New judge hears afresh arguments in Mumbai case

During today`s in-camera hearing, the prosecution told the judge it was imperative for the commission to visit India and interview the witnesses in order to take forward the proceedings.

Last Updated: Dec 04, 2010, 20:26 PM IST

Islamabad: A Pakistani anti-terrorism court conducting the trial of seven suspects charged with
involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks today heard fresh arguments by the prosecution and defence lawyers on the government`s proposal to send a commission to India to
interview key witnesses.

Judge Rana Nisar Ahmed of the Rawalpindi-based court, who took over the case last month, had decided that he would hear afresh the arguments by the prosecution and defence on the government`s petition to send the commission to India to question witnesses like Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving
attacker.

During today`s in-camera hearing, the prosecution told the judge it was imperative for the commission to visit India and interview the witnesses in order to take forward the proceedings.

Defence lawyers opposed the move, saying there was no provision in Pakistani laws for constituting such a
commission, sources told a news agency.

The arguments remained inconclusive and would be taken up at the next hearing scheduled for December 18.

In another significant development, the prosecution team submitted a statement to the judge that said it would withdraw a petition it had filed in the Lahore High Court to challenge the anti-terrorism court`s decision not to declare Ajmal Kasab and Fahim Ansari as proclaimed offenders.

The prosecution team had approached the High Court earlier this year after the anti-terrorism court rejected its petition for Kasab and Ansari to be declared proclaimed offenders or fugitives.

Sources said the prosecution had decided to withdraw the petition in the High Court as it was perceived to be holding up proceedings in the anti-terrorism court.

Kasab has been convicted and sentenced to death by a special court in India for his role in the attacks that killed 166 people in November 2008.

The same court acquitted Ansari, an Indian national, though he continues to be in custody in connection with other cases.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said earlier this year that the trial of the seven suspects, including Lashker-e- Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, had stalled and it was
imperative for a commission to visit India and record the testimony of key witnesses.

However, lawyers defending the suspects have refused
to join 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 while the judge has
been changed thrice.

Pakistani authorities are yet to arrest 20 more
suspects named in documents submitted in the court in November
last year.

PTI