Pakistan on Sunday formally sought the custody of Ajmal Amir Kasab — the lone surviving terrorist from the 2008 Mumbai attacks — and requested Indian magistrates to testify in the Rawalpindi trial of seven Lashkar-e-Taiba men charged with involvement in that crime.
The formal request was made by the Foreign Office when officials submitted a dossier to Indian Deputy High Commissioner Rahul Kulshreshth here on Sunday morning. On Saturday, Interior Minister Rehman Malik indicated Pakistan would seek Kasab's custody as his confessional statement was crucial for the prosecution's case against the seven men.
The dossier submitted by the Foreign Office is understood to be a response to the one India handed over to Pakistan in February at the Foreign Secretary-level talks. Indian High Commission officials said the dossier would be sent to India for further examination. Also, the legal ramifications of Pakistan's request for custody of Kasab will have to be scrutinised as the two countries do not have an extradition treaty.
Besides, the Interior Ministry wants India to allow the metropolitan magistrates and police officials who recorded Kasab's statement to appear before the Pakistan courts where the seven LeT men are under trial. Defence lawyers have been arguing that Kasab's confessional statement cannot be used against their clients because he was not being tried in the same court.
In view of this, the Federal Investigation Agency had informed the anti-terrorism court, where the seven are being tried, that it would approach Interpol to issue Red Corner Notices for Kasab and Fahim Ansari (who allegedly conducted reconnaissance for the attack).
India reacts cautiously
Special Correspondent adds from New Delhi:
Indian officials on Sunday reacted cautiously to the Pakistani request for the Mumbai magistrates and investigating officer to testify before the Rawalpindi court. Asked by The Hindu if this was a step forward, a senior official said “Maybe.” “There are too many moving parts [right now] to take a call.” He said it was a potential step forward but one could not conclude that with certainty yet.
Senior lawyers said India could consider Pakistan's request if the magistrates concerned were prepared to be examined as witnesses voluntarily. Shanti Bhushan said if Kasab's confessional statement implicating some other accused facing trial in Pakistan required corroboration as per Pakistani law, India could consider such a request. P.P. Rao said the law allowed for such evidence to be provided in writing as well.
The Pakistani dossier and request comes on the eve of the SAARC summit in Bhutan, where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is likely to meet his Pakistani counterpart, Yusuf Raza Gilani, on the sidelines.