Islamabad, Jun 27: Pakistan's Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik today rejected Home Minister P Chidambaram's assertion of “state support” to the terrorists behind 26/11 massacre, saying ISI was a target of “propaganda campaign”.
“We are proud of our ISI, which is defending Pakistan”, Malik said adding the ISI's role in the war on terror was “well recognised by everybody” but the spy agency was the target of a propaganda campaign.
He repeatedly dismissed assertions by Indian leaders, including Chidambaram, that Pakistani state and non-state actors were involved in the Mumbai attacks and stoutly defended the ISI as an “elite agency”.
Chidambaram today said there was clearly state support to the terrorists responsible for the 26/11 massacre in Mumbai.
“When I say, state actors, at the moment, I am not pointing my finger at any particular agency. But clearly there was state support or state actors' support for the 26/11 massacre,” he said.
His comments came in the backdrop of the arrest and interrogation of LeT handler Abu Jundal, who was in the “control room” in Pakistan giving directions to the ten terrorists who attacked Mumbai in 2008.
Malik also launched a bizarre tirade against India investigations into various terror attacks and also sought to stump the arrest of Jundal.
“Now things are getting clarified. Who knows that there was a sting operation by somebody from India?” Malik told a news conference at the Interior Ministry this afternoon. He however did not elaborate what he meant by “sting operation”.
Referring to Zabiuddin Ansari, alias Abu Jundal, and two other Indian suspects linked to the Mumbai attacks - Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin Ahmed - Malik said: “If the three people can come to Pakistan they can mix up with the people here. They can generate the resources and then they go back and the Mumbai (attacks) happen. So any reasonable investigator will be forced to think”.
Speaking against the backdrop of revelations by Jundal about the planning and execution of the Mumbai attacks, Malik called on Indian authorities to provide detailed information about the terror suspect so that Pakistan could take necessary action.
However, he contended that Indian authorities and Chidambaram would have to focus on the role of Indians like Jundal, Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin Ahmed in the Mumbai attacks.
“Zabiuddin is Indian, he was caught in India, he did everything in India. Why are you blaming Pakistan? He is your citizen. That means your agencies failed to control their citizen. Please have a look at your system as well”.
Malik claimed the involvement of Jundal in the Mumbai attacks meant “there is some mole, there is something wrong in your system too”, and that India should stop blaming the ISI for all terrorist incidents.
He said inquiries had revealed that Jundal had not entered Pakistan through “frequent routes” and could have illegally crossed the border.
He further contended that Pakistani-American terror suspect David Headley, currently in US custody, was “an agent who played in multiple ways”.
Malik, who was recently appointed the Senior Advisor on Interior Affairs after the Supreme Court suspended his membership of Parliament when he was unable to prove he had renounced his British citizenship, claimed he had great respect for Chidambaram and wanted an end to the “blame game” with India.
“I am not here to blame India, I am here to clear the situation,” he said.
At the same time, Malik contended that five terrorist attacks in India that were blamed on the ISI - the 2006 and 2008 Malegaon bomb blasts, the 2007 Samjhauta Express bombing, the 2007 Makka Masjid bomb attack and 2007 bomb attack at the Ajmer dargah - were all the handiwork of Hindu extremists.
“We warned you (India) three years back that Hindu extremism is coming to your country. Your own Taliban are emerging there. So now we've seen the result and I wish best of luck to India that the law enforcement agencies must do something to stop it,” he said.
Malik further claimed he had repeatedly warned Chidambaram during their meetings about the emergence of Hindu extremists. He claimed he had told Chidambaram: “I think Hindu extremism is spreading and increasing in your country. We failed to control our Taliban in Pakistan and we are suffering. Please do something”.
He said the relatives of Pakistani nationals killed in the Samjhauta Express bombing were demanding that Col S K Purohit, the Indian Army officer linked to the attack, should be handed over to Islamabad.
“Hindu extremism is visible in (terrorist) incidents, we stand cleared,” Malik remarked. “I hope the Indian authorities have a very close look and go into the system, as to what's wrong in their system that this is happening”. Malik said Pakistan was prepared to cooperate with India in any investigation and to share information to counter terrorism.
He further said Pakistani authorities had arrested seven suspects for the Mumbai attacks and their trial had been put on a “fast track”.
Despite Malik's contentions, there has been virtually no progress in the trial of the seven suspects for over a year. Recently, there were no hearings in the case for three weeks as there was no judge to conduct the trial.