NEW DELHI: Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik demonstrated flexibility on Saturday saying that India’s National Investi-gation Agency (NIA) could visit Islamabad next month to further probe into 26/11 Mumbai attack.
“Whatever trust deficit was there, it was removed,” he said of his talks with Indian leaders as he sought to do damage control over his reported remarks on the first day of his visit Friday.
Mailk met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh this afternoon and renewed the invitation of his visit to Pakistan.
Malik, who also met National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, sought to deflect the negative publicity evoked by his purported comparison of 26/11 with Babri mosque’s demolition with terror attacks and offered an investigation into the death of Kargil martyr Captain Saurabh Kalia.
BJP leader Sushma Swaraj raised the plight of Hindu minorities in Pakistan at her meeting with Rehman and also expressed concern over “slow” progress in bringing to book those involved in the 26/11 conspiracy.
In an interview to a national news channel before his meeting with the Prime Minister, Malik said that the issue of judicial commission was discussed during his meeting with Indian Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde Friday evening. “And yesterday we have worked out a way forward so that the (Pakistani) judicial commission may come next week,” Malik said.
Malik, who arrived here Friday on a three-day visit, said he has invited the NIA “in the middle of January”.
“Let the director general of FIA (Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency) and NIA sit together and resolve issues,” Malik said.
The NIA wants to go to Pakistan to examine material evidence against key masterminds and accused in the 2008 attacks that claimed 166 lives.
A Pakistani judicial commission had visited India in March following a bilateral agreement but did not cross-examine the witnesses. It is expected to do so during its next visit to the country and present its findings to the Pakistani court trying those accused of involvement in 26/11 attacks.
Shinde also took up the matter of voice samples of the 26/11 handlers, which India hopes to match with the ones on tape giving directions during the Nov 26-29, 2008 attack.
Malik, however, said according to Pakistan’s law the voice samples “cannot be given unless the permission is given by accused himself”.
“We have moved the high court on the matter of (Lashkar-e-Toiba commander Zakiur Rehman) Lakhvi’s voice sample and it is pending there,” he said, adding that the high court was reminded about this two weeks ago.
Malik said his government was taking steps to expedite trial of the seven people, including Lakhvi, in a Rawalpindi court.
On LeT founder Hafiz Saeed, mastermind of 26/11 attack, against whom India has demanded action, Malik made no firm commitment.
Malik said Saeed had been bailed out thrice by the court. “We have been prohibited to arrest him, these are the orders”of the high court”.
“If I am given substantive evidence now, he (Saeed) can be arrested,” Malik said.
Malik denied he had equated the demolition of the Babri Masjid with terror attacks.
“When I spoke of Babri, I never compared it with terror acts,” he said, adding: “What I said is that we do not want ugly incidents,” Malik said.
Speaking to reporters, Malik said he had spoken about Babri mosque in context of inter-faith harmony. “9/11, 26/11 happened. There were blasts in Quetta and Bombay (Mumbai). Babri mosque demolition happened. We want any such incident should not happen in India or Pakistan,” he said and added his intention was not to hurt.
Referring to his meetings with Indian leaders, Malik said: “Overall, very good meetings, very effective message.”
Referring to Pakistan’s invitation to Manmohan Singh to visit the country, Malik said he told the prime minister that people of his native Chakwal district wanted to meet him.
“If he (Manmohan Singh) does not come, people will be disappointed,” Malik said.
The minister said he explained to prime minister steps taken to bring to book those involved in the 26/11 attack.
Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office described the meeting as “a courtesy call” and said it was very short. They said Manmohan Singh thanked Malik for extending him the invitation of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari to visit his country.
They said a substantial part of Malik’s visit to India was aimed at meeting Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and operationalising the liberalised visa agreement.
On his remarks on Kalia, Malik said in his interview he had full sympathies are with the family. He said he will tak” information and have it investigated. “The cause of death is not yet determined. If he was tortured, how could you expect that we would give such a body (back), knowing the reaction it would elicit.”
He also said that India had “never raised with Pakistan in any way” the issue of Kalia’s death.
He accused the media of vitiating the agenda for the India-Pakistan talks, terming it “not fair”.
Speaking at a function organised by the Confederation of Indian Bar, Malik raised the slogan of “Indo-Pakistan Friendship Zindabad”.