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Mainstream, Vol. XLVII, No 34, August 8, 2009

Murder of Judicial Trial

Sunday 16 August 2009, by Sushil Vakil

The latest U-turn by Pakistan on sentencing the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack is indeed an important wake-up call for India. The way the Pakistani judiciary is handling the trial gives ample proof that judges are not applying their judicial minds but are following the dictums of the government. The arrest and subsquent release of Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Sayeed and regular postphoning of the trial of the other five accused is a pointer in this direction. It is strange that despite Pakistan’s owning up the identity of some of the accused the country is dithering in bringing them to justice, citing one reason or the other.

The government sponsored trial adds credence to the fact that Pakistan is simply buying time to absorb the international pressure to act against terror outfits. By initiating trial against Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Sayeed, Lashker-e-Toiba commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and others, Pakistan had created an impression that it means business. But the subsquent release of Hafiz by the High Court for want of sufficient evidence demonstrated that Pakistan was still playing the old and dirty games. Hafiz was released from house arrest on June 2 when the Lahore High Court ruled it did not have enough evidence against him on terrorism charges.

The JuD chief was detained by Pakistani security officials December last when India accused him of involvement in plotting the bloody assault on Mumbai hotels in November 2008, followed by a UN Security Council resolution that added Jamaat-ud-Dawa to a list of organisations tied to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

Besides India, Kasab had also confessed during the trial that Hafiz was very much in the know of things that were happening and it was he who supervised the Mumbai terror attacks and was directly responsible for the training of the operatives and execution of the operation. In the list of 35 accused wanted by Mumbai Police in connection with the November 26-29, 2008 Mumbai terror attack, the Mumbai attack plotter Hafiz Saeed figures on the top.

It is ironical that despite the US pressure Pakistan has released one of the main accused against whom India had provided ample proof. Evidently, Hafiz’s exoneration has raised eyebrows in the West; yet Pakistan is brushing aside any action against terrorists or their harbourers.

SURPRISINGLY, while the court has found no evidence against Hafiz’s terror links, Deputy Attorney General Shah Khawar has admitted that Pakistan’s law enforcement and intelligence agencies have enough evidence to suggest that a freed Hafiz Saeed is a continuing security threat. To nail Hafiz the Punjab provincial government and the federal government of Pakistan have filed petitions before the Pakistani Supreme Court seeking a reversal of the decision of the Lahore High Court.

Moreover, the trial court hearing the 26/11 terror attack cases against absconding accused is adjourned again and again. Firstly, the trial was adjourned till July 18 without any proceedings. It has been now again adjourned till August 29. According to agency reports, the Court headed by Baqar Ali Rana met briefly on Monday and adjourned the hearing till August 29 without framing the charges as was expected.

As a matter of fact the latest refusal by Pakistan to arrest Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed is a ‘very major setback’ to the efforts being made by India to bring the perpetrators of Mumbai attacks to justice. However, it is unfortunate that instead of severing its relations, India is offering sop after sop to Pakistan. So much so that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has recently agreed to delinking terror from the composite dialogue. There is a verbal war but no real action except exchanging of dossiers. Instead of replying to the dossiers, Pakistan is blaming India for fomenting trouble in Balochistan.

Keeping in view Pakistan’s obstinancy in not bringing to book the people responsible for the 26/11 terror strikes, India needs to stall all diplomatic, business, transport and tourist links with Islamabad. Otherwise, Pakistan will continue to play the hide-and-seek terror game not only with India but with other countries too.

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