Testing the Pakistan government’s commitment to bringing the perpetrators of 26/11 to book, India has conveyed to visiting dignitary Rehman Malik its readiness, for the first time, to allow a judicial commission from that country to cross-examine the Mumbai attack witnesses.
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But this will happen only if Indian investigators are, in exchange, allowed to examine proof against the Lashkar-e-Taiba submitted by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency to an Islamabad court hearing the 26/11 case.
Top government sources said home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde has offered to send joint secretary (internal security) Dharmender Sharma to Islamabad next week with a draft agreement to allow the judicial commission to visit India.
A judicial commission had visited India in March and recorded the statements of witnesses. But the Pakistan trial court had rejected its report on the basis that it didn’t cross-examine the witnesses.
The counter-commitment from Malik, advisor to the Pakistan prime minister on interior affairs, is to allow a National Investigation Agency (NIA) team to visit Pakistan next month to examine the 26/11 evidence — which includes photographs of Lashkar terror camps in Sindh, the attack motorboat and 350 other articles, including pink foam recovered from the camps. The pink foam is crucial evidence as it was found on both sides of the border.
Shinde also gave Malik material evidence in the form a rabid anti-India speech made by Lashkar patron Hafiz Saeed and the judicial statement of 26/11 gunman Ajmal Kasab indicting Saeed for his direct role in the attack.
The tape of the speech, in which Saeed exhorts jihadists to attack India, and Kasab's statement were handed over to Malik, who was also told that action must be taken against mastermind Saeed. New Delhi also plans to hand over e-mails of Lashkar terrorist David Coleman Headley mentioning Saeed to Pakistan soon.
In his statement to the magistrate, Kasab - who was hanged last month - had made it clear it was Saeed who selected the 10 gunmen for the 26/11 attack and even named him Abu Mujahid. "On the 13th day of Roza, the selected mujahideen were called to the office of Baitul Mujahideen camp and Hafiz Saeed told them the time for jihad had come. Now we have to decide how to attack Hindustan," Kasab said.
Although Malik conveyed to Shinde and Indian officials that he needed more proof to book Saeed, he verbally gave his approval to allow the NIA team to visit Pakistan next month as well as initiate the visit of the judicial commission to India soon. However, the Indian side is skeptical of Malik's commitment, given the Lashkar's clout with the ISI and Pakistan army.