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India, Pak fine-tune details before Pak commission visit

Last updated on: March 13, 2012 21:07 IST
Toral Varia Deshpande brings you a low-down on the visit the of Pakistan judicial high commission to Mumbai in connection with the 26/11 case. 

In the first-ever visit of its kind a nine member judicial commission from Pakistan is expected to visit India to purportedly gather more evidence by recording statements of witnesses in an attempt to further the 26/11 case in the courts of Pakistan.

"A detailed schedule is awaited from the commission but I can confirm that the members are landing on the 14th of March in New Delhi," said Manzoor Memon, press attache of the Pakistan high commission. Apart from two special public prosecutors -- Zulfikar Ali Choudhary and Mhd Azhar Choudhary -- two court officials and five defence lawyers, including defence lawyer for Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, is expected to come to India.

Even as authorities in both India and Pakistan are fine-tuning the minor details of the commission's visit, hectic consultations between departments are on in the Mumbai police headquarters. After meeting and debriefing the home ministry officials in New Delhi, the judicial commission is expected to proceed to Mumbai on the Thursday evening. "In our instructions we have been told that the proceedings will take place during regular court working hours on Friday, Saturday, Monday and if need be on Tuesday," informed an officer of the Mumbai police.

The commission will be recording the statements of investigating officer of the 26/11 case Senior Police Inspector Ramesh Mahale, Ganesh Neutkar of the forensic department, Shailesh Mohite professor and head of department of the forensic science department of Nair Hospital, and Rama Sawant Waghule -- the magistrate who recorded Kasab's confession statement just hours after his arrest.

While Pakistan's senior public prosecutor has been quoted by the media as stating that they are looking to 'record' and 'cross examine' statements of witnesses, Indian authorities insist that no decision on cross examination has been taken. Legal experts have told that at least according to the Indian laws, if a statement is not cross examined then it's not considered as evidence.

However, according to one of the officers involved in the investigation of the 26/11 case, "Indian government has agreed to cooperate only because Pakistan is at least making an attempt to strengthen the case against 26/11 perpetrators." According to the special provisions available in the laws of Pakistan, the commission has been empowered to examine witnesses in a foreign country.

On the security front, Mumbai police will be providing almost a Z plus level of security. The members are going to be accommodated in a plush south Mumbai hotel. As far as the proceedings are concerned very few and select members of the Indian investigative team will be allowed in the court room. No media accesses to the proceedings have been granted. Adequate arrangements have been made in the court of the chief metropolitan magistrate located on the top floor of Qila court in Mumbai. 

The commission will also not be allowed to meet or contact the sole surviving terrorist of the attacks, Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab. Pakistan's request for an interview with Kasab had been turned down earlier by India.
Toral Varia Deshpande in Mumbai