There is enough evidence to prove that Pakistan’s official agencies were involved in the Mumbai terror attacks, Home Minister P Chidambaram tells Karan Thapar in an interview for CNN-IBN’s Devil’s Advocate. The interview will be telecast on Sunday. Edited excerpts:
Let’s start with your response to Pakistan’s 30 questions related to the Mumbai terror strike. According to The Hindu, barring Ajmal Kasab’s confessional statement, Pakistan’s investigators have been given every primary investigative document available with the Mumbai Police. Is The Hindu correct?
Pakistan’s papers quote Pakistani officials saying that the information given is irrelevant and away from the target. How do you respond to that?
These are sources that do not want attribution. These are, I think, not very responsible people. I think anyone who sees the 401-page document will know that everything Pakistan wants to take the investigation forward is there.
The one thing that hasn’t been given, according to the papers, is Kasab’s confessional document. Why has that been withheld?
Do you believe you have evidence that is either conclusive or very suggestive that official organisations or official agencies in Pakistan were involved?
That I cannot say now. That will require investigation on the Pakistani soil. It will require going to the controllers, the handlers, and then interrogating them. And finding out whether they had masters of their own. That access has not been given to us.
So at the moment, you may suspect that official agencies are involved but you don’t have the evidence to prove it?
No, I will put is this way. Given the overwhelming evidence that we have, I am entitled to presume that official agencies were involved. That presumption, of course, is a rebuttable presumption, but that can be rebutted only if evidence to the contrary is available in the investigation.
Who is Colonel Saddatullah? Do you believe he is a member of the Pakistani government or a retired official?
I don’t know. All that we know is that there is a name that appears in the conversation. So, we need to go there to investigate. Pakistan has not allowed India to investigate. Pakistan has not given the FBI the right to investigate.
Please remember, a few Americans were killed, and the FBI, under American law, is obliged to investigate. The FBI asked (for) access, which has been denied. And if Pakistan is also unwilling to investigate, where do we go from here?
So it all hinges upon the access and the investigation that follows?
The FBI is completely neutral, so why doesn’t Pakistan let the FBI investigate?
If the Pakistanis were now to come to you and say that they want access to Kasab to question him, would you give them that access?
No. Ajmal has asked for consular access. We have passed on that request to Pakistan. Pakistan, to the best of my knowledge, has not responded to that request. So Pakistan will have to first admit that Kasab is a Pakistani citizen and they will therefore provide him consular access.
There is a certain amount of confusion on India’s position on extradition. Is this a demand that you are insisting on or is your position that you would be happy if the Pakistanis chose to prosecute and punish the accused on their soil?
Actually, it is either way. If crimes have been committed on Pakistani soil, for example, a crime of conspiracy, Pakistan’s law will oblige it to prosecute a criminal in Pakistan. We understand that.
But if they do not wish to prosecute the criminal in their country, we would be quite happy if they hand them over to India for prosecution and punishment. That is one set of accused. There is another set, that is, fugitives from Indian law. They have to be handed over to us.
What about Masood Azhar? The Pakistanis claim that they don’t know where he is. They say he may not even be in Pakistan.
Which is laughable, isn’t it?
So, to the best of your knowledge, you believe Masood Azhar is in Pakistan?
That is what my people and my intelligence agencies tell me. He is in Pakistan.
This also suggests that the Pakistani government knows where he is, but they are simply putting up a wall?
I think so.
Do you believe that in the present political turmoil, the Pakistani government has either the time or the inclination to pursue the Mumbai terror prosecution or do you think they will set it aside?
It will be sad if they have neither the time nor the inclination, but I am not going to take my eyes off the ball. We are going to remain focused on this matter. We will apply pressure. We will use coercive diplomacy. We will insist that the criminals are brought to trial.
Has Pakistan done enough to actually dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism on their soil?
None to the best of knowledge.
Well, they claimed on January 15 that they had ended five LeT training camps, that they dismantled the wire network of the organisation and its website. Are you saying that this is not true?
These training camps are not permanent structures. So they can be dismantled and they can be erected elsewhere. We have enough intelligence to believe that the controllers and handlers are still active. They are still attempting to infiltrate people across the border and across the LoC. Therefore, we have put our forces on high alert between now and the elections.
You are also suggesting in fact that the people Pakistan may have detained may not be either sufficient or they may not even be the right people, because communication between handlers and perpetrators has been continuing and you still have communication coming across the border that worries you?
There are not one or two handlers. They may have restrained or put under house arrest a couple of handlers but I think there are many more.
You have two major events starting in less than 30 days time, the elections and possibly the IPL cricket matches. How much threat do you face as a result of this continued undiminished terror network in Pakistan?
It is quite high, but we are prepared. Our level of preparedness today, I think, is much higher than what it was a few months ago. We are on alert, and the elections will pass off peacefully. We have mobilised a large number of security forces. People should come out and vote. That is our fundamental right, instead of saying its our fundamental duty. As far as the IPL is concerned, I have no comment as of now.
Given that the IPL will provide easy soft targets for the terrorists to strike, do you think in such circumstances it will be better not to hold the IPL because that could be simply offering temptation to terrorists?
The security for the IPL must be provided by the state governments as every IPL match takes place in one or other city. Therefore, we have asked the state governments to take a call on whether they can provide the security.