On-the-run Muslim cleric has been a Malaysian PR for five years

Published: 4:00 AM, April 19, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR — Controversial Muslim preacher Zakir Naik, currently on the run from Indian authorities, who are investigating him for terrorism, has had permanent residence (PR) status in Malaysia for five years, Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said yesterday.

“Zakir Naik has a Malaysian PR but he is not a citizen, and he stays in other countries, I reckon,” Mr Zahid told reporters, adding that Malaysia would cooperate with India on any investigations involving Dr Zakir through the two countries’ Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) agreement.

“If India requests our help, we will do so. It is not a matter of surrendering him, but it is about the investigations (into the alleged case against Dr Zakir),” he said, adding that the investigations cannot be carried out by Malaysia.

Malaysian Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali had previously said that both Malaysia and India would help serve summonses issued by the other government under a 2012 MLA treaty over criminal matters, but the treaty did not cover the execution of arrest warrants.

Last Sunday, Dr Zakir had challenged the Indian authorities to locate him in Malaysia, following New Delhi’s plans to seek Interpol assistance in a terrorism investigation against him.

He said he was unwilling to present himself before India’s National Investigation Agency, claiming that instances of abuse of Muslim activists are rife. He allegedly fled to Saudi Arabia after Indian authorities started investigations on him and his non-governmental organisation, Islamic Research Foundation, for terror propaganda.

An opposition lawmaker has criticised Putrajaya for providing a safe haven for Dr Zakir.

“As long as Zakir remains in Malaysia, he will drag Malaysia further down,” said Democratic Action Party lawmaker M Kulasegaran on Facebook. “At the back of the minds of the Indian community in this country, it appears that a fugitive is given better protection than the local Indians.” AGENCIES