Though the India-Pakistan joint statement released in Ufa, Russia, speaks of finding a way to expedite the trial in the Mumbai terror attack case, India faces an uphill task in making Pakistan hand over the voice samples of Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi and other accused to corroborate evidence.
On Sunday, the chief of the prosecution team, Chaudhury Azar, told presspersons in Lahore that the government would not file a fresh petition in the trial court for obtaining Lakhvi’s voice sample. But Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit said it was too early to draw a conclusion. “I recommend to you to read the joint statement,” he told presspersons here.
The External Affairs Ministry did not comment on Mr. Azar’s statement.
India, Pak. differ on statement reference to voice samples
More differences have emerged over the phrase in the India-Pakistan joint statement issued in Ufa, Russia, that says both sides will “discuss ways and means of expediting the Mumbai case trial, including additional information like providing voice samples [of the accused to corroborate evidence]”.
Indian officials say this means “Pakistan will give India voice samples of Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi [an accused] to be matched with intelligence inputs [of commanders directing Ajmal Kasab and other attackers on the phone] to prove that he directed the attack”.
However, Pakistan’s Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid said: “Pakistan has included the Mumbai issue in the joint statement because we wanted India to provide us ‘solid evidence’ against the accused for their prosecution.”
Sources say that when the two Prime Ministers met, Pakistani officials assured India that despite the 2011 trial court order, the government would take the voice sample using the Investigation for a Fair trial Act, 2013, which gives the government special powers in surveillance and recording of terror suspects, and special powers accorded to state agencies investigating terror attacks under the National Action Plan after the Peshawar school massacre last December.
While it remains to be seen whether Pakistan’s government will keep its word despite its broken promises of voice samples more than five years ago, a Home Ministry official told The Hindu : “If Pakistan cannot provide the voice samples due to legal constraints, it can still use them in the court trial of some of the accused, who are facing other charges there. In case they get convicted, the same can be communicated as part of their reply to us, which will enable Indian agencies to establish their role in the Mumbai attack,” said another MHA official.
In the past five years, India has made several unsuccessful attempts to formally obtain the voice samples of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, Zaki-Ur-Rehman Lakhvi, Sajjid Majid, Illyas Kashmiri, retired Pak Army officer Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed and two ISI officers Major Iqbal and Major Sameer Ali.
The request was made after satellite phone intercepts revealed that Lakhvi and the others directed Ajmal Kasab and the 26/11 terrorists during the Mumbai attacks over the telephone.
During a visit by former Home Minister P. Chidambaram to Pakistan in June 2010, then-Interior Minister Rehman Mallik had publicly announced Pakistan would hand over the voice samples, and then reversed his stand a year later.
The National Investigation Agency has also named Hafiz Saeed and others along with David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana [both in U.S. custody] in its charge sheet alleging conspiracy by Lashkar-e-Taiba to carry out terror activities in India, including the 26/11 attack.
However, Pakistan’s government announced last week it would not seek a ban on the Jamat-ud-Dawa or its chief Hafiz Saeed, making chances of forward movement in the case, seem even bleaker.
(With agency inputs from Lahore)