The Indian government's recent comment that it did not know the whereabouts of Dawood Ibrahim vindicates Pakistan's stand that the fugitive criminal was not in its territory, Islamabad's high commissioner to New Delhi has said.
Abdul Basit described the Jammu and Kashmir issue as the "mother of all disputes" between Pakistan and India but said his country is committed to a comprehensive dialogue process to settle all matters. Islamabad views Kashmir as the "core issue" and all other issues, including terrorism, are a sub-set of the bigger and central Kashmir issue, he said.
Basit said in an interview with Karan Thapar for Headlines Today that Minister of State for Home Haribhai Chaudhary's statement in Parliament about Ibrahim on Tuesday had vindicated Islamabad's stand that "he is not in Pakistan". He said Chaudhary's statement raised critical and disturbing questions about the veracity of India's dossiers, which he described as "self-serving".
He also said in the interview to be aired on Wednesday night that India had never asked in writing for Ibrahim's extradition.
The government was left red-faced on Tuesday when it contradicted its position that mob boss Dawood Ibrahim is in Pakistan by informing parliament that it was not aware of his whereabouts. Minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju later clarified that Ibrahim, one of India's most wanted terrorists, is in Pakistan.
Ibrahim was accused of involvement in the 1993 Mumbai bomb attacks that killed 257 people and injured hundreds more. The Interpol has issued a Red Corner notice against Ibrahim and he has been sanctioned by the US and UN.
During the interview, Basit said Pakistan is committed to continue extending "political, moral and diplomatic support to the legitimate Kashmiri struggle".
He also said Pakistan is committed to a comprehensive dialogue process to settle all outstanding issues and to take the relationship with India from "conflict management to conflict resolution".
"Peace is in our mutual interest. Peace can be achieved through dialogue. Hence, dialogue is not a favour by one country to another," he said.
Basit said Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had taken an "exceptional step" by attending his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi's inauguration a year ago but India's subsequent "cancellation of talks was disappointing".
"Pakistan cannot force India to come to the negotiating table nor is it frustrated," he said. He added that there had been no substantial improvement in the prospects for dialogue between the two sides since August last year when talks between the foreign secretaries were called off.
Hopes that Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar's "SAARC yatra" visit to Islamabad might rekindle the stalled dialogue had turned out to be stillborn, he said.
Speaking about Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the main accused in the 2008 Mumbai attacks case, Basit said it was India's right to raise his release with the UN Sanctions Committee on the grounds that it breaches UN Security Council resolution 1267.
He refuted reports that the Pakistan government was not serious about prosecuting Lakhvi and said India must respect the Pakistani legal system and the legal outcome.
Basit further said there were no grounds for Pakistan to arrest Jamaat-ud-Dawah Hafiz Mohammad Saeed either under the Anti-Terrorist Act or the Maintenance of Public Order law.