Rehman Malik clears air on Babri remark, says no comparison with 26/11, invites PM to Pak

Rehman Malik
Amid the controversy over his remarks on Babri Masjid demolition and Kargil martyr Capt Saurabh Kalia, Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Saturday met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and invited him to visit Pakistan.

During his 15-minute courtesy call on the PM, Malik extended the invitation from Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and told Singh that the people of Pakistan, especially those in the village he was born, "wanted to see" him. "The people there want to see that a boy from among them has become the PM of a nation and a global leader. I told him that if you don't come then we will feel disappointed," said Malik.

Malik also met National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon and Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj.

The meetings were held under the cloud of Malik's controversial remarks on Friday that had left his hosts red-faced. In one of his statements, Malik seemed to equate the Babri Masjid demolition with the Mumbai terror attacks, in another he said he was not sure whether Kalia, whose mutilated body was returned to India in 1999, had died of Pakistani bullets or due to bad weather.

"I am not trying to interfere in India's domestic issues in any way," he said today, while appealing that his remarks should not be seen in a 'negative' manner.

"There is no comparison at all. Babri demolition was (the result of) ethnic (problem). It was sectarian strife... Pakistan itself is a victim of inter-faith clashes. My intention was only to sound caution to both our countries... What I said was that incidents like 9/11, or Mumbai attacks... people dying in Quetta, our Shia and Sunni people being killed in Karachi... or Babri Masjid, and I am repeating, please do not take it in a negative manner... we do not want such things to happen in our countries," he said.

On his statement on Kalia's death, he said he was caught unaware by the question and still did not know how Kalia had died. He said it was unfair for the media to ask him to apologise on behalf of the Pakistani Army for an incident that he was not fully aware of.

He said: "India has never taken up the issue with me or with any of the component of my government bilaterally... And I was not expecting it. So if a 15-year-old incident is put before me and I am asked to apologise on behalf of Pakistan Army... had your Home Minister been in my position what would he have said?"

"If the Pakistani Army has tortured him, why would have they given his body. Yesterday, during the (bilateral) meeting, for the first time I was asked to look into the matter... I will return and look into the matter and revert with detailed information."

The clarifications, however, did little to clear the air around Malik's visit, with the BJP terming his comments as "unfortunate" and "provocative" and questioning the government's response to it.

Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, currently campaigning in Gujarat, and Chief Minister Narendra Modi used Malik's remarks to criticise the Centre. "The Union government in Delhi is so weak that Malik comes to India and states authoritatively that the 26/11 attack is similar to the Babri Masjid demolition. The Babri Masjid demolition is an internal matter. If the Indian government had guts, it should have asked the visiting delegation to say sorry for its comments," Modi was quoted by PTI as saying at Prantij.

In Ahmedabad, Jaitley termed Malik's remarks as "strange and unfortunate".

Malik, meanwhile, reiterated his country's position on the seven accused of the 26/11 attack who are currently on trial in Pakistan. He said the trials had been fast-tracked and urged India to allow another judicial commission to cross-examine the witnesses. He said if the first judicial panel which visited India earlier this year had been allowed to cross-examine a few key witnesses, the trial would have been over by now.

Ram Sene threatens to disrupt Pak match

Hindu outfit Sri Ram Sene has threatened to disrupt the India-Pakistan T20 match at in Bangalore on December 25, and asked the BJP government in Karnataka to refuse permission for the fixture.

"We will disrupt the match," Pramod Muthalik, the president of the outfit, said. He claimed that as many as 31 outfits have come together to oppose the match. "India has been making efforts to establish better ties with our neighbour but they have not yielded any results. Why support a country which nurtures terrorism," he said.

The activists of the protesting groups have already bought 600 tickets and will purchase 1,000 more to disrupt the match, Muthalik added.

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