26/11: Pak forms judicial panel to visit India

Pakistan has issued a notification on the formation of a judicial commission that will visit India to interview key officials and witnesses linked to the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Updated: Dec 09, 2011, 18:37 PM IST

Islamabad/Lahore: Pakistan has issued a
notification on the formation of a judicial commission that
will visit India to interview key officials and witnesses
linked to the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

But lawyers for seven Pakistani suspects, including LeT
commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, said they would not join the
panel due to security concerns.

A gazette notification has listed the members who will
represent Pakistan government in the judicial commission,
sources said.

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, the
sources said.

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

However, Lakhvi`s counsel Khwaja Sultan said today
that none of the defence lawyers would go to India with the
commission.

He cited security concerns as the reason for this
decision made by the lawyers.

"Our clients are of the view that our lives will be in
danger if we go to India to question the witnesses in the
Mumbai case," Sultan said.

Repeating his erroneous claim that Kasab`s lawyer had
been killed in India, Sultan said: "Besides, the Indian
government cannot provide us security."

His remarks were an apparent reference to the killing of
Shahid Azmi, the counsel for Fahim Ansari, Kasab`s co-accused.

Azmi was gunned down by unidentified men in February last
year.

Sultan further said the defence lawyers would argue
against sending the commission to India at tomorrow`s hearing
of the Mumbai attacks case by anti-terrorism court judge
Shahid Rafique.

The Pakistani judicial commission will work with Indian
law officers to question and record the statements of
witnesses and key officials, including the magistrate who
recorded Kasab`s confession, the police officer who led the
investigation in Mumbai and doctors who conducted the
autopsies of the victims and attackers.

During the last hearing of the case on December 3, judge
Rafique had directed the defence lawyers to complete all
formalities to be included in the judicial commission.

Responding to concerns expressed by defence lawyers about
possible security threats in India and the cost of the visit
to the neighbouring country, the judge ordered the lawyers to
submit their passports and furnish other details so that they
could be part of the commission.

Prosecutors said all the expenses of defence lawyers
would be borne by Pakistan government.

An Indian judge is expected to chair the proceedings of
the Pakistani commission in Mumbai.

The prosecution has said it is important for the
commission to visit India so that the trial in Pakistan can be
taken forward.

It further said countries like the US, whose citizens
were killed in the Mumbai attacks, were anxiously waiting for
progress in the trial.

PTI