26/11: Pakistani panel`s India visit was `futile`

The eight-member Pakistani judicial commission travelled to Mumbai last week.

Lahore: A Pakistani judicial panel`s recent visit to India as part of the probe into the Mumbai attacks will have "zero impact" on the case of seven suspects charged with involvement in the incident, according to the lawyer of a LeT commander accused of masterminding the 2008 strikes.

"We have come back with disappointment. Had we known that the commission`s members would not be allowed to cross-examine the four witnesses, we would have refused to go to India," Khwaja Haris Ahmed, the lawyer for Lashkar-e-Toiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, said.

"There was no point in carrying out this exercise as it will have zero impact on the case of the seven accused here. Even Pakistani prosecutors were not satisfied with the outcome of the visit. None of us was expecting that it would be a futile exercise," he claimed.

The eight-member commission, which travelled to Mumbai last week, recorded the statements of the police officer who led the investigation into the attacks, the magistrate who recorded the confession of Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving attacker, and two doctors who conducted the autopsies of the dead terrorists and victims.

The Pakistani commission returned from India last evening.

Indian officials, who did not want to be named, expressed surprise at the remarks made by members of the commission about being barred from cross-examining the Indian officials in Mumbai.

"Under the agreement for the commission`s visit, it was made very clear beforehand that the panel would not be allowed to do any cross-examination," one official said.

Similarly, the Indian officials said that the Pakistani side had been told well in advance that no access would be granted to Kasab. Ahmed said when members of the Pakistani commission raised the issue of cross-examination, Indian prosecutors said an agreement signed by the governments of both countries in
2010 stated that there would be no cross-examination of each other`s witnesses.

"We demanded the copy of the agreement but they could not produce it on three separate occasions in the court of chief metropolitan magistrate (in Mumbai)," he claimed.

"Even if both governments had signed such an agreement, under the law it has no value. Without cross-examination how can the witnesses` statements be useful in the case?" he asked.

Ahmed said the four Indian witnesses appeared in the Mumbai court and recorded their statements.

"Our presence there was immaterial as we were denied cross-examination," he said.

Asked about the commission not being allowed to meet Kasab, Ahmed said: "That was not an issue. The issue was that of cross examination, which might have had an impact on the case in Pakistan and for which we had gone to India," he said.

Ahmed dismissed as baseless some media reports that said the Pakistani commission had not been treated well by its hosts.

"It was not the case. Rather we were given good security and accommodation. Our Indian hosts extended full cooperation during our stay," he said.

The commission`s members will inform the Pakistani anti-terrorism court conducting the trial of Lakhvi and six other suspects about their visit on Saturday.

The seven suspects have been charged with planning, financing and executing the terror attacks that killed 166 people in the Indian financial hub in November 2008.

Their trial has virtually stalled for over a year due to various technical reasons.


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