Pakistan Wants More Evidence to Prosecute in Mumbai Attacks

By Rama Lakshmi and Shaiq Hussain
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, February 10, 2009

NEW DELHI, Feb. 9 -- The Pakistani government on Monday took a step toward prosecuting suspects in last November's deadly attack on Mumbai, but said it would seek more evidence from India before going further.

At a meeting in Islamabad, the Pakistani cabinet's defense committee was briefed on the progress of Pakistan's probe into the Mumbai attacks by a team of investigators. The committee decided to register the attacks as a crime with police, but said in a statement that "without substantial evidence from India it will be exceedingly difficult to complete the investigation and proceed with the case."

India had said in a detailed dossier of information last month that its government investigation had conclusively proven that the conspiracy to attack Mumbai was hatched in Pakistan.

But the Pakistani officials on Monday said they need more concrete evidence. The committee said a list of additional questions would be sent to Indian authorities shortly.

An Indian official said that New Delhi will wait for an official communique from Pakistan and not react to statements issued to the news media. "We have given them a dossier. Let them respond to it. I will comment after they give the response," India's home minister, P. Chidambaram, told reporters. He added that the U.S. FBI "will give evidence in the trial, if necessary."

In the past few weeks, India has urged the international community to put pressure on Pakistan to act against the groups that it says organized the attack.

The three-member team of Pakistan's Federal Investigating Agency appeared to reject India's demand that the attack's planners be extradited to India. The team has decided a case should be registered and "the perpetrators, wherever they may be, of the heinous crime are brought to justice in accordance with the law of the land," according to a statement issued by the defense committee.

Relations between the two nuclear-armed neighbors have been severely strained since the November attacks, when 10 gunmen laid siege to the financial capital of Mumbai for three days, killing more than 170 people, of which six were Americans. India accused the outlawed Pakistan-based Islamist group Lashkar-i-Taiba of planning and directing the assault on two luxury hotels, a train station, a Jewish cultural center and other sites in Mumbai.

Pakistan offered to participate in an investigation with Indian authorities. It detained several members of the organization and sealed the headquarters of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a front group for Lashkar-i-Taiba. But India demanded more action.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars in the past 60 years, two of them over the province of Kashmir, which is claimed by both.

Meanwhile, the new U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard C. Holbrooke, arrived in Islamabad on Monday on his first visit to the region aimed at devising strategy to restore peace in Afghanistan and curb the al-Qaeda-and-Taliban-led insurgency.

Holbrooke is scheduled to meet Pakistan's civilian leadership and military chief during his visit, before traveling to Afghanistan and India.

Special correspondent Shaiq Hussain in Islamabad contributed to this report.

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