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Punish Mumbai and Pulwama plotters, shared enough proof: India to Pak

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India on Thursday demanded Pakistan should prosecute the perpetrators of the 2019 Pulwama terror attack and 2008 Mumbai carnage, saying the main accused in last year’s suicide bombing – Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar – continues to be sheltered by Islamabad.

New Delhi also called on Islamabad to act against UN-designated terrorists such as Dawood Ibrahim, saying Pakistan’s assertion that its actions to enforce the global body’s sanctions doesn’t mean it admits to the presence of such individuals on its territory reflects its “insincerity” in tracking down global terrorists operating from Pakistani soil.

India’s response to Pakistan’s rejection of the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) chargesheet in the Pulwama terror attack was outlined during a weekly news briefing by external affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava, who said Islamabad was evading its responsibility even after New Delhi had shared “enough evidence” on the suicide bombing.

The chargesheet filed by the NIA in a court in Jammu on Tuesday named Masood Azhar, his two brothers Abdul Rauf Asghar Alvi and Ammar Alvi, his nephew Mohammad Umar Farooq and 15 others who carried out the bombing at Pakistan’s behest. The attack killed 40 Indian troopers and triggered a brief stand-off between the two countries.

Pakistan rejected the chargesheet on Wednesday, contending it contained fabrications to further the Indian government’s “anti-Pakistan rhetoric and its narrow domestic political interests”. It also said the Indian side had failed to respond to two requests for further information on the terror attack.

Responding to a question on whether India will share further information with Pakistan on the attack, Srivastava said: “Jaish-e-Mohammed had claimed the responsibility of the Pulwama attack. The organisation and its leadership are in Pakistan. It is regrettable that Masood Azhar, the first accused in the chargesheet continues to find shelter in Pakistan.”

He added, “Enough evidence has been shared with Pakistan but it continues to evade responsibility.”

The chargesheet, Srivastava said, was filed after an investigation lasting a year-and-a-half since the attack on February 14 last year. “It has been filed to address the act of terrorism and to bring perpetrators of such a heinous crime to justice. Our aim is not to simply issue statements or notifications,” he said.

Srivastava also pointed out that Pakistan was yet to take “any credible action” against perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008, which claimed 166 lives, including 25 foreign nationals.

The Mumbai attacks were carried out by a 10-member team of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Pakistani security agencies arrested seven men, including LeT operations commander Zakiur Rahman Lakhvi, in the weeks after the attack but their trial has made little headway even after scores of hearings. Lakhvi was released on bail in 2015 and his current whereabouts are unknown.

Pakistan also recently issued two statutory regulatory orders (SROs) to enforce UN Security Council sanctions on hundreds of terrorist individuals and entities, including Masood Azhar, LeT founder Hafiz Saeed and Dawood Ibrahim ahead of an expected assessment of its counter-terror financing actions by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). One of the orders listed three addresses in Karachi for Ibrahim, though Pakistan has long denied the mob boss’ presence in the country.

After the matter was widely reported in the Indian media, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement the SROs didn’t amount to “Pakistan admitting to the presence of certain listed individuals on its territory”.

Asked about this matter, Srivastava said: “Pakistan’s assertion that the SRO does not mean that it admits to the presence of listed individuals on its territory or that it would impose any new measures on these listed individuals, lays bare the insincerity of Pakistan in responding to legitimate expectations of the world that they will track down international terrorists based on its soil.”

Pakistan, he said, has “not only maintained its opposition to this international consensus but it has also chosen not to act against” the terrorists. “Pakistan has never taken any credible and verifiable action against terror entities or listed individuals, including the most wanted ones,” he added.

Srivastava said the denial by Pakistan’s Foreign Office “calls into question their intentions and it would not mislead the world community in believing its propaganda”. He added, “Pakistan must take credible action and ensure that the listed individuals are prosecuted.”

Ibrahim, wanted by India for his role in the 1993 Mumbai bombings, has regularly featured in lists of wanted terrorists and dossiers provided by India to Pakistan.

In response to another question, Srivastava reiterated that Pakistan’s envoy to the UN had issued a statement on August 24 about addressing a Security Council meeting on Monday on threats to international peace and security from terrorism that subsequently turned out to be untrue.

“The briefing and discussions at this UNSC meeting were confined to members only and we had sought clarification from the Indonesian chair, who informally confirmed to us that there was no scope for any non-member to speak in this discussion. Our permanent mission to the UN has clearly rebutted all allegations made by Pakistan in this statement,” he said.

Sameer Patil, fellow for international security studies at Gateway House, said it is important for the Indian government to keep highlighting the issue of terrorism emanating from Pakistan even if such assertions hadn’t resulted in any change in the neighbouring country’s behaviour.

“The statement on Pulwama may be more for domestic consumption since cross-border terrorism remains an emotional issue. Not to highlight it could be seen as some sort of acquiescence on the issue, and no Indian government, least of all a BJP government, will want a charge like that levelled against it. But highlighting it also shows India is still pursuing the issue and this is important from the domestic and international perspective,” he said.


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