Pakistani minister brings message of peace

AFP, NEW DELHI

Sun, Dec 16, 2012 - Page 5

Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik arrived in India on Friday with a message of “peace and love” that he said would help the nuclear-armed rivals give a fresh impetus to their fragile ties.

Malik flew into New Delhi for a three-day visit that will see him formalize a new visa accord and hold security talks with his Indian counterpart, Sushilkumar Shinde.

“I have brought the message of peace and love from the children, women and men, old and young of Pakistan ... I am here to take the peace process forward,” Malik told reporters at the airport.

India suspended peace talks with Islamabad after the attacks on its financial capital, Mumbai, four years ago.

Since then, both countries have taken tentative steps to get the process back on track, focusing on basic confidence-building measures and leaving aside core territorial disputes.

Malik’s visit comes less than a month after India executed Pakistan-born Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the 25-year-old sole surviving gunman from the Mumbai attacks.

Malik stressed the need to forget the “dark days” and expressed hope that the visa accord, signed in September, would lead to more interaction between the people of both nations.

“The journey toward peace is progressing very well, especially with the new visa regime, it will also bring a lot of good for us ... let us not create any negativity,” he said.

The visa agreement will replace a 38-year-old restrictive travel pact between the two countries.

According to media reports, the new rules will ease restrictions on business travel, offer visas on arrival in both countries to people over 65 years of age, guarantee “time-bound” issues of visa as well as bringing other benefits.

“When Indians enter Pakistan and Pakistanis enter India, they should feel like they are coming home,” he said.

Malik also said Pakistan would arrest Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, founder of the Islamist group accused of carrying out the Mumbai attacks — who lives openly in Pakistan — providing that the authorities have proof of his guilt that would stand up in court.

In April, the US offered a US$10 million bounty for information leading to Saeed’s arrest and conviction.

“We have arrested Saeed three times,” Malik said, but added “court documents declared him innocent.”

“If there is evidence that can stand the test of a court, I am sure we have no love lost for Saeed,” he said.