.contact us |.about us
Home BizChina Newsphoto Cartoon LanguageTips Metrolife DragonKids SMS Edu
news... ...
             Focus on... ...

Musharraf agrees, in principle, to extradite Pearl murder suspect
( 2002-02-27 10:19 ) (7 )

In a closed-door meeting, President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan agreed in principle Tuesday to surrender to the United States the chief suspect in the murder of Daniel Pearl, but only after Pakistan concludes its investigation into the crime and is confident that the handover would meet legal requirements, Pakistani officials with knowledge of the deliberations said Tuesday night.

Musharraf made the commitment to Wendy Chamberlin, the US ambassador to Pakistan, who was reiterating a request made by the United States since November for the handover of Ahmed Omar Sheikh, the British-born Muslim militant blamed for the kidnapping and murder of Pearl, a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal.

It was not clear how long it might take to satisfy Musharraf's conditions. But the Pakistani officials said they had little doubt that Sheikh would eventually be turned over to the US authorities for prosecution in the Pearl case and in the 1994 kidnapping of four tourists, one an American, in India.

Sheikh was secretly indicted by an US grand jury in November for his role in that 1994 kidnapping. On at least two occasions before Pearl's kidnapping on Jan. 23, the United States formally asked that Sheikh be arrested, but at that time, the Pakistani government essentially ignored those requests, apparently on the grounds that they did not know whether Sheikh in the country.

The failure to locate and arrest the militant before Pearl's abduction still has the potential to weigh heavily on relations between the two countries, especially given indications that Sheikh, who was freed into Afghanistan in 1999, has benefited since from ties to Pakistan's secretive intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence. On Monday, the White House said explicitly that it wanted to see Sheikh put in American hands.

On Tuesday, both sides seemed to be trying to patch over the appearance of any rift. An spokesman for the US Embassy, Mark Wentworth, would say only that Chamberlin had "raised the subject" of extradition in her meeting with Musharraf. The Pakistani officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Chamberlin had told Musharraf that she understood Pakistan's position. It was not clear exactly what legal requirements Musharraf was referring to in citing the factors that might delay any handover. The United States and Pakistan do not have an extradition treaty.

In the past, Pakistan has handed over several terrorist suspects to the United States without a formal hearing. But this case may prove to be more complicated because Sheikh is already in Pakistani custody and facing court proceedings in the Pearl case.

Sheikh, who is 28 years old, on Tuesday made an unexpected appearance in a Karachi anti-terrorism court for a hearing designed to add to the case against him. For the first time since his arrest earlier this month, the court heard from a witness in the case, whose testimony was intended to link the militant to the Pearl murder.

Sheikh announced in one previous hearing that he had carried out the kidnapping, but that confession has no bearing under Pakistani law and the Pakistani authorities have been slow to build a legal case against him, asking a judge Monday for 14 more days to file charges against him in the hope of finding Pearl's body or a murder weapon.

Because of its supporting role for US operations in Afghanistan and its vows to take the lead in battling extremism, Pakistan has been playing a major role in the US-led fight against terrorism.

But the Pearl case, and Pakistan's earlier unwillingness to act against the militant now thought responsible for his murder, has emerged as a major embarrassment in the relationship, and it has raised new questions about the domestic constraints still facing Musharraf as he tries to make good on his pledge to crack down on Islamic militants.

On Tuesday night, less than 32 kilometers (20 miles) from the capital, unidentified gunmen wielding automatic weapons shot and killed nine people and wounded more than 10 others in an attack on a Shiite Muslim mosque in Rawalpindi, the city that is the headquarters for the Pakistan Army. The police in the city said they believed the attack had been carried by a radical Sunni Muslim group known as the Army of the Prophet's Companions, or Sipah-e-Sahaba, one of the groups that Musharraf outlawed last month.

The attack was the worst incident of sectarian violence in Pakistan since the current crisis in the region began, and the fact that it took place near the army headquarters was being interpreted by some Pakistani government officials as an attempt to demonstrate to Musharraf that his power to rein in extremism is limited.

Also Monday night, in the southern province of Sindh, the police said, eight people were arrested after they fired on a US military plane landing at a Pakistani airfield being used as an American logistics base. A police spokesman said that no shots had hit the aircraft, and that there had been no damage or casualties.

Together, the attacks posed a new challenge to Musharraf and his efforts to keep his country in line as he tried to put it on a more moderate footing. In Rawalpindi on Tuesday night, the city's deputy chief of police, Fareed Nawaz, described the attack as terrorism rather than merely the endemic sectarian violence that some Pakistanis tend to shrug off.

In the Pearl case, American officials have said that a grand jury in Virginia is still considering whether to indict Sheikh for murder. The request that Chamberlin, the US ambassador, relayed to Musharraf was apparently still based on Sheikh's suspected involvement in the 1994 crime.

Wentworth, the embassy spokesman, said that Chamberlin had thanked Musharraf for "the ongoing police cooperation" in the investigation into Pearl's death but had also "encouraged further progress."

The identity of the witness who testified against Sheikh in Karachi was not disclosed.

A senior Pakistani investigator, Manzoor Mughal, told reporters that the witness had been asked during the closed-door hearing to identify Sheikh, but that the defendant had not been able to see him.

Other Pakistani officials described the witness as someone who had played an apparently innocent role in arranging a meeting in Karachi that led to Pearl's abduction and murder.

On Tuesday, Pearl's widow, Mariane, who is seven months pregnant with the couple's first child, said in an interview on CNN that she would tell her unborn son that her father had died a hero.

"His spirit, his faith and his convictions have not been defeated," she said in Karachi. "And I am extremely proud of him."



        .contact us |.about us
  Copyright By chinadaily.com.cn. All rights reserved