Pakistan sets deadline for Mumbai queries, India says will respond soon (Lead)

February 25th, 2009 - 9:55 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi/Islamabad, Feb 25 (IANS) With the Mumbai police filing a chargesheet in the Mumbai attacks case, India Wednesday said it will respond to Pakistan’s questions soon and hoped that television footage will enable Islamabad acknowledge the Pakistani nationality of the terrorists involved in the atrocity.
India’s assurance that a reply will be given soon came even as Islamabad set a mid-March deadline for New Delhi to respond to 30 questions raised by Islamabad in response to the Indian dossier, a media report said Wednesday.

This deadline is likely to be communicated to India during the meeting of its Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon with his Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir on the sidelines of the ongoing SAARC ministerial conference in Colombo, said an official quoted in Pakistani media. The meeting may take place Thursday, government sources said.

“After the chargesheet is filed, we will reply,” Home Minister P. Chidambaram told reporters outside parliament when asked when India would reply to the set of 30 questions posed by Pakistan in connection with the Mumbai attacks.

Minister of State for Home Shakeel Ahmad said the government is ready to clarify whatever doubts Pakistan may have about the attack.

Alluding to the footage of four terrorists roaming in Mumbai’s Oberoi-Trident Hotel on Nov 26 last year, which was aired by a TV channel, he said it should provide further evidence to Pakistan in connection with the probe.

“So far they have acknowledged the nationality of only Ajmal Amir Kasab (the lone terrorist captured during the attacks) but there has been no acknowledgement by Pakistan of the nationality of his associates who died during the attack. The footage should help Pakistan in identifying them,” Ahmad said.

He also stressed that Pakistan should also hand over 40 fugitives from the Indian law involved in various criminal and terrorist activities in this country.

“We were waiting for the chargesheet to be filed. Most of the material sought by them is already with us. We will respond to them soon,” sources in the external affairs ministry said.

The Mumbai police Wednesday charged Kasab with “murder and waging war” against India, filing the first charge sheet in the terror strikes that killed over 170 people.

The voluminous chargesheet, running into over 11,000 pages, also names 35 others for the terror attack.

India has launched inter-agency consultations to provide some of this information, but it may not respond to some of the questions that aim at giving a domestic angle to the Mumbai attacks. In its response to the Indian dossier, Pakistan has indicated that some Indians were also involved in the attacks and hinted at the connivance of Indians in helping terrorists organize the attacks.

The demand for tapes of recordings of the conversation of the Mumbai attackers and those of the conversations they had with their Pakistan-based handlers could also run into problems as some of these tapes run into 60 hours.

Given the constant flip-flop that has characterized Pakistan’s response to the Mumbai attacks, Indian authorities suspect Islamabad may be using these posers as a time-buying tactic to divert attention from its primary responsibility of bringing the perpetrators of the Mumbai carnage to justice.

Pakistan, meanwhile, set a mid-March deadline for India’s response to 30 questions raised by it in response to the Mumbai attacks.

“It is crucial in the interest of the case that the Indian authorities promptly respond to the queries and clarifications sought through the diplomatic channels on February 12,” the director general of the Federal Investigation Agency, the country’s premier law enforcement outfit, was quoted as having told Interior Minister Rehman Malik.

Acting on the FIA’s request, Malik asked the foreign office to immediately bring to the notice of the Indian government that the reply to the 30 questions and further evidence should be provided before mid-March.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had, over the weekend, told mediapersons that Pakistan’s progress in its investigations into the Mumbai attacks depended on India’s reply to the 30 questions.

The questions sought further information about the Mumbai attackers, including fingerprints and DNA samples of the 10 gunmen who participated in the assault. Additionally, Pakistan has sought clarifications on some of the information India had mentioned in its dossier to Pakistan.

Pakistan has asked for an “authenticated copy” of the confessional statement of Ajmal Kasab, the lone Mumbai attacker arrested during the Mumbai attacks, as recorded by judicial authorities and “other documentation/diaries recovered from his possession”.

Pakistan has registered a case against eight people for their alleged involvement in the Mumbai mayhem. Of them six, including Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and Zarar Shah of the Laskhar-e-Taiba terror group, and the main facilitator of the attack, Hamad Amin Sadiq, have been arrested.

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