'We want Zakir Naik back,' EAM S Jaishankar rebuts Malaysian PM

New Delhi: In its reply to Malaysian Prime Minister, India firmly rebutted his claim that Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not raise his extradition at their meeting earlier this month by saying that India has been “persistently and relentlessly” pursuing the extradition of controversial televangelist Zakir Naik.

The Malaysian Prime Minister on Tuesday set up a controversy over the fugitive wanted in India on terror charges by his claim.

Mahathir Mohamad, 94, also told a radio programme that India had not insisted on Zakir Naik’s extradition, suggesting that this was because Naik was “troublesome for India”, Hindustan Times reported.

“Let me make it very clear for the record. There is an extradition request (sent in January 2018). We want Zakir Naik back and that is what we are working on,” Jaishankar told reporters on Tuesday at a media interaction to outline the foreign ministry’s achievements and key focus areas in the first 100 days of the government.

Jaishankar said the expectation that the controversial Islamic preacher should be extradited to India was communicated at the meeting of the two prime ministers earlier this month.

In 2017, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) charged Naik with inciting terror and delivering hate speeches with the agency filing the chargesheet before the NIA special court in Mumbai.

The polarising preacher had been on the radar of Indian security agencies for years but it was only after the men involved in the 2016 terror attack in Bangladesh’s Dhaka described Naik as their inspiration that the crackdown really started.

Zakir hasn’t returned to India since then and shifted base to Malaysia which has granted him permanent residency. But over the next year, Indian agencies have forced him to shut operations in the country and banned his NGO, Islamic Research Foundation, under the anti-terror law.

In his interview to Malaysian radio station BFM’s show the Breakfast Grille, Mahathir Mohamad did, however, indicate that Zakir Naik had exhausted his goodwill in the Malaysian government and there weren’t many countries that were willing to take him in.

“We are trying to find a place where he can go but no one wants to accept him,” said Mahathir upon being asked that if Naik such a trouble, then why the government allow him in the country.

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