Pakistan today ruled out handing over to India any of its citizens found to be linked to the Mumbai attacks and warned that it was fully prepared for war in the event of a military confrontation in the wake of the terrorist strike.
Though Pakistani will fully cooperate with India in investigating the Mumbai attacks, any Pakistani individual found to be involved in the incident will be tried under the country's laws, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said.
"The arrests are being made for our own investigations. Even if allegations are proved against any suspect, he will not be handed over to India," Qureshi told reporters after offering Eid prayers in his hometown of Multan.
"No arrested Pakistani would be handed over to India," he said.
Asked about the arrest of leaders and members of banned groups like Lashker-e-Taiba in a crackdown launched on Sunday, Qureshi said they were apprehended due to efforts made by intelligence agencies as part of the government's commitment that Pakistan's soil would not be used for terrorist activities directed against any other country.
"We will proceed against those arrested under Pakistani laws," he said.
Qureshi said Pakistan did not want military confrontation but would defend itself if war was imposed on it.
"We do not want to impose war, but we are fully prepared in case war is imposed on us," he said.
"It is our desire that there should be no war...We want friendship, we want peace and we want stability, but our desire for peace should not be considered Pakistan's weakness," he added.
Qureshi said the government had made it clear that Pakistan was not involved in any way in the Mumbai attacks. Islamabad had also made an offer to jointly investigate the
Mumbai attacks with India but had not yet received a response from the Indian side, he said.
Meanwhile, Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar confirmed the arrest of LeT commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind of Mumbai attacks, and Jaish-e-Mohammed founder Maulana Masood Azhar. In an interview with CNN-IBN channel, Mukhtar said Pakistan could consider the "joint interrogation" of the terror suspects with India.
Pakistan has arrested over 20 members of the LeT and its front organisation Jamaat-ud-Dawah since Sunday while the Jaish founder was placed under house arrest yesterday, sources said. Officials said the crackdown on banned militant groups
will continue and more arrests are expected.
The LeT, which was banned by Pakistan in 2001, has been blamed by India for planning and carrying out the Mumbai attacks that killed over 180 people. Despite being banned, the LeT continues to operate through proxies like the Jamaat-ud-Dawah.