Chidambaram admits mistake in terror list, reminds BJP of Kandahar (Roundup)

May 18th, 2011 - 10:10 pm ICT by IANS  

P. Chidambaram New Delhi, May 18 (IANS) Admitting a “mistake” in the inclusion of terror suspect Wazhul Qamar Khan in the “Most Wanted” fugitive list despite his actually living near Mumbai, Home Minister P. Chidambaram Wednesday reminded his bitter critic, the BJP, of the Kandahar hijack episode when one minister accompanied freed terrorists to the Afghan city and another was unaware of this.

A day after it became known that that the government had goofed-up on the terror list that was handed over to Pakistan for tracking 50 criminals allegedly hiding in that country, Chidambaram admitted: “Obviously, there was a mistake (and) how this mistake has happened has been explained.”

“We are not trying to blame anyone. We take responsibility for it,” Chidambaram said.

He said the the Mumbai police “did not formally inform the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) about Khan’s arrest (in May last year)”.

But the Mumbai police had informed the state’s Intelligence Bureau about it, he said. “That dot was not connected. The information was available but the dots were not connected.”

“This information,” he said, “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 it the failure to formally communicate the fact of the arrest of Khan on May 21, 2010 to the CBI resulted in the name being retained by the probe 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 IB in not reflecting the information received by it while preparing the list in March 2011,” he said.

Replying to a question whether Khan had travelled to Pakistan, Chidambaram said his name had figured in the 2007 list of wanted. “Now he has claimed he has lost his passport and this will be probed.”

Chidambaram lashed out at the Bharatiya Janata Party for terming the error monumental. The BJP’s Arun Jaitley had Tuesday said the “home ministry has risen to the highest level of incompetence and this error has embarrassed the country”.

“I recall that some time ago the home minister (L.K. Advani) of the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government had said he did not know that three terrorists were being taken to Kandahar. Let me ask the BJP leaders if this (error in the fugitive list) 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,” Chidambaram asked.

He was referring to the 1999 IC-814 hijack when BJP minister Jaswant Singh flew with terrorists Masood Azhar, Omar Sheikh and Mushtaq Zargar to Kandahar and secure the release of the Indian Airlines plane’s passengers.

The BJP reacted quickly to the home minister’s rebuttal on “monumental error”. Party spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said: “The tone in which he’s justifying that one error is shocking, to say the least. He said he doesn’t blame anyone, but he blames the Mumbai police for not informing the CBI, and then blames IB for the procedural lapse.”

Chidambaram said there was no reaction from Pakistan about the mistake as the list was given to Islamabad in 2007. “Human errors do occur. I am satisfied this was a genuine oversight,” he repeatedly told journalists.

Meanwhile, the CBI Wednesday deleted its website profile of Khan, whose name was 41st in the list of fugitives, who include underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, his 20 aides, 2008 Mumbai attack mastermind and Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed and dreaded terrorist Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi.

On the CBI’s website, Khan’s profile figured on the page of fugitives against whom there are pending Interpol red corner notices and who are wanted for terror bombings in India.

However, the profile was removed immediately after it became known that the government had goofed-up on the list.

Khan is accused of involvement in at least four terror blasts and is now awaiting trial for his role as a foot soldier in executing them. He was arrested in May last year but released on bail two months later. He has since been living in Maharashtra’s Thane district.

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