26/11: Court hears arguments on sending commission to India

Islamabad: A Pakistani anti-terrorism court conducting the trial of seven suspects in the 2008 Mumbai attacks on Saturday adjourned the case for a fortnight after hearing arguments on the government`s proposal to send a commission to India to interview key officials.

Judge Rana Nisar Ahmed of the Rawalpindi-based court was told by defence lawyers during the in-camera proceedings that the prosecution`s application for sending a commission to India had little relevance as the Lahore High Court had already disallowed the use of the confessional statement of Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving attacker.

The defence lawyers questioned the "evidentiary value" of any material that could be gathered by the proposed commission and said it would be better if the Indian officials, like the magistrate who recorded Kasab`s statement, were asked to appear in the Pakistani anti-terrorism court, sources told PTI.

The defence further contended that the government, and not the court, would make a final decision on sending the commission to India, the sources said.

The defence lawyers argued that the matter had also been complicated by India`s proposal to send a commission to Pakistan to interview suspects and witnesses, the sources added.

The prosecution team sought more time to argue the matter, saying a senior prosecution lawyer would present its stance on the need for the commission to go to India at the next hearing.

The judge, who conducted the hearing behind closed doors at Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, then adjourned the case till May 28.

The prosecution had told the judge last year that it was imperative for the commission to visit India and interview certain officials in order to take forward the proceedings.

Defence lawyers had opposed the move even then, saying there was no provision in Pakistani laws for constituting such a commission.

Kasab has been convicted and sentenced to death by a special court in India for his role in the attacks that killed 166 people in November 2008.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said last year that the trial of the seven suspects, including Lashker-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, had stalled and it was important for the proposed commission to visit India and record the testimony of key officials.