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India to reply to Pakistan's queries shortly: Pranab

india Updated: Mar 09, 2009 22:02 IST
New Delhi/Lahore

With barely three days to go before the judicial remand of six suspects detained by Pakistan for the Mumbai terror strikes expires, India on Monday said it will 'shortly' reply to Islamabad's queries on the carnage.

In Lahore, the high court extended by 60 days the house arrest of Hafeez Mohammad Saeed, founder of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) that New Delhi has blamed for the 26/11 mayhem.

"We will send our reply to Pakistan shortly. We are in touch with the home minister," External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters in New Delhi.

Mukherjee's statement comes a day after Pakistan asked India to reply as soon as possible to its 30 questions seeking more information on the Mumbai attacks which it thinks are necessary to build a fool-proof case for prosecution of the six suspects it is holding.

The judicial custody of the six men expires on March 12.

India's reply can be expected in the next two days, official sources said.

Mumbai Police have forwarded answers to most of 30 questions to the home ministry, which is in the process of scrutinising the replies, which will then be sent to Pakistan by the external affairs ministry.

The answers to most questions, the Indian government has indicated, are already contained in the 11,000-page chargesheet filed against Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone terrorist captured alive during the Mumbai attacks.

Referring to the 30 queries that were handed over to New Delhi on February 12 along with Pakistan's response to the Indian dossier on the Mumbai attacks, Interior Minister Rehman Malik had said on Saturday, Unfortunately, till today (the replies have) not been received."

"I request (Indian authorities) to send that reply as quick as possible so that my prosecutors can collect the evidence and prosecution is done really and in a successful manner to bring the culprits to justice," he said.

Malik pointed out that while suspects could be held in police custody for 90 days in India, Pakistani laws allowed police remand for only 30 days.

Pakistan's Federal Investigative Agency (FIA) has also warned that it "may have to stop further investigations" against the six suspects due to the lack of cooperation by India and other countries.

This has also raised questions over the continued detention of LeT commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and its communications expert Zaraar Shah who were arrested in December, at the same time Hafeez Saeed was put under house arrest.

India says Lakhvi had planned the Mumbai strikes. However, the Pakistani authorities acted only after the UN proscribed the Jamaatud Daawa that the LeT had morphed itself into after being banned in the wake of the Dec 13, 2001, attack on the Indian parliament that New Delhi has blamed on the terror group.

Observers here say that if the six suspects are let off, Lakhvi and Shah could well take the plea that their continued detention was also not justified.

On Feb 12, the day Malik admitted that part of the Mumbai conspiracy had been planned on its territory, the FIA had charged eight men with the assault. Among them were the six arrested men, while the seventh was at large. The eight man is Ajmal Amir Kasab.

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