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India has cleared Pak panel visit probing Mumbai attacks: Malik

India has cleared the second visit of a Pakistani judicial comm to cross-examine four officials in connection with the probe into the Mumbai attacks

Islamabad: India has cleared the second visit of a Pakistani judicial commission to cross-examine four officials in connection with the probe into the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said today.
India has given a green signal for the visit of the commission, which would travel to Mumbai without any delay, Malik told a news conference here this evening.
Though he did not give a date, sources said the commission is expected to travel to Mumbai by mid-February.

The commission had visited India in March last year but its findings were rejected by a Pakistani anti-terrorism court that is conducting the trial of seven suspects because the panel did not have the power to cross-examine four key witnesses.

Following negotiations between officials of the two countries in December, India agreed to allow the Pakistani commission to cross-examine the police officer who led the probe into the Mumbai attacks, the magistrate who recorded the confession of Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving attacker, and two doctors who performed the autopsies of the attackers.

Kasab was hanged last year in a jail in Pune.

Malik said Pakistan had decided to send the commission to India but there were "some legal requirements" which would be followed.

He said he had directed the Interior Secretary to issue a notification regarding the commission`s visit at the earliest.

The anti-terrorism court will also be approached to issue a fresh order regarding the panel`s visit.

Malik said the commission will comprise the same persons who had visited India last year.

Thanking Indian authorities, especially Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, for allowing the commission`s visit, he said: "This is a good omen as we are working together to eliminate terrorism, which has affected the people of the region".

Malik said it was Pakistan`s view the Mumbai incident was the outcome of an "international conspiracy as international players had worked together" to carry out the attacks.

"We did our work sincerely and registered cases and even arrested those people whose names were not mentioned in dossiers sent by India," he said.

He claimed the trial of the seven Pakistani suspects, including Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, was in the "final stages" as some 20 witnesses had testified and been cross-examined.

The remaining witnesses were expected to be examined within two months, he added.

Authorities had earlier acknowledged that the conspiracy behind the Mumbai attacks was hatched on Pakistani soil.

The trial of the seven suspects, who have been charged with planning, financing and executing the attacks that killed 166 people, has progressed at a snail`s pace due to repeated adjournments and various technical delays.

Though India blamed LeT founder Hafiz Mohammad Saeed for masterminding the attacks, Pakistan has refused to take action against him, saying the evidence provided by New Delhi is not adequate to prosecute him.

Officials have said the seven Pakistani suspects cannot be prosecuted unless the statements of the four Indian witnesses are brought on record.

This evidence can brought on record only if defence lawyers are allowed to cross-examine the witnesses.