Govt spurs Pak offer to jointly interrogate Masood, Lakhwi

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 10 2008, 05:39am hrs
India has spurned Pakistans offer to jointly interrogate top Lashkar-e-Toiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhwi as well as Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar who were arrested on Monday night by Pakistani security agencies following a crackdown in the wake of India and US pressure.

While Lakhwi is suspected of masterminding the Mumbai terror strikes, Azhar is topmost in the list of wanted criminals and terrorists sought by New Delhi. While Islamabad has refused to hand over the two terror masterminds, it has suggested that they be interrogated jointly by Indian and Pakistani officials.

Contending that his country was willing to help India in every possible way Pakistan defence minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar said on Tuesday India may be allowed to interrogate them. Mukhtar made the assertion even as he ruled out any troop movement towards the Indian border. Claiming that Islamabad was cracking down on terror groups, Mukhtar said: No one can doubt our credibility. We have discussed how we can help our neighbours in fighting terrorism. The Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, however, was silent on the interrogation aspect but said that the suspects would not be handed over to India.

The arrests are being made for our own investigations. Even if allegations are proved against any suspect, he will not be handed over to India, Qureshi said in Multan, adding: We will proceed against those arrested under Pakistani laws.

India, on its part, was closely monitoring and verifying the crackdown by Pakistans security and intelligence agencies on the terrorist outfits and hoped Islamabad will move beyond tokenism and take concrete, meaningful action against the suspects behind the Mumbai terror attacks.

According to reports, Lakhwi was among the at least 15 people detained in the last two days after raids on a camp run by the banned LeT in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK). Following the Mumbai terror attacks, Pakistani security forces also sealed a camp of the Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JD), as the LeT is widely believed to have been renamed after it was proscribed, in the Shawai Nullah neighbourhood of Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani Kashmir.

In a statement issued late Monday, a military spokesperson in Islamabad said in a statement that an operation to target militant organisations had started in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.

The military confirms an operation of law enforcement is underway, it said, adding that there had been arrests and investigations were underway. When asked about the Pakistani action, sources in New Delhi said: Its too early to react. We have seen this kind of reaction in the past.

We have to move beyond mere statements and tokenism. At this stage, nobody is interested in tokenism, sources said. When asked to spell out what specific actions India sought from Pakistan, the sources said that the first thing Pakistan needs to do is to hand over fugitives wanted by India for major terror strikes, including the November 26 Mumbai attacks. Thats why arresting a handful of LeT operatives is not enough, the sources said.

The Pakistan defence minister has also challenged both US and India to give proof of terrorists being trained in Pakistan. Both US and India say they have ample proof but why is it hidden from us he asked.

India is keeping open all its options, including precision strikes against terrorist camps and destroying them through covert action in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks.

Other options, according to government sources and strategic experts, include intensifying international pressure and approaching the UN to declare Pakistan a terrorist state.