ISLAMABAD: Admitting that the trial of LeT’s Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and six others charged with involvement in the Mumbai attacks is “stuck”, Pakistan Saturday said the formation of a commission to record the testimony of two key Indian witnesses is necessary to take things forward.
Interior Minister Mr Rehman Malik — who had a meeting with Indian High Commissioner Mr Sharat Sabharwal here Saturday morning — contended that the trial of the Pakistani suspects has run into problems over the issue of Indian witnesses testifying via video-conferencing as this is not allowed under Pakistani laws.
He said he had discussed the formation of the commission comprising “relevant officials”— which would visit India to record the statements of a magistrate and a police officer — during a recent telephonic conversation with his Indian counterpart Mr P Chidambaram.
Mr Chidambaram had told him that the Pakistani proposal would be “examined” when it is received, Mr Malik told reporters after meeting Mr Sabharwal at the Interior Ministry.
The Pakistani anti-terrorism court conducting the trial is yet to decide on India’s proposal that the witnesses should testify via video-conferencing “and the trial is stuck,” he said.
“We want this trial to go ahead. That’s why I have proposed to India, while talking to Mr Chidambaram, that how about if we move our case to our trial court and request them to appoint a commission?” he said.
Pakistani prosecutors will approach the Rawalpindi-based trial court on Monday with a petition on forming the commission, he said.
Though India proposed that the testimony of the two witnesses — the magistrate who recorded the confessional statement of lone surviving Mumbai attacker Ajmal Kasab and the police officer who investigated the incident — should be recorded via video conferencing, Mr Malik said this was not permitted by Pakistani laws.
Though such video-conferencing is not allowed under domestic laws, prosecutors have made a special request to the trial court to allow Indian witnesses to testify over a video link. The anti-terrorism court is yet to decide on this issue, Mr Malik said.
Mr Malik said he and Mr Chidambaram had discussed “matters related to security issues and certain aspects of the ongoing trial of the Mumbai blast accused in Pakistan” during their telephone conversation. He did not say when he had spoken to Mr Chidambaram.
He also said authorities in Islamabad expected to receive India’s response to Pakistan’s latest dossier on the Mumbai attacks early next week.
The next hearing in the trial of LeT’s operations commander Lakhvi and six other Pakistani suspects is scheduled for September 18.
The court is expected to take up the prosecution’s applications for recording the testimony of Indian witnesses via video-conferencing and for gathering voice samples of the accused on that date.
Defence lawyers have opposed both applications, saying they are not permitted under Pakistani laws.
In response to a question on the aid offered by India for victims of Pakistan’s devastating floods, Mr Malik said Prime Minister Mr Yousuf Raza Gilani had done the right thing by accepting the assistance.
“If they (India) have made a good gesture, we should not refuse it. The Prime Minister of Pakistan has taken a very right decision by accepting it,” he said.
India has offered aid worth 25 million dollars though Pakistan has said it should be routed through the United Nations instead of being provided directly.