26/11 case: Pak judicial panel leaves for India



Lahore: A Pakistani judicial commission on Wednesday left for India to collect evidence and question officials as part of efforts to prosecute LeT commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and six other suspects charged with involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

The eight-member commission, which is headed by special prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali, flew from Lahore to Delhi, where they will be briefed by senior officials before travelling to Mumbai.

Prosecutor Chaudhry Azhar, a member of the panel, told reporters at the Lahore airport that the commission had no powers to conduct an investigation or inquiry and would only collect evidence and question Indian officials on behalf of the Pakistani anti-terrorism court that is conducting the trial of the seven suspects.

"We are not investigating. We are going there to collect evidence from the witnesses there, including the chief investigation officer, a metropolitan magistrate who recorded (lone surviving attacker) Ajmal Kasab's confession and two doctors who conducted the post-mortem of those killed in the incident," Azhar said.

"There is no inquiry it is the collection of evidence on behalf of the trial court in Pakistan. At the request of the Pakistan government, the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court has set up a special court and we have to conclude our work during March 14-22," he said.

The commission includes Azad Khan, a Deputy Director of the Federal Investigation Agency, a representative of the anti-terrorism court who is taking records of the trial, and four defence lawyers.

The panel expects to complete its work in four to five days, Azhar said.

He contended that Pakistan had not received "all the evidence we had sought from India" though the Indian authorities had agreed to make "four witnesses available whom we will examine".

Pakistan had asked India to hand over Kasab for trial but "they said we have no agreement with you and we can't give him to you", he said.

Asked if the commission's visit would lead to similar cooperation between the two countries, Azhar said Pakistan was fully cooperating with India to control terrorism and expected India to "proceed against the culprits who burnt the Samjhauta Express".

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

Malik Rafique, one of the defence lawyers, decided not to travel to India with the commission. He cited security concerns as the reason for his decision.

The commission can only record the statements of the Indian officials 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.

PTI