Mumbai attacks: Mukherjee says he asked Pakistani FM to leave India

  • ‘Mr minister, no purpose will be served by your continuing to stay in India’

NEW DELHI: India’s former president Pranab Mukherjee had called visiting Pakistani foreign affairs 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 The Coalition Years, 1996-2012, the third volume of his autobiography. He has written in the book that the day after the four-day siege began, he learnt that the visiting 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 Qureshi.

At least 162 people were killed and more than 300 were injured in the attack by the Indian militants. Mukherjee also revealed that the Pakistani High Commission had expressed gratitude and informed that a Pakistan Air Force aircraft would take him back home.

The Bhartiya Janata Party, then in the opposition, had blamed the Congress-led coalition government’s ‘soft stance’ towards Pakistan for the attacks.  Qureshi had excused himself from a dinner with Mukherjee on the evening the terror strike began as he had scheduled an engagement with his country’s high commissioner.

The then Indian minister said that the Indian government had ‘evidence’ that the terrorists came in a small vessel. Giving details of the aftermath of the attack, Mukherjee said that the first call from a foreign country came from then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who was concerned about the fallout.

In 2013, a former investigation officer of the Indian Home Ministry Satish Verma disclosed that a member of the secret service team had accused incumbent governments of orchestrating the terror attack on the Indian parliament and the 26/11 carnage in Mumbai.

He had said that the terrorist attack on the parliament in New Delhi and the Mumbai terror attacks were pre-planned. A key government official RVS Mani said that Satish Verma, until recently a part of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe team, told him that both the terror attacks were set up with the objective of strengthening the counter-terror legislation.

Mani has said that Verma narrated that the December 13, 2001 (attack on parliament) was followed by the Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act (Pota) and November 26, 2008 (terrorists’ siege of Mumbai) was followed by an amendment to the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).