Dec 4, 2008

World - Pakistan;Zardari rules out returning fugitives

New York: Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has rejected India’s demand to hand over Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) chief Hafiz Mohd. Sayeed and other fugitives in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks, and doubted whether the arrested terrorist is a Pakistani.

Two days after New Delhi’s demarche, demanding the handing over of 20 fugitives, Mr. Zardari made known Pakistan’s reluctance to part with them. “If we had proof, we would try them in our courts. We would try them in our land and we would sentence them,” he said on “Larry King Live” programme on CNN on Tuesday night.

India’s list of 20 most wanted criminals given to Pakistan included underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar. India is awaiting Pakistan’s response before deciding on the options it could exercise.

New Delhi’s outrage was voiced by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee. He said the country has every right to protect its territorial integrity and would take “appropriate action” as it feels necessary to deal with the terror strikes emanating from Pakistan. He also did not rule out military strikes against terror camps in Pakistan.

Mr. Zardari said he doubted India’s claim that the captured gunman was a Pakistan national. “We have not been given any tangible proof to say that he is definitely a Pakistani. I very much doubt that he’s a Pakistani.”

Denying Pakistan’s involvement in the attacks, he said the terror strikes were executed by “stateless actors,” who wanted to hold the “entire world hostage.”

“These [terrorists] are stateless actors, who have been operating throughout the region. They include gunmen and the planners and are holding the entire world hostage. The State of Pakistan is not responsible for the attacks in Mumbai... even the White House and the CIA have said so,” he said.

The President ruled out any possibility of Pakistan and India going to war, saying “democracies do not go to war.” The three wars took place during dictatorships in Pakistan, he said.

“This is time to come together, do a joint investigation and look at the problem in the larger context. The threat is in the region and just not to Bombay or to India. The threat [also is] to the State of Pakistan. There’s a threat to Afghanistan, It’s a threat throughout region. So that would be counterproductive,” he said. — PTI

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