26/11 trial: Pak court seeks Kasab, Ansari

The court said the case cannot proceed unless key witnesses are examined.

Islamabad: A Pakistani anti-terrorism court
conducting the trial of LeT`s Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and six
others charged with involvement in the Mumbai attacks Saturday said the case cannot proceed unless key witnesses like Ajmal
Kasab and Fahim Ansari are examined.

Judge Malik Muhammad Akram Awan made the observation
after prosecution lawyers were unable to satisfy him on two
key issues - the serving of a non-bailable arrest warrant
issued for Ansari and the receipt of written permission from
India for sending a commission to interview key witnesses.

The judge, who conducted the in-camera proceedings at the
anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi, said a report submitted by
the prosecution mentioned that another non-bailable arrest
warrant issued for lone surviving Mumbai attacker Ajmal Kasab
could not be served as he was on death row following his
conviction and sentencing by an Indian court.

However, the prosecution`s report was silent on the
arrest warrant issued for Ansari, an Indian suspect who was
acquitted by the court in Mumbai, the judge noted.

Unless the process of serving the warrant is completed
and the court gets an opportunity to examine witnesses like
Ansari, the trial cannot move forward, the judge was quoted as
saying by sources.

The judge also heard detailed arguments by the
prosecution and defence lawyers on the government`s
application to set up a commission to visit India to interview
24 key witnesses, including Kasab, the magistrate who recorded
Kasab`s confession and the police officer who led the probe
into the Mumbai attacks.

The prosecution was unable to satisfy the judge that
Pakistan had received written permission from Indian
authorities for the commission to visit India, the sources

Defence lawyers produced clippings from the Indian media
which said the Indian government would consider allowing the
commission to visit the country if it received a request from
Pakistani authorities.

The prosecution then sought four weeks from the court to
complete various formalities and Judge Awan scheduled the next
hearing for November 13.

The prosecution also contended that the case had been
complicated because of Red Corner Notices issued by Interpol
at India`s request for two serving Pakistani Army officers,
the sources said.

Arguments on the proposal to send the commission to India
are expected to be completed at the next hearing, the sources

Interior Minister Rehman Malik recently admitted that the
trial of the seven Pakistani suspects had stalled and it was
imperative for the commission to visit India and record the
testimony of key witnesses.

However, lawyers defending the suspects have refused to
be part of the commission.

The trial of the Pakistani suspects has been mired in
controversy and delays since last year. The court has been
able to record the testimony of only one out of over 160
witnesses so far.