26/11 attack: India awaits Pakistan response on witness testimony

26/11 attack: India awaits Pakistan response on witness testimony
A file image of the iconic Taj hotel in Mumbai after 26/11 terror attacks

NEW DELHI: In the middle of Islamabad’s apparent clampdown on UN designated terrorists, the Mumbai attacks trial in Pakistan seems to have hit another roadblock with the Imran Khan government not responding to India’s offer to host a judicial commission for examining witnesses in Mumbai.

Official sources said Pakistan had ignored India’s bid to facilitate the questioning of the remaining 27 witnesses in the case either through video conferencing or by sending a team to examine them. Pakistan has instead chosen to attribute the delay in trial to India’s refusal to send witnesses to Pakistan. Previously, the trial was affected by frequent change of judges and prosecutors.

As first reported by TOI on August 18 last year, the government offered to host a judicial commission after Pakistan approached India saying the witnesses needed to testify within 90 days as per a court directive. This had raised hopes of some progress in the 11-year-old trial that has been marred by repeated transfer of judges and prosecution lawyers. India had later also asked Pakistan to prosecute Pakistani-American David Headley for his role in the Mumbai attacks.

With individuals like Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Hafiz Saeed still not brought to justice for their role in the Mumbai attacks, India has described as farcical recent actions against these designated international terrorists. Pakistan has also refused to allow video conferencing with witnesses saying that they could be intimidated by Indian authorities while they are examined.

The Mumbai trial was initiated after Pakistan in 2009 arrested seven men said to be directly involved in the terror attack. Apart from Lakhvi, Abdul Wajid, Mazhar Iqbal, Hamas Sadie, Shahid Jameel Riaz, Jamil Ahmed and Younis Anjum are facing charges of abetment to murder, attempted murder, planning and executing the 2008 attacks. Pakistan hasn’t booked Saeed, described by India as the mastermind, saying there isn’t enough evidence against him.

Lakhvi got bail in 2015 after the prosecution failed to present evidence against him before the court. The LeT commander has now been arrested and sentenced to 15 years in jail for terror financing but this has nothing to do with his role in the 26/11 attacks. The US asked Pakistan on Saturday to hold Lakhvi accountable for his involvement in the 26/11 attacks.

Pakistan is currently under pressure from global terror watchdog FATF to demonstrate “effective implementation” of targeted financial sanctions against all UN 1267 and 1373 designated terrorists and those acting for or on their behalf.