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HindustanTimes Sat,20 Sep 2014

LeT threat slowing down 26/11 trial: Pak PM’s aide

Harinder Baweja, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, July 27, 2014
First Published: 00:22 IST(27/7/2014) | Last Updated: 08:21 IST(27/7/2014)

Citing “some fear” of the Lashkar-e-Taiba in the judiciary, the Nawaz Sharif government is pondering the possibility of holding in-camera proceedings to add speed to the 26/11 trial being conducted in an anti-terror court in Islamabad.

“There is some fear in the judiciary because followers of the LeT accused often assemble in the courtroom in large numbers. We are examining a proposal to have an in-camera trial,’’ Sartaj Aziz, security and foreign affairs adviser to the Pakistan PM, told HT over the phone from Islamabad.

A day after announcing foreign secretary level talks, scheduled for August 25, India’s ministry of external affairs summoned Pakistan’s Delhi-based deputy high commissioner. MEA expressed its displeasure over the lack of progress in the prosecution of Lashkar’s military commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and six others for their involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people.

In the five and a half years since the devastating terror strikes directed from a control room in Karachi, where Lakhvi was also present, little progress has been made to bring the perpetrators to justice. In a calibrated effort, India also sent its Islamabad-based deputy high commissioner to Pakistan’s foreign office to protest the repeated delays. The trial has seen seven adjournments in quick succession, the last being on July 23.

Aziz, however, contended that the Sharif government has tried hard to push the case against the Lashkar accused. “We sent a judicial commission to India and have recorded statements of all witnesses. We have done a lot more than the previous (Zardari) government.”

Read: India summons Pak diplomat over 26/11 trial

Senior officials in the Pakistan establishment privately concede that the level of fear among the judges is massive. One top official told HT that “the judges are scared of being killed and the pressure on them is immense. Lashkar supporters regularly throng the court room in an attempt to intimidate the judges.”

The officials point to the fact that the judge who convicted the killer of Punjab province governor Salman Taseer, had to be bailed out to Saudi Arabia along with his family. He had been facing regular threats after he delivered the order against Taseer’s bodyguard who drilled 27 bullets into him.

Officials in Islamabad and Delhi also confirm that Pakistan has shared this concern with its Indian counterparts in bilateral engagements.

A senior MEA representative said, “They have voiced concerns about the threat to their judges, but we have reminded them that progress in the trial remains crucial to progress between the two countries.”


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