Islamabad: Pakistan took the first step on Monday towards prosecution of the people behind the Mumbai attacks, but said it would be difficult to proceed without “substantial evidence” from India.
Relations between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan have been strained since militants killed 179 people in the attacks in India’s commercial capital, Mumbai, in November. India has put peace talks on hold.
India blamed the banned Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group for the attacks and said the perpetrators were “clients and creations” of the Pakistani military’s spy agency.
Pakistan has denied any involvement by state agencies and has been investigating a dossier of information from India.
“On the basis of the inquiry conducted by FIA, the case should be registered and further investigation be carried out so that the perpetrators, wherever they may be, of the heinous crime are brought to justice,” the prime minister’s office said.
The office was referring to the main police investigation agency, the Federal Investigation Agency, which has been in charge of the inquiry into the dossier India provided.
The decision to register a case, the first step towards a prosecution, was made in a meeting of the cabinet’s defence committee presided over by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and including top military and security officials.
The prime minister’s office said the Interior Ministry had recommended that a case be filed but it did not say who, or how many people, it would be registered against.
Questions for India
Pakistan has acknowledged the lone surviving gunman from the attack, who is in Indian custody, is Pakistani.
India said the dossier it handed over in January contained the confession of the gunman, satellite phone intercepts between the attackers and their handlers in Pakistan, and a list of Pakistani-made weapons used by the militants.
A Pakistani rejection of the Indian dossier would inevitably inflame tension between the neighbours who have fought three wars since their independence from Britain in 1947.
The prime minister’s office said the meeting had noted that the inquiry had been conducted professionally, but added that more evidence was needed from India.
“Without substantial evidence from India it will be exceedingly difficult to complete the investigation and proceed with the case,” it said. “In order to complete the investigation the questions which are arising from the inquiry ... need to be answered by the Indian authorities,” it said, adding that that would be communicated to the Indian authorities shortly.
Pakistani investigators have already sought additional information from India, and India has responded to one set of questions.
The prime minster’s office did not say when the investigation would be completed and its results handed over to India.