New Delhi: Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's special envoy for improving relations with India Shahryar Khan denied having acknowledged the presence of 1993 Bombay blast accused Dawood Ibrahim in his country saying that his comments were taken out of context by the media.
"I think that comment was grossly twisted. The point is that someone like you who has a cricket background, we were at a launch of my book on cricket in Pakistan and questions were asked and one question was related to spot fixing and match fixing etc. in which the sub context is very much involved and various accusations. So, at that point somebody asked me what about Dawood Ibrahim and I said to the person and everyone openly that according to press reports I don't think Mr Ibrahim is in Pakistan," said Khan in an interview to IBN18 Editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai.
"I do not know where he is or when he came or when he left for Pakistan. So this is very clear. I'm denying the fact that I said only was repeating press reports which I had seen. I had no knowledge. This is something that you cannot put on my plate because I have no idea I have left the foreign office 20 years ago," said Khan.
Pakistan High Commissioner Salman Bashir has also backed his colleague saying that Khan's comments on Dawood has been largely misunderstood by the Indian media. Speaking to CNN-IBN's Karan Thapar, Bashir said: "I think the way Shahryar Khan's remarks has been quoted in Indian media since morning, I think he is being misunderstood. What he meant was that Pakistan is determined to root out terrorism."
On Friday, Khan had said that Dawood had once lived in Pakistan. This was the first time that a Pakistani official had acknowledged Dawood's presence in the country. "Dawood was in Pakistan but I believe he was chased out of Pakistan. If he is in Pakistan, he should be hounded and arrested. We cannot allow such gangsters to operate from the country," Khan had said. He had said that if Ibrahim was in Pakistan, he would have been arrested by now. Khan had made the remarks while talking to reporters at a pre-launch event organised in London by the Indian Journalists' Association for his latest book "Cricket Cauldron: The Turbulent Politics of Sport in Pakistan".
He later did a U-turn saying that he had only quoted Pakistan media reports on Dawood's whereabouts, and had no personal knowledge of them. He also clarified that the comments had not been made in his official capacity.
The Indian government has reacted strongly to Shahryar Khan's statement on Dawood Ibrahim. External Affairs Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin on Saturday said that India will not rest till the perpetrators of the 1993 Bombay blast are brought to justice.
"I too have seen these reports which have been attributed to by a senior official of the Pakistan government. As you are aware, the 1993 Bombay blast dossier has never been closed by us. Therefore, now that we have received more information about it, we will not rest till those responsible for the 1993 attacks against our citizens in Mumbai are brought to justice. Wherever they are, we will continue to pursue this quest," Akbaruddin said.
Khan had made the remarks while talking to reporters at a pre-launch event organised in London by the Indian Journalists' Association for his latest book "Cricket Cauldron: The Turbulent Politics of Sport in Pakistan". The chargesheet in IPL spot-fixing case, in which Dawood was named an accused, however, proves otherwise. The telephonic intercepts between Dawood, his close-aide Chota Shakeel and aides in his Dubai show that the former was in Pakistan at least till late April 2013.
The Bharatiya Janata Party also criticised Islamabad saying that any statement from Pakistan cannot be trusted. "Any statement from the Pakistani authorities cannot be trusted. They hid al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in their country for ten years and the US had no clue about it. They are doing this again for Dawood. It's not surprising," BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy said.
Party President Rajnath Singh acknowledged that it's good that Pakistan has accepted that Dawood has been staying in its territory, but it is not enough. "They should do more to get justice for the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. If they are not ready to accept our demands then we should scale down our diplomatic ties with Pakistan," he said.
Army Captain Bharat Verma said Pakistan's statement was aimed at diverting India'a attention. "The statement from Pakistan that Dawood Ibrahim is no longer in Pakistan and has left for UAE is a way to divert the India's attention."
Pakistan has till now has always denied Dawood's presence on its soil though Indian security agencies have repeatedly provided details of his whereabouts in dossiers handed over to Pakistani authorities. According to reports, Dawood was based in Karachi, where he had fled after the 1993 Bombay bombings. Besides the 1993 attacks, he is wanted in numerous terror and criminal cases in India. In 2003, the US government designated him as a "Foreign Terrorist".