Sunday , 26 May 2019

Anti-terror court summons last 2 Pak witnesses in 26/11 case

ISLAMABAD: An anti-terrorism court today summoned the last two Pakistani prosecution witnesses in the 2008 Mumbai terror attack case and directed officials to submit in the next hearing the “concrete response” on the availability of 27 Indian witnesses “so as to conclude the trial expeditiously”.

Ten Lashkar-e-Taiba militants killed 166 people and wounded dozens in Mumbai in November, 2008. Nine of the attackers were killed by police while the tenth attacker, Ajmal Kasab, was caught and executed after a trial in India.

The anti-terrorism court (ATC) is hearing the 26/11 Mumbai attack case since 2009. The case resurfaced in headlines, with progress in the trial coming under question, when ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif in a recent interview said that non-state actors had crossed the border to carry out the Mumbai attack.

The court Wednesday resumed hearing the case, with District Police Officer Dera Ghazi Khan Sohail Habib Tajik recording his statement in court before ATC Judge Shahrukh Arjumand, the Dawn reported.

The statements of two more Pakistani witnesses – Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Additional Director General Wajid Zia and another official, Zahid Akhter – are still required.

The prosecutors today, however, sought adjournment due to engagements at the accountability courts, the paper said.

The court subsequently asked Akhter to appear in the next hearing, while Zia will be “summoned for prosecution evidence on May 23”, the paper said. The prosecution completed the testimonies of 68 Pakistani witnesses last year.

The court Wednesday “observed with concern that since January 2016 upon the request of the prosecution, government functionaries sitting at the helm of affairs were directed repeatedly for producing 27 Indian nationals so as to give evidence in instant case, but till date no serious and final response has been given by the government”, the paper said.

“Now the case is in the final stages and only statements of two Pakistani officials have to be recorded, therefore, notice be served upon DG FIA, secretary of Interior and secretary for Foreign Affairs for submitting their final and concrete response in the court qua the availability of 27 Indian nationals so as to conclude the trial expeditiously,” the court said.

“The response of said three senior government representatives duly signed by them personally shall reach this court till next date,” it added.

In January 2016, the government had contacted India asking it to send the witnesses to Pakistan to testify against the Mumbai attacks suspects, including the alleged mastermind of the attacks, the paper said.

LeT operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, and the other suspects – Abdul Wajid, Mazhar Iqbal, Hammad Amin Sadiq, Shahid Jameel Riaz, Jamil Ahmed and Younus Anjum – are being tried by the ATC since 2009.  In August last year, the FIA also arrested Sufyan Zafar, the alleged financier of the attack.

Though a prime suspect in the case, the Lahore High Court had released Lakhvi on post-arrest bail in 2015 after he furnished Rs2 million in surety bonds.

The Indian government lodged a strong protest over his release.

Lakhvi’s request for exemption from appearing in court today was accepted.