Nirupama Subramanian

Pakistan has ample evidence of Indian hand in Balochistan, he claims

ISLAMABAD: In remarks that will do nothing to ease the India-Pakistan impasse over Hafiz Saeed and his role in the Mumbai attacks, Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said that Pakistan is still studying the evidence provided by India against the Lashkar-e-Taiba/Jamat-ud-Dawa founder, and could not take action against him on the basis of “hearsay.”

In an interview to The News published on Thursday, Mr. Malik also said India must stop blaming Pakistan for not being cooperative in the Mumbai attacks case. He attributed any delays to “foot-dragging” by New Delhi in providing information the Pakistani investigators had asked for.

Despite the initial promise of cooperation on the Mumbai attacks case, Mr. Malik’s remarks indicate that the vast perception gap between Pakistan and India on the issue is nowhere near closing.

The Minister repeated his demand for information on the Samjhauta Express attack, once again drawing a link between those behind the February 2007 firebombing of the India-Pakistan train, in which more than 60 Pakistanis were killed, and the Mumbai attacks.

Mr. Rehman, who is often criticised in Pakistan for being “too pro-India” and sometimes deridingly referred to as the “minister for India,” also reiterated Pakistan’s claims of “ample evidence” of the alleged Indian hand in Balochistan.

Commenting on India’s demand for action against Mr. Saeed, the Minister said India’s latest information dossier had arrived “only 10 days ago” — it was given on August 21 — “and we need a few days to evaluate its veracity and also whether it can take the test of our courts. We cannot operate on hearsay alone.”

He added another message for India: “We respect your courts. You respect ours.”

He told the newspaper that “India had dragged its feet all along” in providing information to Pakistan. When it came, it was “partial and half-cooked,” and moreover, it was in Marathi.

Mr. Malik seemed to have got his dates jumbled up during the interview, as he said the first Indian response to Pakistan’s February 9 request came only on June 20.

India has provided five dossiers so far to Pakistan on the Mumbai attacks — the first in January, the second on March 13, the third on May 20, the fourth on August 1 and the fifth on August 21 — with information about Hafiz Saeed.

Parts of the May 20 dossier were in Marathi and it took about a month to translate it.

Mr. Malik also expressed dissatisfaction at India’s refusal to hand over information relating to the Samjhauta Express incident, which he described as “of crucial importance.”

“A friendly country,” he said, “which is also close to India, had told us that one of the Mumbai terrorists was also involved in the Samjhauta incident.”

To a question about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement about a feared attack by Pakistan-based militant groups, Mr. Malik, who is counted in Pakistan’s power circles as closer to President Asif Ali Zardari than to Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, said if India shared the intelligence it had on this, “then Pakistan would get back with results within 72 hours.”

Arrest of teachers

The Minister said there was “ample evidence of Indian involvement in fomenting trouble in Balochistan and elsewhere.”

He told the newspaper about the recent arrests of 22 school teachers, who were allegedly trained in an Afghan “terrorist camp,” and had returned to inculcate anti-Pakistan feelings among Pakistani students. It was not clear from the interview how this was linked to the alleged Indian involvement.

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