Islamabad: The Pakistani anti-terrorism court conducting the trial of 7 suspects in the Mumbai attacks case reserved its verdict on a government request to send a commission to India to interview key witnesses, even as the judge handling the case was changed.
Judge Rana Nisar Ahmed, who took over the case from Judge Malik Muhammad Akram Awan, was briefed on developments in the trial.
Following this, he reserved his verdict on the government`s petition to send a commission to India to interview 24 witnesses, including the lone surviving attacker Ajmal Kasab.
The prosecution informed the court that it could not serve or enforce arrest warrants issued for Kasab and Fahim Ansari, who are currently in the custody of Indian authorities.
The prosecution also told the judge that Indian authorities had refused to hand over the two key witnesses and they could not be tried in Pakistan along with the seven suspects, including Lashker-e-Toiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, sources said.
The judge subsequently adjourned the case till November 23, when he is expected to rule on the government`s request to send the commission to India.
This is the third time that the judge conducting the trial of the Pakistani suspects has been changed since the proceedings began early last year.
There was no official word on why the judge had been changed.
On at least one occasion in the past, the judge was changed after he expressed his inability to continue due to threats from militant elements.
Pakistani national Kasab has been convicted and sentenced to death by a Mumbai-based special court that also acquitted Ansari.
However, Ansari continues to be in custody in connection with other charges.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik recently admitted that the trial of the seven suspects had stalled and it was imperative for a commission to visit India and record the testimony of key witnesses, including Kasab.
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 completed recording the testimony of only one out of over 160 witnesses so far.