WASHINGTON, April 15 (UPI) -- Pakistan has told the United States it will not extradite nationals suspected of helping the Taliban or al-Qaida networks, including the killer of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, an official told United Press International.
"We would instead prefer to try and punish them inside the country," Interior Secretary Tasneem Noorani said.
Noorani, who was in Washington this week to attend the second meeting of the U.S.-Pakistan joint working group on terrorism, said even Ahmad Omar Saeed Shaikh, the man accused of killing American journalist Daniel Pearl would not be extradited.
The British-born Islamic militant was convicted and sentenced to death on July 15 for the kidnapping and murder of the 38-year-old Pearl who disappeared Jan. 23 in Karachi while working on a report about Islamic militant groups.
Three other men -- Salman Saqib, Fahad Naseem and Shaikh Adil - received life sentences for their role in the killing.
"None of these or other suspects will be extradited to the United States," said Noorani.
Shaikh, he said, has appealed the death sentence which is pending before the High Court.
"All such cases will be decided by Pakistani courts according to Pakistani laws," he said.
Several Pakistani nationals had been found fighting for the Taliban and al-Qaida following the U.S.-led war on terrorism, prompted by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington. Many Pakistanis with terrorist links were detained at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Some were repatriated, however.
The interior secretary said the United States was aware of "this principled stand" and during his meetings in Washington they did not ask for the extradition of any terrorism suspect.
Noorani, however, acknowledged the U.S. administration was seeking the extradition of some people of Pakistani origin who had later taken other nationalities. They include a Boston-based woman, Aafia Siddiqui who is now an American citizen and is believed to have escaped to Pakistan.
The 31-year old Siddiqui is the first woman to be accused of links with al-Qaida. She holds a doctoral degree in neurological science and has studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brandeis University.
"We are looking for her but so far we have no information about her," said Noorani.
He said people like her, who now are foreign nationals, could be extradited if caught.
Besides terrorism suspects, he said, there are eight other people, all Pakistani nationals, who were on America's extradition list. Most of them are accused of drug trafficking.
In the past, Pakistan has extradited such suspects to the United States after seeking judicial approval and Noorani said these suspects could also be sent to America if caught, provided their extraditions are first approved by a Pakistani court.
Pakistan, he said, also has handed over 347 al-Qaida suspects, mostly Arabs and Afghans, to the United States.