India on Friday withdrew a public list of most-wanted fugitives it wanted Pakistan to extradite after discovering at least two of them were present in India itself, the latest embarrassment for a government hit by corruption scandals and political slip-ups. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said it had failed to update its records after one accused was arrested in 2010, meaning his name remained on a list handed over to Islamabad this March. It is a major setback and public humiliation for the government that has long accused Islamabad of aiding militant groups for attacks on India. The list was originally seen as adding pressure on Pakistan to act. A second person on the list sent to Pakistan was earlier traced by local media to his home in western Maharashtra state. Another person on the website was extradited from Bangladesh to India in October, media reported. Officials including Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, who initially laughed off reports of errors in the list, admitted responsibility. He apologised and said he was satisfied that the mistake was a “genuine oversight”.
“Error has been accepted. Responsibility will be fixed for the mistake”, Internal Security Secretary UK Bansal told reporters. The Press Trust of India news agency quoted an unnamed home ministry official as saying that they may send a corrected list to Pakistan. The embarrassment is a personal blow to Chidambaram, seen as one of the more efficient ministers in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s team, and it sparked calls for his resignation from the Hindu nationalist main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party. It is also a setback for a Congress-led coalition government that has been perceived to be out of touch with the people due to its lumbering response to a series of high-profile graft cases and soaring prices. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, spokesman for the ruling Congress party, told reporters in New Delhi that an investigation was underway to determine how the mistakes happened. They were “looking at it with all seriousness and earnestness but I’m not prepared to give a verdict or result before the verdict”, he said. “The Congress doesn’t take this lightly.”
Ajai Sahni, executive director of the Institute of Conflict Management and a homeland security specialist, said the errors were embarrassing. He said they were bound to happen because that India does not have a centralised police database to share information between security agencies, leaving the process open to human error. “There’s an entire international case built up against Pakistan which is very well known. All this shows is India and the Indian authorities in a poor light that they can’t get their act together”, he said.