Islamabad: Pakistan on Friday said an agreement on a new liberalised visa regime with India will not be inked during the ongoing Home Secretary-level talks here, suggesting that the pact should be concluded at the political level. Interior Minister Rehman Malik made these remarks after meeting the Indian delegation led by Home Secretary R K Singh, who is in Islamabad for talks with Pakistan's Interior Secretary Khwaja Siddique Akbar.

It was widely expected that the two Secretaries would ink the agreement on the new visa regime at the conclusion of their two-day talks on Friday. Pakistan had decided in principle to sign the agreement on the new liberalised visa regime with India but the pact would not be signed during the current round of talks, Malik told the media. The signing of the pact had been postponed, he said without giving details of when it was expected to be inked. The agreement involves important issues and should be finalised at the political level, he said.

In response to a question, Malik said Home Minister P Chidambaram was welcome to visit Pakistan and that he "would be glad" if Chidambaram comes to Islamabad for the signing of the visa agreement. Malik said both sides had exchanged dossiers on terrorism-related issues and that Pakistan had received additional evidence from India against JuD chief and LeT founder Hafiz Mohammad Saeed.

However, he said Pakistani authorities could not act on the basis of "hearsay" and that they would examine the evidence against Saeed. Malik said the two sides had also discussed the issue of India's alleged interference in Pakistan's Balochistan province and Interior Secretary Akbar had been directed to provide "evidence" in this regard to his Indian counterpart.

He said a wide range of issues had been discussed during the meeting with the delegation led by Home Secretary Singh, including the probe into the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the visa regime and Balochistan. He further said the two countries should give up the "blame game" and work together to tackle issues like terrorism.

Replying to a question about the 33-year prison term given to Pakistani doctor Shakeel Afridi for his role in helping the CIA track Osama bin Laden before the al-Qaeda chief was killed by US commandos last year, Malik said he did not wish to comment on a court judgement. However, he said the court had declared Afridi a "traitor" and there was nothing the government could do in this regard.

Following the meeting with Malik, Home Secretary Singh and the Indian delegation travelled to the resort of Bhurban, about 70 km from Islamabad, for the second round of talks with the Pakistani team. The beginning of the talks was delayed as the meeting between the Indian team and Malik did not start at the scheduled time, officials said.

During the first day of talks yesterday, the two sides took up a wide range of issues, including counter-terrorism, infiltration, drug trafficking, a relaxed visa regime, networks involved in circulating fake currency and humanitarian matters, including the release of civilian prisoners and fishermen held in jails in both countries.

At the conclusion of the talks on Thursday, Home Secretary Singh said India had provided additional evidence against Saeed and the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks that should be used by Pakistan to prosecute them.

Indian authorities had provided their Pakistani counterparts additional proof linking Saeed to the Mumbai attacks while the Pakistani judicial commission that visited Mumbai in March had gathered evidence against the perpetrators of the terrorist assault on India's financial hub, Home Secretary Singh said.

The additional evidence should be presented in Pakistani courts and used to prosecute the terror suspects, he said. Pakistan detained Saeed shortly after the Mumbai attacks but he was freed on the orders of the Lahore High Court within six months.

(Agencies)

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