26/11: HC Okays Pak Judicial Commission's Visit

New Delhi
26/11: HC Okays Pak Judicial Commission's Visit
A Pakistani judicial commission, which will interview key persons linked to the probe into the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, will be allowed to visit India in the first week of February as the Bombay High Court has given its consent for it.

The high court has informed the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) that the in-principle approval for the visit of the Pakistani judicial commission has been given and the team may come in first week of February.

The MHA will soon convey the high court's approval for the visit to Pakistan through diplomatic channels, official sources said.

However, it is not clear immediately when the Pakistani delegation's visit will actually take place considering the domestic situation in that country.

The Pakistani commission will take the statements of Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate R V Sawant Waghule and Investigating Officer Ramesh Mahale, who have recorded the confessional statement of Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving terrorist involved in the 26/11 attacks, to pursue the case in Pakistan.

It also wanted to take the statements of the two doctors who carried out the post mortem of the terrorists killed during the attack.

Pakistan has already issued a gazette notification on the formation of the judicial commission and has listed the members who will represent Pakistan government.

The delegation will include Khalid Qureshi, the head of the Federal Investigation Agency's Special Investigation Group, and Muhammad Azhar Chaudhry and Chaudhry Zulifqar, the two main prosecutors.

The notification further said that representatives of the defence lawyers too would be part of the commission. Accordingly, five counsel of seven Pakistani suspects charged with involvement in the Mumbai attacks had informed the anti-terrorism court that they were prepared to go to India.

The notification was issued in response to a directive from the anti-terrorism court that is conducting the trial of seven Pakistani suspects, including Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, who have been charged with planning and financing the attacks in 2008 that killed 166 people.

The five lawyers were Lakhvi's counsel Khwaja Sultan, Riaz Cheema, Asam bin Haris and Fakhar-e-Hayat.

The defence team submitted the passports and other documents of the five lawyers to the court.

During the Home Secretary-level talks held here in March, India had agreed to the Pakistani proposal to host the judicial commission of that country.

Islamabad has been maintaining that it is necessary to send the commission to India as part of the judicial process in Pakistan.

Its contention is that the charges against the seven LeT operatives, including its 'operation commander' Lakhvi, lodged in a jail there, are based on Kasab's statement in Mumbai and hence the magistrate and the IO's statements are necessary to submit before the anti-terror court.

The trial in the Rawalpindi court has been going on at a snail's pace and the Indian officials are not very optimistic that the guilty will be punished any time soon.

Curiously, four judges of the court have been changed ever since the trial began in early 2009. Shahid Rafique is the fifth judge to hear the case.
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