Pakistan on Wednesday said it had not sought custody of Ajmal Amir Kasab from India, hours after a top legal official here claimed that a formal request had been made for handing over of the lone gunman captured alive during the Mumbai attacks.
Pakistan "has made no formal request to India as yet" for Kasab's custody, foreign office spokesman Abdul Basit said in a brief statement.
The statement came hours after deputy attorney general Sardar Mohammad Ghazi, who has been appointed special public prosecutor for the trial of Pakistani suspects linked to the Mumbai attacks, said Kasab is the "prime suspect" and it would be difficult to prosecute the other accused in this country if he is not handed over to Pakistan.
"The government of Pakistan has formally requested the Indian government to hand over the custody of Ajmal Kasab because he is the prime suspect and the rest of these suspects, they are abettors, they abetted the crime," Ghazi said.
Officials of the Indian High Commission too said they had not received any formal request from Pakistani authorities for the handing over of Kasab. They also said such a request was not part of Pakistan's official response to the Indian dossier on the Mumbai attacks.
After weeks of denial, Pakistan last month acknowledged Kasab as its national.
Pakistani authorities have taken into custody six suspects, including Lashker-e-Taiba operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and its communication expert Zarar Shah, though their exact legal status and whereabouts are unclear.
"I am sure the Indian government is going to look into it (request for Kasab's custody), they are going to take a decision because without having the custody of Ajmal Kasab in Pakistan, I think it will be very, very difficult to prosecute the rest of the suspects," Ghazi said.
He also said he hoped to work in cooperation with Indian authorities to prosecute the persons arrested in Pakistan on suspicion of links to the Mumbai attacks. "I am sure better sense (will prevail) and we get the custody of Ajmal Kasab and we are able to conduct the trial successfully."
Ghazi said: "It is not a case which has taken place here in Pakistan. There are chains of events in India." He said Pakistan had been informed by the Indian government that there "are lots of suspects in India also".
Pakistan last week said it had filed formal charges against nine suspects, including Kasab, in connection with the Mumbai incident. Pakistan also acknowledged that part of the conspiracy behind the attacks was hatched on its soil.