26/11: A trial in Pakistan that hangs in the balance
New Delhi, Dec 07: Pakistan is not serious about prosecuting the founder of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, Hafiz Saeed and others who were involved in the planning and execution of the Mumbai 26/11 attack.
While Pakistan has arrested seven men including Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the operations commander of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, their trial has been stalled for several years.
Incidentally Lakhvi is out on bail since 2015. Now it is the responsibility of Pakistan to take action. They have shied away in the past citing different excuses, which is not working, said Raveesh Kumar, the spokesperson of the external affairs ministry during a weekly briefing.
The trial that hangs in balance:
It has been 11 years since the attack took place, but the trial still hangs in balance. India had in March 2017 sought the re-investigation of the case in Pakistan. Pakistan, however, rejected India's request, saying it was 'not possible as it (the trial) is at an advanced stage.
India also wanted Hafiz Saeed to be put to trial as he had masterminded the attack. Indian officials say that there is every attempt being made to delay the trial. The last India heard from Pakistan was when it wanted witnesses to be sent there. India termed the demand as an excuse to delay the trial further.
Pakistan was never serious about the trial. Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi too is off the hook. In the run up to the trial a judge even recused himself from the case as he was too scared to hear the case. Pakistan has done little to try any of the accused in the case. In fact it has not even brought Saeed to trial. India insisted that all proof relating to the attack had been sent to Pakistan, but there was no concrete evidence to suggest that the country was serious about probing this case.
The manner in which the case has been heard suggests that absolute mockery has been made of the justice system in Pakistan. In 11 years, 9 judges have changed. The anti-terrorism court (ATC) conducting the trial of seven Pakistani suspects charged with involvement in the attack had recently been changed taking the number to 9.
ATC Judge Sohail Akram who had been conducting the 26/11 case for the last two years was transferred to the Punjab judicial services in March. The Mumbai case is now being heard by Kausar Abbas Zaidi.
Besides Akram, the other judges who have been associated with the case that began in 2009 are Attiquer Rehman, Shahid Rafique, Malik Muhammad Akram Awan and Pervez Ali Shah.
Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi - the 2008 Mumbai terror attack mastermind- was granted bail in December 2014. Zaidi was the judge in the case at that time. Zaidi had cited "weak evidence, the registration of the FIR invoking irrelevant sections and hearsay evidence against Lakhvi" in his bail order.
There has been no hearing in the Mumbai case in the Pakistani ATC after Islamabad told New Delhi to send its 24 witnesses to record their statements if the case was to be decided soon. Lakhvi, Abdul Wajid, Mazhar Iqbal, Hamad Amin Sadiq, Shahid Jameel Riaz, Jamil Ahmed and Younis Anjum are facing charges of abetment to murder, attempted murder, planning and executing the attack that killed 166 people.
While Lakhvi has been living in an undisclosed location after getting bail, the other six suspects are lodged in Adiala and Rawalpindi.