New Delhi: Former president Pranab Mukherjee had called visiting Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi out of a press conference just after the 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai and told him to return to his country immediately.
Mukherjee, who was then the external affairs minister, made this revelation in his new book, the third volume of his autobiography, The Coalition Years, 1996-2012, which was launched on Friday evening.
He has written in the book that the day after the four-day siege began, he learnt that the Pakistani minister was holding a press conference. He decided to interrupt the press meet by calling a journalist he knew would be attending the conference. He asked the journalist to inform Qureshi that he wanted to speak to him urgently.
When Mukherjee got his Pakistani counterpart on the phone, he informed him that he should leave immediately in wake of the terror strike in Mumbai.
“Mr Minister, no purpose will be served by your continuing to stay in India in these circumstances. My official aircraft is available to take you back home. It would be desirable if a decision is taken as quickly as possible,” Mukherjee told the minister.
At least 162 people were killed and more than 300 were injured in the attack by Pakistan-based terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba. One of the terrorists, Ajmal Kasab, was captured and hanged on November 21, 2012 for his role in the attack. The mastermind behind the attack, Hafiz Saeed, continues to enjoy sanctuary in Pakistan.
Mukherjee also revealed that the Pakistani High Commission had expressed gratitude and informed that a Pakistani air force aircraft would take him back home.
The BJP, then in the opposition, had blamed the UPA government’s “soft stance” towards Pakistan for the attacks. Islamabad has continued to deny any knowledge of the strike and all evidence given by the Indian government has been rejected.
India’s demands for a fresh investigation have also been denied, with Pakistan claiming there is no “concrete evidence” to link Pakistan-based outfits to the attacks.