ISLAMABAD – Pakistan said on Thursday that evidence given by India failed to build a case for the arrest of Hafiz Saeed, the founder of a Pakistan-based group blamed for the Mumbai attacks, a stance certain to stoke anger in India.
India, which has insisted Pakistan act against Saeed and other members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) for the November attacks in which 166 people were killed, last week handed a fresh dossier of evidence to Islamabad.
But a Pakistani Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said the information provided by India had not helped although Islamabad was proceeding with the case.
The material contained in that ... dossier apropos Hafiz Saeed is not really enough and doesn't really strengthen our hands to take, or to proceed legally, as has been expected, he told a weekly news conference.
His comments came as a Mumbai court separately sentenced three Indians to death for conspiring with Lashkar in an earlier attack on the city that killed 54 people. Indian prosecutors said the blasts in 2003 were hatched in Dubai with several LeT conspirators.
Saeed was detained in the wake of the November attacks after a U.N. Security Council resolution put him on a list of people and organizations supporting al Qaeda.
But in June, the Lahore High Court released him on grounds of insufficient evidence, prompting the Pakistan government to lodge an appeal with the Supreme Court for his re-arrest.
The Supreme Court adjourned a hearing this week without fixing any new date and Saeed's lawyer said it had been put off as the government's prosecutor was not prepared.
Tensions have remained high between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan since the attacks in November.
Last month the two sides agreed to restart dialogue, but India stopped short of resuming a peace process that was put on hold following Mumbai.
India wants to see Pakistan punish those responsible and dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism on Pakistani soil.
Pakistani officials have told diplomats privately that they cannot risk a major crackdown on militant groups like Lashkar, based in the central province of Punjab, as the army has its hands full fighting a Taliban insurgency in the northwest.
The international police network Interpol said on Thursday Pakistan had launched a global search for 13 suspects in the Mumbai attacks.
France-based Interpol said the global alert issued from Islamabad asked member countries to assist in locating the fugitives and immediately report any leads to Pakistan, which would seek their extradition if any were arrested.
The Interpol statement did not name the suspects.
Pakistan has also begun proceedings against five militants for their alleged role in the Mumbai plot but charges have still to be read and the next hearing has been put off until August 29.
Court delays, and demands for better evidence will do little to allay Indian suspicions that Saeed and Lashkar are regarded as assets by Pakistani intelligence which, according to analysts, has used the jihadi group in the past to fight Indian rule in Kashmir.
Saeed quit Lashkar in the days following an attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001, that forced Pakistan to ban the group, but he stayed on as head of a charity that has been placed on both U.N. and U.S. terrorist lists and is said to be a front for Lashkar.
(Writing by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)