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Diplomatic row before Kasuri’s departure
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 22
An unseemly diplomatic row erupted between India and Pakistan on procedural matters on the issue of airlifting of seven Pakistani citizens injured in the Samjhauta Express blasts just before Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri's departure.

In a rare development, a Pakistani military aircraft landed here this afternoon - the first time a Pakistani military aircraft landed on Indian soil since January 2001 when Pakistan had sent relief material for the Gujarat earthquake.

As the plane was about to land, it was announced by the Ministry of External Affairs that the C-130 Pakistani transport plane would be carrying the seven injured Pakistani citizens who were being treated at Safdarjung hospital here.

The Indian side contended that the seven injured victims of Panipat blasts were "prime witnesses". New Delhi wanted an undertaking that these seven "witnesses" should appear before the Indian court for deposition whenever the need arose.

The Pakistani side refused saying that since India had already rejected the Pakistani request for joint investigation, such a request would have to come through "proper channels" for consideration of the Pakistan Government. As a result, the plane was stuck for several hours at the airport with injured passengers on board.

Finally, the issue was resolved when Pakistan assured the Indians that they would cooperate fully in the investigation as and when the need arose.

The Pakistani aircraft finally took off at 9.07 pm about five hours after it had landed. The plane had come along with a medical team. The seven persons evacuated by this special flight were: Abdul Qayyum, Shameem, Ramesh Kumar, Ashok Kumar, Nadeem, Muhammad Shakeel and Qamaruddin.

The remaining three injured Pakistanis preferred to go to Panipat and will return via Wagah, Foreign office spokesman Navtej Sarna said at a briefing earlier in the day. These three are Rana Shaukat Ali, his wife Rukhsana and their daughter Aqsa.

It is understood that these three were being viewed by New Delhi as very important material witnesses in the case and that is why they could not take the Pakistani plane.

This correspondent asked Kasuri at a SAFMA reception, the Foreign Minister's last engagement here before he left for Islamabad tonight, about the plane incident and his response was, "All is well that ends well". Kasuri's remark showed that the Pakistan government was observing restraint on the Samjhauta blasts issue. The Indian Government will be sharing with Islamabad all investigation results when the maiden meeting of the India-Pakistan Joint Mechanism to counter terrorism takes place in Islamabad on March 6.

At the SAFMA reception, Kasuri announced that India and Pakistan had made "progress" on Siachen. "We have made progress on Siachen dispute. The Sir Creek issue is relatively easier to resolve."

In his speech, Kasuri said "private diplomacy" (read back-channel diplomacy) had made substantial progress on resolving the outstanding issues between the two neighbours.

Meanwhile, Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Navtej Sarna said, “This attack underscores the need for effective action against terrorist groups wherever they exist.”

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Bomb scare in train, hospital
Tribune News Service

Panipat/Karnal, February 22
A hoax bomb call delayed the departure of the Amritsar-Dadar Express train for one hour at Panipat today.

According to information, the general railway police got an anonymous telephonic call at 6.20 p.m. claiming that bombs had been planted in the Dadar Express train and the office of the chief medical officer, Karnal. The Dadar Express train had already left the platform at Karnal railway station for Panipat. All the passenger were asked to get down from the train when it stopped here at 6.43 p.m. The train was checked thoroughly by the anti-sabotage wing of the GRP but nothing was found.

The train left the station at 7.40 p.m. on its further journey.

Similarly, an exercise to detect a bomb at the civil hospital at Karnal this evening proved to be a futile exercise.

Hospital staff told The Tribune that a note mentioning that several bombs had been planted in the hospital was found pasted on a wall on the second floor of the building.

Soon after getting the information, the police asked the hospital authorities and patients to vacate the hospital building immediately.

SP Sibash Kaviraj reached the spot at 7 p.m. along with a dog squad.

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Rajasthan couple interrogated

Jaipur: A Mumbai man, resembling the sketch of one of the suspects in Samjhauta Express blasts, and his wife were today interrogated by the police.

The man, who was picked up along with his wife, identified as Soro, from Bikaner last night, was being interrogated by the Haryana police and security agencies, Rajasthan director-general of police A.S. Gill said today.

Gill refused to divulge the identity of the man whom he said resembled one of the sketches of the two suspects who were said to have got down from the train before the blasts at Deewana on Sunday night. — PTI

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