Abdul Rehman Malik, advisor to the Pakistan prime minister on interior affairs, on Sunday quietly wound up his three-day India visit that saw him rub New Delhi the wrong way, and finally provoke his hosts at the home ministry to call at least one of his statements “ridiculous”.
Within hours of Malik boarding his plane, home secretary RK Singh said his statement calling Lashkar-e-Taiba operative Abu Jundal an Indian agent was “ridiculous”.
Home ministry officials blamed Pakistan for its failure to prevent 26/11 and accused Islamabad of “hesitating to take action against the key conspirators and operatives”.
This was a counter to Malik’s statement early on Sunday at an Observer Research Foundation lecture before he prayed for peace at the Nizammuddin shrine: “The agencies failed, both here and in Pakistan. So, we have failed. Why? Because there was no interaction between Pakistan and India.”
At official meetings and public interactions, Malik over the past three days accused New Delhi of not giving him the evidence necessary to nail Lashkar founder and alleged 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed, denied state actors had anything to do with the terror strike and asked the Indian security establishment to shoulder the blame for 26/11.
Pinpricks apart, government sources indicated the visit had its silver lining. Malik agreed at his meetings with home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde to seek an early judicial decision on New Delhi’s request for day-to-day court hearings in the 26/11 trial against seven Lashkar terrorists.
Malik — who came across as much more reasonable at closed-door meetings than in public, where he had to play to the gallery back home — also accepted Shinde’s offer to send the home ministry’s joint secretary to Pakistan next week to firm up the terms of reference of the judicial commission’s second visit to India.
A Pakistan court had rejected the findings of the first judicial commission that travelled to Mumbai in March since it wasn’t mandated to cross-examine the witnesses, including the magistrate who recorded Ajmal Kasab’s statement.
India had refused permission then over worries that it might create hurdles in carrying out Kasab’s death penalty.
With Kasab executed last month, Shinde has given the go-ahead this time for the Pakistani judicial commission to cross-examine the four witnesses.
The minister will inform Parliament about his talks with Malik next week.