Affirming that 2008 Mumbai attack mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi “was not released and still in detention”, Pakistan’s High Commissioner in India Abdul Basit on Wednesday gave assurance that the country’s judiciary would take action against him.
“I want to tell you that Mr Lakhvi has not been released, he was in detention and continues to be in detention,” Basit said while speaking to reporters at a programme here on Wednesday.
On how much time the trial would take to complete, Basit said that it might take sometime as the scene of crime was in India.
“I think it will take sometime because the crime scene was in India. We got all the evidences from India. I can give you so many things even at this stage with so many gaping holes elsewhere but I will not like to enter into a debate on that issue. I will request you not to jump the gun and draw premature conclusion,” he said.
Stressing that Pakistan was a changed nation with a strong civil society and an independent judiciary, Basit said, “Please do not judge us through a narrow prism. Pakistan has changed a lot in the last 10 years. We have a very strong civil society, we have a very robust media, an independent judiciary. So Pakistan is not the same country it was some 20 years ago.”
“It is a trial and it is a matter sub-judice. Now the prosecution is doing its best on whatever evidence and witnesses we have to move forward. I will not like to jump the gun,” the high commissioner said.
Basit further requested the media “not to create any hype” regarding the issue as it may indirectly affect the judicial process in the neighbouring country.
“Even if he is granted bail, why to create hype? I do not understand because the trial hasn’t stopped. Please try to understand how judiciary functions in Pakistan,” he said.
Observing that it (hype) was not called for, Basit said, “By creating a hype you are indirectly affecting the judicial process in Pakistan. Let the judicial process take its course and as far as prosecution is concerned, I can assure you that we are doing our best.”
The High Commissioner, however, felt that “it would have been far better” if India after the Mumbai attack would agree to Pakistan’s proposal for a joint investigation”.
“We had proposed a joint investigation immediately after the horrific incident. But things have now changed. I do not want to go into history as to what happened. We are very serious and the prosecution is earnest. So let’s hope things will come to a logical conclusion,” he said.
“As I say terrorism is a huge problem for us. You may have a 26/11, but we face these tragedies almost everyday in Pakistan.
“Terrorism is our common problem, our common issue. So rather than blaming and counter-blaming as well as accusing, we should cooperate and I think it’s time has come,” Basit said.
The envoy was speaking at a special session ‘Enhancing Indo-Pak trade and economic cooperation’ organised by the MCC Chamber of Commerce and Industry here on Wednesday.
Talking about the release of top separatist leader Masarat Alam, Basit said, “I will not like to comment on that because I think in your own media there are divergent views on this. And I think from what I get from the media again that the legal position both in J&K and New Delhi is such that he could be kept behind bars.”
On inviting Syed Ali Shah Geelani for the Pakistan Day on March 23, Basit claimed that it had almost been a custom to invite Indian friends as well as those in Kashmir on the occasion and urged not to “make an issue out of a non-issue”.
“March 23rd is our national day. We have been inviting all our Indian friends and Kashmiri friends as well to that reception. There is nothing new about it… It’s not something unprecedented.”
“Let’s focus on substantive issues, how we can resolve our problems rather than making an issue which has been a non-issue in the past,” he said.