Pakistan speaks in two voices on Kasab (Lead)

February 18th, 2009 - 9:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Feb 18 (IANS) Pakistan Wednesday appeared to be speaking in two voices on Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone terrorist captured during the Mumbai mayhem, with a law officer asking India to hand him over and the foreign ministry saying no formal request had been made.
“The government of Pakistan has formally requested the Indian government to hand over the custody of Ajmal Kasab because he is the prime suspect and the rest of these suspects, they are abettors, they abetted the crime,” Deputy Attorney General Sardar Mohammad Ghazi said.

However, the foreign office was quick to say no formal request had been made as yet.

Speaking to reporters in New Delhi, Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said: “Let me get the official request, then I will respond.”

Ghazi expressed confidence that “better sense (will prevail) and we will get the custody of Ajmal Kasab and we will be able to conduct the trial successfully”.

“I am sure the Indian government is going to look into it, they are going to take a decision because without having the custody of Ajmal Kasab in Pakistan, I think it will be very, very difficult to prosecute the rest of the suspects,” added Ghazi, who has been appointed the special public prosecutor for the trial of the six Pakistanis arrested for their alleged role in the Mumbai attacks.

Kasab is one of the eight suspects named in the case.

On Saturday too Pakistan said it might seek Kasab’s custody if its investigations required this, but India had immediately nixed the idea.

“If Ajmal Kasab is needed for the investigation process, then India could be asked (to hand) him over,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters in Karachi.

India was quick to react, saying there was no way this could happen.

“The crime was committed in India. There is no question of handing Kasab to them. In fact, Pakistan should hand over to India the other suspects they’ve arrested because they were responsible for this terror attack. It can’t be the other way around,” sources in the Indian external affairs ministry said in New Delhi.

“On what basis do we send Kasab out there? The crime was committed out here (in Mumbai), therefore logic and reasoning demands that the suspects who they’ve rounded up be sent here (to India),” the sources said.

Kasab is currently in the custody of the Mumbai police. More than 170 people, among them 26 foreigners, were killed in the Nov 26-29, 2008 carnage that New Delhi says was conducted by 10 terrorists who came from Pakistan. Indian security forces killed nine of the attackers after an operation that lasted for more than 60 hours.

Pakistan has previously been in denial mode on Kasab’s nationality, with both President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani doubting he belonged to this country.

However, after media investigations proved that Kasab belonged to Faridkot village in Punjab province, then National Security Adviser Maj. Gen. (retd) Mahmud Ali Durrani Jan 7 owned up to his nationality.

Gilani promptly sacked Durrani for his “irresponsible behaviour”.

Pakistan has also turned down an Indian demand for extraditing two commanders of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terror group - Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and Zarrar Shah - whom New Delhi has accused of planning the Mumbai mayhem.

Pakistani security forces had arrested the duo in December 2008 during a raid on the offices of the Jamat-ud-Daawa that the LeT had morphed into after being banned in the wake of the Dec 13, 2001 attack on the Indian parliament that New Delhi has blamed on the terror group.

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