NEW DELHI - Interior Minister Rehman Malik came under scathing Indian media criticism by merely stating facts that no body wants to see the recurrence of incidents like Bombay blasts, Samjhauta blasts or Babri Masjid demolition.
Major Indian newspapers including Times of India, Hindustan Times and Indian Express in reports said that Malik stoked a potential controversy by referring to Babri Masjid demolition which they termed as equating with the Mumbai terror attack. In the reports, the newspapers said Pakistani interior minister dealt a blow to the efforts to normalize bilateral ties by raking up the Babri issue and seeking to draw a parallel between destruction of the mosque and terror attacks including the 26/11 carnage in Mumbai.
Malik’s reference to Babri was seen as a provocation as it was the first instance that a visiting Pakistani dignitary had waded into the sensitive Babri issue.
"We do not want any 9/11. We do not want any Bombay blasts, we do not want any Samjhauta Express, we do not want any Babri mosque issue and we can work together not only for peace in Pakistan and India but also for the region," Malik said here.
Malik was speaking to reporters after the new visa agreement between India and Pakistan was operationalized.
He said Pakistan will leave no stone unturned to punish those involved in Mumbai terror attack in November 2008 in which 166 people were killed.
"When Ajmal Kasab was hanged. I was the first one to come on the television and gave the statement that we respect the judgments coming from your courts.
"Similarly when the trial is going on in Pakistan, I have already told you that it is on fast track and of course we have gone to every level to make it on the fast track," the Interior Minister said.
"I assure my brother, people of India and that we are on it. We assure Indian authorities especially my brother, the Home Minister of India that we will not leave any stone unturned and the day is not far when you will see the conviction. You will see the justice seems to be done," Malik said.
"I know there have been questions on Hafiz Saeed and obviously this is the demand from the people of India. Exactly in the same way when the Samjhauta blast happened people of Pakistan were actually asking what has happened?" the Interior Minister said.
Stating that terrorism brings grief, Malik assured that Pakistan will bring the culprits, terrorist, perpetrators to justice and "you will see it".
"Have you seen any propaganda. No? We want to come out of that domain of propaganda. We want to see love and peace," he said.
Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, however, countered Malik's words saying that Pakistan has not kept its promises made earlier.
"You have been outspoken on all the fronts. But we in India keep on talking that earlier on 2, 3, 4 occasions the promises were made and were not fulfilled and today you have assured. I am quiet confident that both the countries will go forward in bilateral cooperation," he added.
The Indian media overplayed a reference to the Babri Masjid reality and pointed out that the foreign ministry had reservations about having Malik over at this juncture, and his conduct may validate the misgivings. They said the twice cited killing of Pakistani citizens in Samjhauta blast almost as a counterpoise to the terrorist attack on Mumbai, besides, predictably, rejecting India's argument that it had given enough material to Pakistan to act against Lashkar chief Hafiz Saeed.
Reacting to his comments, former Indian high commissioner to Pakistan G Parthasarthy said, "This shows the folly of inviting a Pakistani leader without any political standing who would only try to appease domestic opinion and the army."
The media also played up the Supreme Court issuing a notice to the Center on a petition by the father of a commissioned officer who died in Kargil that Pakistan be tried in the International Court of Justice for violation of Vienna rules on the humanitarian treatment of prisoners of war.
Asked about it, Malik said that he was not aware whether Kalia died of a Pakistani bullet or just fell victim to harsh weather, which media termed as a formulation which they said seemed insensitive considering the tell-tale marks of torture on Kalia's body.
They said Malik's remarks were not a happy augury for the patient fence-mending the two countries have been engaged in. In fact, his hosts in the home ministry looked distinctly awkward and the atmospherics tense as Malik spoke.