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'Pak to respond to Kasab's letter soon'

Pakistan will respond to the request for legal assistance by Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone gunman captured for the Mumbai terror attacks, in a "few days", a Foreign Office spokesman said.

world Updated: Dec 27, 2008 16:13 IST

Pakistan will respond to the request for legal assistance by Ajmal Amir Iman, the lone gunman captured for the Mumbai terror attacks, in a "few days", a Foreign Office spokesman has said.

Iman, alias Ajmal Kasab, had sought legal aid and the appointment of a lawyer to represent him in a letter sent to the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi earlier this week.

"Yes, in a few days time the Foreign Office will issue a formal statement about our findings and reply to the letter sent to Pakistan's High Commission in New Delhi," the Foreign Office spokesman told The News daily.

"This letter was given by the Indian authorities, where Ajmal Kasab says that he is a Pakistani citizen and seeks counsellor access," the spokesman said.

At this stage, he said, it could not be stated if the Foreign Minister or some other senior official would make the announcement. "It could come in the form of a statement," he added.

The spokesman also refused to comment on what the government intends to do if Iman is found to be a Pakistani national.

"I would not like to comment on this stage (on) which way the proceedings have proceeded so far. It would also be very speculative to respond to what the government proposes to do if Kasab is found to be a Pakistani citizen," he said.

Terming the case of Iman as "unique," the spokesman said several government agencies are involved in processing the letter after it was received by the foreign ministry.

He said it was a unique case because on many occasions, prisoners in Indian jails, who have been verified as Pakistani citizens or those to whom the government wanted access for verification, were denied access.

"This is an inter-agency process where not only the Foreign Office but also the ministries of interior and law, NADRA (National Database and Registration Authority) and UN experts are deliberating on the issue," the spokesman said, when asked about the methodology of processing Iman's letter.

When told that the interior ministry had already brushed aside the chances of Iman being a Pakistan citizen because there were no records of him in NADRA's national database, the spokesman replied: "What other method do we have for verification but to rely on NADRA?"

He said the Foreign Office is also conducting its own investigation and when all agencies, including the interior ministry, send in their findings, Pakistan's official position on the matter will be made public.

Earlier this week, interior ministry chief Rehman Malik said there were no records of Iman in the national database. He also ruled out responding to Iman's plea for consular access till it was proved that he is a Pakistani national.

However, according to NADRA's own website, its database covers only 60 million of Pakistan's total population of over 160 million.