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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The 26/11 Case - How Pakistan and its Judiciary Help the Terrorists - Part V

Meanwhile, interesting things had happened in the United States. A certain Daoud Gilani (also known as David Coleman Headley), an agent of US DEA, FBI, CIA and who also worked with the Pakistani ISI, LeT and Brigade 313 was arrested on Oct. 10 at O’Hare International Airport before boarding a flight to Philadelphia, en route to Pakistan. His fellow terror mate Tahawar Hussain Rana (48) was arrested on Oct. 18, 2009, at his home in Chicago. Headley revealed the connections between LeT and the Pakistani Army. He had done the reconnaissance at the Taj and the Trident, took extensive video footage (corroborated by Kasab) and had arranged for the ammunition to be made available there for the terrorists who were to came later. We will not go into those details yet again here.

As charges were framed on November 25, 2009, exactly a day before the anniversary of the carnage in circa 2008, the reason for Pakistan's action was far too apparent. The Indian Prime Minister, Man Mohan Singh, was visiting the United States and Pakistan wanted to appear doing all the right things by the book and earnestly too. Even as the Kasab trial in the Mumbai court was winding down, there were more delays in the 26/11 trial at ATC-I. This time, the hearing on December 5, 2009 was adjourned as defence lawyers struck work showing sympathy with those who were killed in the previous day's terrorist attack in Rawalpindi. The irony cannot be lost by anyone. Here was a set of lawyers who were defending some of the most dreaded terrorists in the world showing sympathy for victims of terrorist attacks ! In the farcical drama unfolding in ATC-I, every little delay counts ! So, the case was adjourned to December 12, when prosecution was asked to present its witness.

In the meanwhile, Ajmal Amir Kasab, retracted his confession that he had made a couple of months earlier. He now said that he came to Mumbai to act in films and that he was roaming in Juhu after having seen a late night movie in a theatre when he was arrested and falsely implicated by the local Mumbai police. He went on to claim that all the 26/11 terrorists were Indians after all !! His sudden about turn was laughable because there was overwhelming evidence against him and his own confession was corroborated by evidences, both eyewitness and scientific. Even the Pakistani investigating agency, FIA, said in a report to ATC that they had enough evidence to corroborate Kasab's confession in Mumbai. For the record, Kasab had made three confessions after his arrest. One was admission of guilt before police soon after his arrest, the other confession was made before a magistrate which is admissible as evidence and the third one was in the trial court when the accused accepted his guilt partially.

When ATC-I re-convened on December 12 at Adiala, the accused raised legal objections to their indictment. They raised the objection that since the judge had been replaced last month, the new judge could not indict the accused based on the charges accepted by the previous judge ! The case was thus adjourned to December 19. When the hearing started on December 19, the defence raised a slew of objections. The defence
  • challenged the Pakistani court's decision to separate their trial from that of Kasab.
  • demanded in earlier hearings that Kasab should be brought to Pakistan so that he could be cross-examined and tried under Pakistani laws.
  • objected to the indictment of the accused by Judge Awan on the basis of charges that were framed and argued while the case was being heard by the previous judge, Baqir Ali Rana.
  • demanded acquital because Ajmal Kasab had already retracted his confession in the Mumbai court.
  • said that the accused had been charged with criminal conspiracy, but without mentioning the motive or the place where they had hatched the conspiracy.
So, instead of the formal trial starting, the case was still in the pre-trial stage. Now that Man Mohan Singh's US visit was over, Pakistan was again back to playing games until another situation demanded the facde of serious action. On December 19, the court reserved the judgement on the these appeals and adjourned the hearing until December 24. Again, when the court met on December 24th, not unusually in this trial, the case was adjourned to January 6, 2010 because the judge was absent due to 'personal engagement'. On the appointed day, the judge rejected the applications filed by the accused and asked the prosecution to present its witnesses on January 16. Then, three days before the D-Day for the real beginning of the trial, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi filed an application in LHC praying for the case to be transferred to Lahore because he feared for his life and the lives of his defence lawyers in Rawalpindi from the Indian intelligence agency Research & Analysis Wing (RAW)! The jihadi-pasand then Chief Justice of LHC, Justice Khwaja Muhammad Sharif, immediately issued notices to the federal Interior Secretary, Attorney General and Advocate General of Punjab province to respond to Lakhvi's plea at the next hearing, which was scheduled for January 21, 2010. Lakhvi also accused India preposturously of 'pressurizing the ATC-I judge' and 'resorting to blackmail linking peace talks with a favourable outcome to the 26/11 trial.' Another set of irrelevant reasons to cause further delay. The ATC Judge now has an excuse to postpone hearings until the case in LHC is disposed off one way or another. The frivolous case was dismissed by the LHC on January 22. When the trial re-commenced at ATC-I on January 23, the case was immediately adjourned to January 30 as the defence lawyers boycotted proceeding on account of 'lack of security for them'. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation's (SAARC) Home Ministers' conference was coming up in February 2010 and therefore one would expect some interesting moves by Pakistan on the 26/11 case. Let us see what really happened in the next installment. (. . . To Be Continued . . .)

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