Lahore: A Pakistani court on Monday asked the federal government to respond by October 17 to a petition seeking the transfer of trial proceedings against LeT commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, from Rawalpindi to Lahore.
In his order, Lahore High Court Chief Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry also sought a report from an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi on progress in contempt of court proceedings against Interior Minister Rehman Malik.
The anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi is currently conducting the trial of seven Pakistani suspects, including Lashkar-e-Toiba`s Lakhvi, who have been charged with planning, financing and facilitating the attacks in November 2008 that killed 166 people.
Khwaja Sultan, the counsel for Lakhvi, alleged in the High Court that the trial of his client was not being conducted fairly and the anti-terrorism court was being influenced by the government.
He cited alleged security concerns as one of the reasons for the request to transfer the trial from Rawalpindi to Lahore.
Sultan contended: "The trial court is not working independently and the Pakistan government is already under pressure from India."
He said a contempt of court application had been moved against Interior Minister Malik for his reported remarks that a judicial commission would visit India to interview key persons even before the anti-terrorism court had granted permission for setting up the commission.
The defence lawyer further contended that the Federal Investigation Agency had filed an application for sending the judicial commission to India and had completed its arguments on the issue in the anti-terrorism court.
However, the defence lawyers were yet to make their arguments, Sultan claimed.
He further alleged that the statements made by Interior Minister Malik amounted to contempt of court as the anti-terrorism court had imposed a ban on disclosing matters related to its in-camera proceedings to the media.
Sultan said the anti-terrorism court had dropped the contempt proceedings against Malik merely on the basis of a clarification given by a government lawyer that the Interior Minister had great respect for courts.
No proceedings have been held in the anti-terrorism court for the past two weeks due to the non-availability of a judge to hear the case.
The petition filed by Lakhvi in the Lahore High court is expected to further delay proceedings in the anti-terrorism court.