Islamabad: The trial of seven Pakistanis charged with involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks was today adjourned for two weeks after prosecutors informed the judge that they were awaiting an undertaking from Indian authorities regarding the visit of a Pakistani judicial commission.
Anti-terrorism court Judge Chaudhry Habib-ur-Rehman, who is conducting proceedings behind closed doors at Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, put off the case till March 16 after prosecutors failed to submit an undertaking from Indian authorities that the Pakistani commission would be allowed to cross-examine four key witnesses in Mumbai.
Chief prosecutor Chaudhry Zulifqar Ali told the court that the Indian government was yet to respond to Pakistan's request for a written assurance regarding the cross-examination of witnesses in Mumbai. "We are awaiting the Indian government's response," he said. Defence lawyer Riaz Cheema told PTI after the proceedings that the ball was now in the Indian government's court.
The Pakistani judicial commission's visit to India has already been delayed by several weeks.
"It (the Indian government) accuses us of delaying the case but now it is taking too much time to entertain the Pakistani request," he said. "We don't want to repeat this exercise (of visiting India) if we are not given the statements of the witnesses and allowed to cross-examine them," Cheema said.
The Pakistani judicial commission's visit to India has already been delayed by several weeks over the issue of the assurance that members of the panel would be allowed to cross-examine the Indian witnesses. The commission is set to make a second visit to Mumbai to record the statements of four witnesses because the anti-terrorism court rejected a report submitted after its first visit on the ground that the panel was not allowed to conduct any cross-examination.
Chief prosecutor Ali told PTI recently that the Pakistan government had written a letter to Indian authorities on February 12 seeking written permission for the judicial commission to cross-examine witnesses. The judicial commission will cross-examine four key Indian witnesses - the police officer who led the probe into the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the magistrate who recorded the confession of Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving attacker, and two doctors who performed the autopsies of the attackers.
Kasab was hanged in a jail in Pune last year. The trial of the seven suspects, including Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, has progressed at a snail's pace due to repeated adjournments and various technical delays. They have been charged with planning, financing and executing the attacks that killed 166 people in November 2008.
Though India blamed LeT founder Hafiz Mohammad Saeed for masterminding the attacks, Pakistan has refused to take action against him, saying the evidence provided by New Delhi is not adequate to prosecute him.