New Delhi: Wednesday, November 21, 2012, was a red-letter day in the 26/11 chapter with convict Ajmal Kasab being hanged and buried under secrecy in Pune's Yerawada jail. However, even as Pakistan said that all terrorists should meet their logical end, it still remained in denial over the involvement of Kasab's handlers, the Lashkar-e-Toiba and mastermind Hafiz Saeed.
Speaking to IBN18 Editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai, Pakistani politician Shafqat Mahmood, who is the Central Secretary Information of Imran Khan's PTI, said, "Saeed is a citizen of Pakistan and is entitled to due process of law. He or anyone else is not guilty till I have seen evidence that that person was involved in terror acts."
"We are deeply troubled and regret what happened in Mumbai. But if there is evidence provided and if we were in the government, we would take action," Mahmood added.
Meawhile, India and Pakistan on Wednesday sparred over communication about the hanging of the lone surviving terrorist of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks Kasab. Immediately after the hanging was carried out in Pune, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said Indian mission in Islamabad had informed Pakistan government about the hanging. "The External Affairs Ministry through our mission in Islamabad had informed the Pakistan government about Kasab's hanging. When they did not accept the letter, they were communicated through fax," he said in Delhi.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said he hopes Pakistan will deliver on 26/11 trial after Kasab's execution. Khurshid says Ajmal Kasab and Sarabjeet's cases are not similar and India will continue to hope for Sarabjeet's release and will not give up its efforts.
Pakistan, on the other hand, came out with a statement asserting that it had "received that note and acknowledged its receipt." The Indian Deputy High Commissioner visited the Foreign Office in Islamabad on Monday evening with the note regarding Kasab's execution and the Director General for South Asia in the Foreign Ministry "received that note and acknowledged its receipt," Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Moazzam Khan said.
Reacting to Pakistani assertion, sources said, as of now, the Indian High Commission has not received any acknowledgement from their foreign ministry. "Indian Deputy High Commissioner had met his counterpart in the Pakistan Foreign Office DG (South Asia) on November 20 to hand over a communication with a copy of the letter from the authorities in the State of Maharashtra addressed to the next of kin of Kasab informing about the completion of the legal process and the hanging of Kasab on 21 November.
"The official had refused to accept the communication, following which the same was faxed from the Indian High Commission to the official and a transmission report received," sources said. 25-year old Kasab was hanged at 7.30 AM at the Yerawada Jail in Pune on Wednesday morning.
Pakistan rejected India's assertion that it refused to accept a letter on the decision to hang Kasab, saying it had "received that note and acknowledged its receipt". Reacting to the execution of Kasab in a jail in Maharashtra, Foreign Office spokesman Moazzam Khan said Islamabad had adopted the clear and consistent position of condemning terrorism in all its forms. On India's assertion that it had informed in advance Pakistan about the decision to hang Kasab but Islamabad refused to acknowledge the letter, Khan said, "these reports are incorrect and baseless."
Kasab was the only survivor of a group of 10 terrorists trained and backed by the Pakistan-based Laskhar-e-Toiba (LeT) that targeted the Indian financial hub four years ago. A total of 166 people, including several foreigners, were killed over a period of three days by the attackers, who were controlled by handlers based in Karachi.
Pakistani authorities have arrested LeT operational commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and six others and charged them with planning, financing and executing the attacks. However, their trial by an anti-terrorism court has virtually stalled for over a year due to various technical reasons. Islamabad has rejected Delhi's calls for action against LeT founder Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the mastermind of the attacks, claiming India has not provided any evidence to facilitate his prosecution.
Pakistan also said it had not received any request from Ajmal Kasab's family to bring back his body following the execution in an Indian jail. Any request from Kasab's family to bring back the body would be handled in accordance with Pakistani laws, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said. "No member of Ajmal Kasab's family or relative has requested the government (to bring back the body). When any member of the family makes a request, then we will take it up with the Indian government," he said.
Meanwhile, leading rights activist Ansar Burney offered to help in bringing back the body if Kasab's family contacts his organisation in this regard. He said he had no sympathy for Kasab but the family had the right to bury the body in accordance with Islamic traditions.
Both Central and Maharashtra governments have spent around Rs 29.5 crores on Kasab to provide him food, security, medicines and clothes during his confinement in Arthur Road Central prison in Mumbai, sources said. Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) deployed around 250 guards for Kasab in the prison since his arrest in November 2008 till October 2012 and expenditure on this count worked out to Rs 26 crore, sources said.
Maharashtra government spent around Rs 3.47 crores on Kasab including food (Rs 42,313), security (Rs 1,46,81,794), medicines (Rs 39,829) and clothes (Rs 1,878). The state government also incurred an expenditure of Rs two crores on building a bullet and bomb proof cell especially for Kasab in the Central Prison at Arthur Road. The cell was connected to the specially made court (also bomb and bullet proof) by a tunnel which was fortified with iron walls and ceiling to ward off any terrorist strike with bombs.
This is for the first time that such a bomb and bullet proof cell has been made in the prison. This would also serve as a permanent place for any dreaded terrorist or dangerous accused who gets caught and has been put on trial, sources said. ITBP commandos stood as guards in and around the Arthur road Central Prison for nearly four years to keep a watch on Kasab, who unleashed terror in Mumbai on November 26, 2008, at the instance of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
Kasab's planned execution is apparently one of the reasons that India did not agree to the two-day proposed visit of Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik from Thursday. Sources in the central security agencies claimed although India had kept under wraps the date of hanging of Kasab, it didn't want an uncomfortable situation to arise during the visit of Malik.
Malik had expressed his desire to visit the country during his meeting with Shinde in Rome on November 3. The sources said Kasab's execution date was finalised after President Pranab Mukherjee on November 5 rejected his mercy plea. When the dates of November 22-23 were proposed from Islamabad, the Home Ministry said these were not feasible.
(With additional information from PTI)