Furious at the seventh consecutive adjournment in the 26/11 Mumbai attack trial by a Pakistan anti-terrorism court, India on Friday summoned its deputy high commissioner in New Delhi to lodge a strong protest. The Indian deputy high commissioner in Pakistan also met an official from the foreign office and sought a regular briefing on the progress of the trial and the investigation into the case.
The action comes two days after the two countries agreed to hold foreign secretary-level talks on August 25. India had called off the dialogue process after the Mumbai attack, and though talks resumed, both sides have been struggling to address the trust deficit left by the attack.
Friday’s action is a likely attempt by India to stress that progress in this case — in which seven Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operatives are facing trail — is important if the dialogue process is to proceed full steam ahead.
In its response, Pakistan highlighted the ‘fiercely independent’ nature of its judiciary and, in turn, raised the issue of a delay in the trial of the Samjhauta Express blasts case. It said that the families of its citizens who lost their lives in the incident had expressed concern over the delay.
“We have an independent judiciary… The executive cannot interfere in the working of the judiciary. The government is doing its best in bringing the evidence, presenting the witnesses etc and beyond that it is up to the judiciary.” Manzoor Ali Memon, spokesperson for the Pakistan High Commission, told HT.
The case has seen several adjournments. A hearing on Thursday and six others in May, June and earlier this month could not be held because the judge was on leave or because prosecution lawyers did not appear before the special court in Rawalpindi due to security concerns. There is genuine fear among officials in Pakistan of reprisals by the LeT against them for proceeding with the case.
The murder of special prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar and the exit of lawyer Riaz Akram Cheema, who quit citing personal reasons, has meant that progress has been incremental. LeT operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, Abdul Wajid, Mazhar Iqbal, Hamad Amin Sadiq, Shahid Jameel Riaz, Jamil Ahmed and Anjum have been charged with planning, financing and executing the attacks on Mumbai.
The next hearing is expected to come up in two weeks.