Pranab denies calling Zardari; Pakistan says call was made

December 7th, 2008 - 2:22 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi/Islamabad, Dec 7 (IANS) Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee Sunday strongly denied he had made a call to Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and expressed worry that “a neighbouring state might even consider acting on the basis of such a call and try to give it credibility with other states”.Mukherjee said that such reports originated from those in Pakistan who wanted to “divert attention from the fact of an attack on India from Pakistani territory by elements in Pakistan”, referring to the Mumbai terror outrage in which at least 172 people were killed.

Media reports in Islamabad had said that a “threatening” phone call was made to President Zardari by someone from Delhi who posed as Mukherjee, following which Pakistan put its forces on high alert.

Pakistan Minister for Information and Broadcasting Sherry Rehman said that the government of Pakistan condemns efforts aimed at using the media for negative diplomacy as tensions between Pakistan and India are running high.

Commenting on reports in a section of the media about a so-called hoax call to the president on Nov 28, she said, “All calls received in the presidency are processed in accordance with an intricately laid down procedure.”

“It is not possible for any call to come through to the president without multiple caller identity verification (CLI).”

She said the call under reference too was “processed, verified and crosschecked under the same procedure”.

“In fact the identity of this particular call, as evident from the CLI device, showed that the call was placed from a verified official phone number of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs,” said Sherry.

Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Britain Wajid Shasul Hassan refuted media reports that the threatening call from New Delhi was by someone “impersonating” the Indian foreign minister, saying it was Mukherjee himself who had spoken to Zardari after the Mumbai attacks.

He said that Zardari was put on line after confirmation that the call was from the Indian minister and the number from which the call was made is also in use of the Indian external affairs ministry.

“This is rubbish to say that ‘this call was not made from our side’…”, the high commissioner was quoted as saying by BBC Urdu website in reference to the Indian denial. He said he was told by sources in London that India can attack Pakistan.

According to Hassan, after his sources told him about the Indian plans on Pakistan, Islamabad mobilized its friends the world over. Officials here claim that it was after this “call” that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice included Pakistan in her visit to South Asia after her trip to India on Wednesday.

A senior official of the Pakistan presidency said that there are standard procedures for connecting telephone calls to the president. “I am here (in the presidency) for the last 11 years and never has any call been connected to any of the presidents without verification,” the official told IANS in Islamabad requesting anonymity.

The relations between India and Pakistan have come under strain following the Mumbai terror attacks, in which 172 people were killed. India says the terrorists behind the attack were from Pakistan.

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