Former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Sunday stressed that the uncooperative attitude and stubbornness of the Indian government has been the biggest obstacle in the Mumbai terror attacks trial reaching a conclusion.
Nisar's comments comes in the wake of a statement by ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif that has been spun by the Indian media as a tacit admission of Pakistan's involvement in the 2008 attacks that left 166 people dead.
In an exclusive interview with Dawn on Friday, Sharif had criticised the apparent delay in the conclusion of the Mumbai attacks trial.
“Militant organisations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me. Why can’t we complete the trial?” Sharif had asked in the interview.
Criticising the country's foreign policy, Sharif had added: “We have isolated ourselves. Despite giving sacrifices, our narrative is not being accepted. Afghanistan’s narrative is being accepted, but ours is not. We must look into it.”
Nisar, in a statement issued on Sunday on "Nawaz's statements and the Indian media's reaction", emphasised that the Indian government was to blame for the hold-up in the Mumbai attacks trial.
"I say with full responsibility that the delay and slow pace of the Mumbai attacks-related case in Pakistan was not Pakistan's doing but was a result of non-cooperation and stubbornness by India," said the disgruntled PML-N member.
Nisar, under whose watch the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) was investigating the Mumbai attacks, said that since the assault took place in the Indian financial capital, it was the Indian government which possessed "90 per cent of the evidence and facts" of the incident.
Despite repeated efforts, India refused to share those facts and evidence with FIA and the investigative committee formed by Pakistani courts, he claimed.
According to Nisar, there was no bigger evidence of the Indian government's lack of interest in taking the case to its end than its refusal to allow FIA to question the only living proof of the attacks: Ajmal Kasab.
Explore: Ajmal Kasab hanged secretly
"In a country where cases concerning capital punishment face years of delays, the only proof in a very important case was sent to the gallows in extreme haste to take him away from the public eye and close the door before facts became public."
Kasab was hanged in such haste, Nisar said, so that the Mumbai attacks could be used as a tool for "Pakistan bashing" across the world on political basis.
The former minister said Pakistan's application requesting the Indian government's cooperation in the case — and its refusal to do so — were on record. He claimed that although Pakistan had cooperated with the Indian government for information-sharing regarding every terrorist incident, India had not reciprocated for incidents taking place inside Pakistan, including the arrest of Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav.
Nawaz's 'admission' as per Indian media
Mainstream Indian news outlets, since the interview was published on Saturday, have been playing up Sharif's statement on the attacks as a 'confession' of Pakistan's role in the Mumbai incident.
"Pakistani terrorists carried out 26/11 Mumbai attacks, admits former PM Nawaz Sharif," read the headline on Hindustan Times.
Times Now went a step further about "Nawaz Sharif's sensational confession", saying: "Now, Pakistan can't rid off 26/11 stain".
Delay in the case
The trial of Pakistani suspects in the Mumbai attacks case had virtually come to a standstill after the governments of Pakistan and India had a row over the testimony of 24 Indian witnesses.
In January 2016, the government contacted New Delhi, asking it to send the 24 witnesses to Pakistan to testify against the Mumbai attacks suspects, including the alleged mastermind of the attacks — Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi.
Lakhvi, and the other suspects — Abdul Wajid, Mazhar Iqbal, Hammad Amin Sadiq, Shahid Jameel Riaz, Jamil Ahmed and Younus Anjum — are being tried by the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Islamabad since 2009. In August 2016, the Federal Investigation Agency also arrested Sufyan Zafar, the alleged financier of the attack.
The prosecution had completed the testimonies of all 68 Pakistani witnesses seven months before that. By the time the ATC was about to conclude the proceedings, the prosecution filed an application to produce survivors of the Mumbai attacks, the doctors who conducted the post-mortem examination of the deceased persons and terrorists, and eyewitnesses.
At the time of the attacks, Lakhvi was believed to be the operational head of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) that has been accused by India of carrying out the attacks in India's financial capital. Lakhvi along with Zarar Shah was allegedly the key planner of the attack.
Though a prime suspect in the case, the Lahore High Court had released Lakhvi in 2015 after he furnished Rs2 million in surety bonds. The Indian government lodged a strong protest over his release; however, the Pakistani authorities demanded that India provide incriminating evidence against him so he can be held in jail and tried effectively.