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Malik seeks to strengthen relations with Kingdom.

Summary: JEDDAH: Pakistan Interior Minister A. Rehman Malik, one of the most powerful men in the country and a close confidante of President Asif Ali Zardari, categorically denied meeting former President Pervez Musharraf during his stay in the Kingdom. Malik discussed bilateral ties, security, issues relating to terrorism and intelligence sharing with Saudi leadership during his recent visit to Saudi Arabia that ended on Monday.

The former spymaster who rose through the ranks to head the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) during Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's second tenure, stressed India could have averted the Nov. 26, 2008 Mumbai attacks by sharing information with Pakistan. He also asserted his country would never allow anyone to use its territory against any country. He said Pakistan is prepared to work together with India on this issue.

Malik spoke exclusively to Arab News on wide-ranging issues:

You met Custodian of the Two Mosques King Abdullah, Second Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Prince Naif and other top Saudi officials. What was the agenda of your meeting and how do you see Saudi support to Pakistan and its present leadership?

Let me first share with you that I was accorded unprecedented protocol by the Saudi leadership during my stay in the Kingdom. I met the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, Second Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Prince Naif, Assistant Interior Minister for Security Affairs Prince Muhammad bin Naif and Prince Muqrin, chief of intelligence. It was an honor for me to get an audience with the king. I handed him President Asif Zardari's message. We discussed issues of mutual interest; ways and means to further boost our brotherly relations and cooperation on several issues of mutual concern and interest. We discussed security and terrorism issues and intelligence sharing and resolved to fight terrorism jointly. I assured the Saudi leadership of our full support and cooperation. I would like to express my thanks and gratitude to King Abdullah for according me such an honor. I was given the Saudi royal plane to go back to Pakistan. King Abdullah too has assured full support and cooperation to Pakistan in its efforts to bring peace and stability in the region and prosperity of Pakistanis.

There are reports that former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is also in the Kingdom. Did you meet him?

No. I categorically deny meeting Musharraf. I heard that he arrived here this evening. I'm in the holy land and would never lie on its soil. If Musharraf is here, it's just coincidental and has nothing to do with my visit to the Kingdom.

Musharraf stepped down as president after an arrangement with the government providing him with immunity against any trial and an honorable exit. Even Nawaz Sharif was agreed to it. Then what is the locus standi of the case filed against Musharraf and what is the government's stand on it?

We make friends not enemies and believe in politics of reconciliation and not in political vendetta or vengeance. As far as prosecuting Musharraf is concerned, the matter is in the Parliament and if the House adopts a resolution in this regard then we will have to go ahead but, otherwise, there will be no trial of the former president unless Parliament adopts the resolution.

What is the situation now in Swat and other border areas after the killing of Baitullah Mehsud? Do you think the Taleban movement will be weakened after his death? What's the difference between Pakistani Taleban and Afghan Taleban?

First of all I never call them Taleban I call them "Zaleban," those who are brutal and inhuman there is no difference in both of them. Certainly, Mehsud's killing is a body blow to these elements. Al-Qaeda is trying to install a new "chief terrorist" in Pakistan's tribal regions after Mehsud's killing. Hakimullah Mehsud is said to have taken over, but there are reports, though unconfirmed, that he has also been killed, which means they are in disarray and will be soon defeated conclusively.

Jamat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed was arrested and then released by the court amid accusations that the police failed to present foolproof charges against him. Now Interpol has issued a red-corner notice against him. How do you react to it and what would you do to facilitate his arrest?

Pakistan needs to examine the evidence provided by India on the basis of which Interpol issued a red-corner notice against Hafiz Saeed. Certain procedures are required to pursue the notice. Even if a red-corner notice has been issued against him, the government was not obliged to immediately arrest him. We are free to make our own investigations against the man, and then take steps accordingly.

What is your take on a perception -- thanks to some shady characters and a few shadowy groups -- that Pakistan has become a haven for terrorists?

In fact, it is the other way around: Pakistan is the worst victim of terrorism. Terrorists have killed thousands of people in Pakistan, including our beloved leader Benazir Bhutto. We have suffered more than those who accuse us of terrorism. We are the only country who is waging a full-fledged war against terrorism.

What is the truth behind India's dossiers on the Mumbai attack? What evidences have they provided? Are they sufficient enough to prove the accused guilty in a court?

First of all I would like to say we are doing our part to bring the Mumbai attackers to justice. But as far as the much-trumpeted Indian dossiers are concerned, they are nothing but information based on the statement of a lone surviving attacker, Ajmal Qasab. We have asked them to provide us with SIM card information, the transcript of the conversation between the attackers and their handler, certified statements from officials involved in various aspects of the investigation, and so much other information, but as of now they have not given us any concrete information.

Evidence provided in three dossiers is, in our considered view, not sufficient to link Hafiz Saeed to the attack and to punish those who are guilty. We appeal to India to share information with us, and also to keep faith in our legal system and judiciary. I also urge India to provide dossiers regarding the Samjhota Express tragedy, which is as significant as the Mumbai attacks. Let me tell you, India could have prevented the terror attacks in Mumbai if they had shared intelligence with us after the arrest of two terrorists -- Fahim Ansari and Sabah Uddin.

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Publication:Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Date:Sep 2, 2009
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