26/11: Pakistani judicial panel begins visit to India

New Delhi, March 14: A Pakistani judicial commission arrived here Wednesday and will record the statements of key officials related to the 26/11 Mumbai carnage probe, an important step Islamabad says will quicken the trial of the Mumbai terror accused.

A judicial commission is visiting India as bilaterally agreed between the two governments to fulfill the legal requirements of the trial of the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attacks, said the Pakistan high commission in a statement here.

The judicial commission comprising eight members, four defence lawyers, two prosecutors, a member from the joint investigation team and a court official reached New Delhi Wednesday, the high commission said.

The commission members include Special Public Prosecutors Zulfikar Ali Chaudhari and Mohd. Azhar Choudhary, Khwaja Haris, Fakhar Hayat, Riyaz Akram Choudhary, Raja Ahsanullah Khan, Isam Bin Haris and Azad Khan.

The panel will visit Mumbai Thursday to record the statements of Ramesh Mahale, an investigating officer, and R.V. Sawant Waghule, the magistrate who recorded the confessional statement of the lone surviving Pakistani gunman, Ajmal Kasab, according to government sources.

Kasab was among 10 Pakistanis who attacked Mumbai Nov 26, 2008, and unleashed a mayhem in the city that killed 166 people and injured several others.

The judicial panel will also question Nair Hospital medical officer (forensic department) Shailesh Mohit and state government-run JJ Hospital’s medical officer (forensic department) Ganesh Nitukar, who conducted the autopsies of the terrorists and victims.

Special Public Prosecutor in the 26/11 terror attack trial Ujjwal Nikam would accompany Indian officers to be questioned by the Pakistani panel.

Waghule and Mahale have been summoned March 16, said sources. The statements of the doctors will be recorded March 17.

The panel will present the statements of the four Indians related to the probe before an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan, which is conducting trial against seven suspects who are currently in Pakistani custody for their alleged role in the 26/11 carnage.

The suspects include Lashkar-e-Taiba’s Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind behind planning, financing and executing the Mumbai terror attacks.

Nikam, who represented the Maharashtra government in the trial against Kasab, has been appointed to assist the commission which will examine the witnesses at the Esplanade court itself.

Islamabad has contended that the charges against the seven Lashkar-e-Taiba militants were based on Kasab’s statement and hence the magistrate and the investigating officer’s statements were necessary to be furnished before the anti-terror court.

Last year, Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik had said that Kasab, convicted by an Indian court for the 26/11 terror attack, should be hanged.

Pakistan contends that the judicial commission’s report will quicken the trial of the seven terrorists in Pakistani custody.

‘Once that commission will go to India, its findings are important for the judicial process in Pakistan. When the findings are there, they will be covering all the legal sides. Then there will be some judicially-satisfactory statements,’ he had said.

IANS