Pak judicial commission visit on Mar 14,doubt persists

New Delhi: With Pakistan deferring the visit of its 26/11 judicial commission yet again, Home Ministry officials are keeping their fingers crossed on whether the court-appointed body will arrive here on March 14 to record statements of key persons involved in the Mumbai attacks case.

Frustrated over the long delay in the 26/11 court proceedings in Pakistan, Home Ministry officials are sceptical over the recent announcement that the judicial commission will arrive here on Wednesday for a four-day visit during which the members will visit Mumbai and interview all key persons related to the case.

Islamabad has been maintaining for the past two years that to take the judicial process of the 26/11 case in Pakistan to its logical conclusion, visit of the commission to India to record the statement of Ramesh Mahale, investigating officer of the case and R V Sawant-Waghul, the magistrate who recorded the confessional statement of lone surviving Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Kasab, was necessary.

"But despite conveying dates several times, they have failed to visit India citing one or the other reasons. They were supposed to come on March 12 which they now postponed to March 14," an official said.

Before that Pakistan had cancelled a pre-scheduled visit of the Commission in the first week of February.

On March 29, 2011 after the India-Pakistan Home Secretary level talks, a joint statement issued said dates for the visit of the judicial commission from Pakistan will be conveyed to India within four-six weeks. But nothing has happened.

Pakistan`s inability to send the commission has cast doubt over its intention and put the trial of 26/11 case in a Rawalpindi court against seven Pakistani suspects, including Lashker-e-Taiba `commander` Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, into further uncertainty.

When Home Minister P Chidambaram visited Islamabad in June 2010, Malik had conveyed to him that India would not be "disappointed" on Islamabad`s response to New Delhi`s demands related to the 26/11 attack case, including handing over of voice samples of the handlers of the attackers who killed 166 people in Mumbai.

A year later in July 2011, Malik declared that Pakistani law does not allow recording of voice samples of anyone.

On the sidelines of the SAARC Interior Ministers` conference in Thimphu last July, Chidambaram and Malik had a bilateral meeting where the Interior Minister of Pakistan affirmed that his Ministry was working toward an early visit of the judicial commission from Pakistan to India.

He expressed the hope that the visit would take place at an early date. So far, there is little movement on it.

The trial in the Rawalpindi court also has been going on at a snail`s pace. Curiously, four judges have been changed ever since the trial began in Pakistan in early 2009. Shahid Rafique is the fifth judge hearing the case.

The commission was announced by Pakistan in response to a directive from the anti-terrorism court that is conducting the trial of seven Pakistani suspects, including Lakhvi.

Pakistan`s contention is that the charges against the LeT operatives, lodged in a jail there, were based on Kasab`s statement in Mumbai and, hence, it was necessary to submit the magistrate`s and the investigating officer`s statements to the anti-terror court.