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'Most wanted' fugitive: Home ministry admits mistake

Tuesday May 17, 2011 11:40:46 PM, IANS

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'Most wanted' fugitive in Thane, not Pakistan, says wife

Mumbai/New Delhi: As Wazhul Qamar Khan, one among the 50 "most wanted" fugitives named for terror bombings in India, said he is in Thane on bail and not hiding in Pakistan as stated in New Delhi's list given to Islamabad, Home Secretary G.K. Pillai said the ministry took the responsibility and would come out with a detailed statement Wednesday.

The government has also ordered a probe into the goof-up.

"The list was prepared by all the (intelligence) agencies. Still, we would take the responsibility", Pillai told CNN-IBN news channel.

He said the home ministry will issue a detailed statement Wednesday.

"We deeply regret for the blunder. If we make one mistake, it does not mean that we make all mistakes. It is all speculation right now", he said.

In Thane, a distraught Khan told IANS: "Not only am I not a wanted any longer, I am very much living in Thane city's Wagle Estate locality. I am currently awaiting trial in several cases for which I was arrested last year."

In Maharashtra, the government and police were at a loss over how and why Khan figured in the list handed over to Pakistan during the home secretary level talks in Delhi in March.

Khan's name was 41st in the list of fugitives, who include underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, his 20 aides, 2008 Mumbai attack mastermind and Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed and dreaded terrorist Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi.

He claimed that he has never been to Pakistan.

Khan was released on bail last July after he was arrested in May for his alleged involvement in the 2002 and 2003 terror bombings in Mumbai and its suburbs. He has been living and working in Thane.

Journalists lined up outside his residence after a national newspaper reported that Khan was not hiding in Pakistan, as claimed in the list.

Khan, 42, a labour contractor, lives in the middle-class locality along with his paralysed mother Mobia Begum, wife Yasmin and their five children.

He now fears that the goof-up may affect his job. "It will spell doom for my livelihood."

Khan is accused of involvement in at least four terror blasts and is now awaiting trial for his role as a foot soldier in executing them.

But he maintained he was being "framed by the authorities".

He is accused of transporting and planting the explosives at the targeted sites at Mumbai Central railway station in December 2002 and in Vile Parle, Mulund and Ghatkopar areas in January, March and July, respectively, the following year.

Tuesday being a public holiday, Maharashtra home department and police officers in Mumbai were not available for comment.

Home Minister P. Chidambaram, who was in Agartala, played it down.

"I did not prepare the list. It was prepared months ago. Whether it is the same person or two persons of the same name, we have to see," he said.

"I don't think we should make a big issue of it. It is possible there could be an error or there could be two people with the same name. I will go back and check."

But home ministry sources in Delhi said they were seeking a report from the state police and also the status of his case and his current location.

The sources said it appeared that there was some "lack of coordination" between the Anti-Terrorist Squad of the Maharashtra Police and the state home department and the other agencies involved in preparing the list. They said Khan's name was forwarded by the state government to the union home ministry.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost no time to castigate the government over the "monumental lapse which has caused an embarrassment for the whole country".

"The home ministry has risen to the maximum level of incompetency," BJP leader Arun Jaitley told reporters in Delhi.

The Congress played down the issue. "There is an inquiry being internally conducted by the home ministry. Let the facts emerge conclusively. And then if there would be a reason to respond, we would definitely respond to it," Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said.






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(Photo: Hansraj)



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