Who speaks for Pakistan? High Commissioner to India Shahid Malik, who denied on Wednesday that wanted terrorist Masood Azhar was under house arrest in Pakistan? Or Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar, who declared on December 10 that Azhar, chief of the Jaish-e-Muhammad (Army of Muhammad), had been detained after the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist strikes?
Pakistan’s contradictory approach to 26/11 was exemplified by Malik’s interview to Network 18 when he declared Azhar was not under house arrest and Islamabad itself was looking for him. On December 9, a Pakistani daily, The News, front-paged a story saying Azhar, released in exchange for hostages on board a hijacked Indian Airlines flight in 1999, had been placed under house arrest. Mukhtar later “confirmed” the story.
“We are looking for him (Masood Azhar)… he is not in Pakistan,” Malik said in the television interview.
Malik denied that any letter had been received by him from Ajmal Kasab, the terrorist captured alive during the Mumbai terrorist attacks. Kasab, the Mumbai police said, has written a letter to the Pakistan High Commission seeking legal help.
Given that no communication had been received, Malik said it would be premature to comment on Kasab's nationality.
According to diplomatic practice between India and Pakistan, consular access must be granted to a detained person to establish his or her nationality. In Kasab's case, the stage of consular access is still to be reached.
The letter written by Kasab to the Ministry of External Affairs is still said to be with South Block, a senior official, who preferred anonymity, told this correspondent.
In Islamabad, Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari also said there was still no firm proof that the terrorists who attacked the Indian city of Mumbai came from Pakistan.
Speaking to the BBC, Zardari said that Pakistan was prepared to act if adequate evidence of any Pakistani complicity in the attacks emerged.
"If that stage comes, and when it comes, I assure you that our parliament, our democracy, shall take the action properly deemed in our constitution and in our law," he was quoted as saying.
According to Zardari, Western intelligence agencies had not offered firm evidence to justify claims that the attacks were plotted from Pakistani soil and he would not jump to conclusions until a full investigation was completed.
Zardari said claims that Kasab had been identified by his own father as coming from Pakistan had not been proved.