an apparent appeal to the world and India, and in reassurance to the country.

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