Islamabad: India and Pakistan are yet to finalize the terms of reference for a judicial commission expected to visit India next year to gather evidence on the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks despite talks held over the past five days, official sources said Tuesday.
An agreement on the visit of the second Pakistani judicial commission to Mumbai has not been finalised due to several complex technical and legal issues, the sources said.
The two sides have held several rounds of talks since Thursday but have not reached an agreement on the terms of reference, the sources said.
The four-member Indian team, including legal experts from the Home and External Affairs Ministries, was earlier scheduled to return on Saturday at the conclusion of two-day talks with a Pakistani team led by Attorney General Irfan Qadir.
Three members of the delegation returned yesterday and a Joint Secretary from the Home Ministry stayed behind for further discussions.
The sources said the two sides were considering a number of complex issues.
The Pakistani commission is expected to cross-examine four Indian witnesses in Mumbai, including the police officer who led the probe into the Mumbai attacks, the magistrate who recorded lone surviving attacker Ajmal Kasab’s confession and two doctors who conducted autopsies of terrorists killed in the attacks.
However, the two sides were also looking at the possibility that the commission may have to interview other witnesses to corroborate any information given by the four witnesses, the sources said.
Besides, once New Delhi grants permission to cross-examine the four witnesses, Islamabad will be expected to reciprocate by granting access to Pakistani suspects for an Indian judicial commission that is expected to visit the country at a later stage.
The Indian side also wants some sort of assurance from Pakistani authorities that the findings of the second judicial commission will not be summarily rejected by the anti-terrorism court that is conducting the trial of seven men charged with involvement in the Mumbai attacks.
Lashkar-e-Taiba operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi is among those charged with planning, financing and executing the attacks that killed 166 people in November 2008.
The findings of the first Pakistani judicial commission that visited India in March were rejected by the anti-terrorism court as the panel’s members were not allowed to cross-examine the Indian witnesses.
The trial of the Pakistani suspects has made little or no headway for months due to various technical and legal issues.
The Lahore High Court has barred the anti-terrorism court from using Kasab’s confession while defence lawyers have contended that existing Pakistani laws do not allow witnesses in another country to depose via video conferencing.