Pak 26/11 panel to quiz officials from Mar 17

The panel will record the statements of key Indian officials in Mumbai during March 17-20 before returning to Pakistan.

Islamabad: A Pakistani judicial panel will
travel to India and interview key officials during March 17-20
as part of the probe into the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks,
prosecutors said on Saturday.

The Pakistani prosecutors gave anti-terrorism court Judge
Shahid Rafique details of the commission`s visit to India
beginning on March 14, sources said.

The panel will travel from Lahore to Delhi, where its
members will be briefed by Indian authorities. The next day,
the commission will travel to Mumbai.

The panel will record the statements of key Indian
officials in Mumbai during March 17-20 before returning to
Pakistan, the prosecutors told the court during proceedings
held behind closed doors at Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi.

The anti-terrorism court is conducting the trial of seven
suspects, including Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman
Lakhvi, who have been charged with planning, financing and
executing the terror attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people
in November 2008.

The judge also disposed of an application from defence
lawyers seeking the report of the chief investigation officer
in Mumbai and adjourned the case till March 17.

The defence lawyers lodged a protest with the court for
not providing them with copies of the itinerary of the visit
to India.

"Despite the court`s direction, the coordinator of the
commission is not providing us the itinerary," defence lawyer
Riaz Cheema said.

The court has appointed Fazal Majid, a Deputy Director in
the Interior Ministry, as the coordinator of the commission.

Cheema said: "We have been told that the coordinator will
provide us the itinerary on Monday".

He claimed the chief prosecutor had not confirmed whether
visas had been issued to the commission`s members by India.

Senior Indian officials said Pakistani authorities were
in touch with the Indian High Commission for processing the
visas for the nine members of the commission.

Besides two prosecutors and the coordinator, the
commission includes five defence lawyers and an official of
the Foreign Ministry.

The commission is scheduled to record the statements of
the magistrate who recorded the confession of Ajmal Kasab, the
lone surviving attacker, the police officer who led the
investigation in Mumbai and two doctors who conducted the
autopsies of the terrorists and victims.

The commission can only record the statements of these
persons and it cannot conduct any cross-examination, Indian
officials said.

The trial of the seven Pakistani suspects has stalled due
to various technical issues for the past year. Pakistani
prosecutors have said the commission`s visit to India is
necessary to take forward the trial.