Too many delays


With Pakistan indicting the seven people accused of planning and facilitating the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, the stage has finally been set for their trial. Charges have been framed against them and all seven have pleaded not guilty. Since the registration of the case against them in February, the process of bringing them to justice has been moving at an excruciatingly slow pace with the process being delayed on one pretext or another. There have been only 20 hearings over the past 10 months. During this period the court has been changed once and the judges twice. The case was adjourned seven times over the past two months. It is obvious that powerful interests were keen to ensure that the case did not reach the trial stage. The indictments are therefore important achievement. The trial is expected to begin in a few days.

Still, this could amount to nothing. If the court is convinced there is lack of ‘sufficient evidence’, the seven accused, who include Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, operations commander of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), could walk free as did Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, leader of the Jamaat-ud-Dawah.  Much will depend on how the court will view the eyewitness account of Ajmal Kasab who is standing trial in India. The defence has asked for his presence in the court during the trial. Will Pakistan seek his extradition? And will India agree? What emerges from the trial might not paint the Pakistan establishment in a positive light. Yet it is in the country’s interest that the trial is taken to its logical conclusion. Pakistan’s war against extremism and terrorism can be won only if the military operations against the terrorists are accompanied by the battle waged through the courts. The trial will be an important test case for Pakistan.

In India, a year after the attacks, Kasab’s trial in Mumbai grinds on. And just when it seemed the trial was entering its last lap, a complicating new angle has emerged following the arrest of David Headley and Tawwahur Rana. Reports suggest that the defence might raise this in court, delaying the trial. Meanwhile, the court has sacked Kasab’s lawyer Abbas Kazmi on charges of non-cooperation. Kazmi was said to be engaging in endless time-wasting tactics in court. But his sack itself might slow the trial further. The court must bear in mind that justice delayed is justice denied.

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