ISLAMABAD – A Pakistani court will indict seven suspects in the Mumbai attacks in the coming week, but India needs to provide evidence against the head of a banned Islamist group Pakistan is investigating in the plot, a top official said Saturday.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik's statements appeared designed largely to assure India that Pakistan is serious about bringing justice to the perpetrators of the November siege that killed 166 people and ratcheted up tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals.
"I want to tell India that we want to be your friend," Malik told reporters in Islamabad.
He said Pakistan has turned over a list of requests for additional evidence from India -- especially forensic support.
At least five suspects have been in the midst of closed-door pretrial hearings at a court in a maximum security prison in Rawalpindi. So far they have not had charges presented against them. Their next hearing is set for Sept. 26. Malik indicated two other suspects were joining the group in court.
India blames the banned Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba for the Mumbai assault staged by 10 gunmen, nine of whom were killed. Under tremendous international pressure, Pakistan acknowledged much of the plot originated on its soil.
Malik said India in particular needs to hand over any evidence against Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, a founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba who now heads Jamaat-ud-Dawa, an alleged charity that Pakistan banned after the U.N. declared it a front for Lashkar following the Mumbai strife.
Pakistan arrested Saeed in December after India provided a dossier of evidence in a rare sharing of intelligence. But in June, a Pakistani court freed him from house arrest, saying there was not enough evidence to hold him.
Pakistani police said Friday that they plan to arrest Saeed on charges that he illegally held a public gathering and raised funds for Jamaat-ud-Dawa in the city of Faisalabad in Punjab province last month. But they did not say when.
Lashkar is widely believed to have enjoyed the support of elements of Pakistan's security agencies in the 1980s and 1990s because it was sending militants to fight Indian rule in Kashmir, which Pakistan also claims.
Experts say that history complicates efforts to prosecute Saeed now.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since they gained independence from Britain in 1947.