Visit of Pak judicial panel gets impetus

India has agreed to send a team of officials to Islamabad "very soon" to have discussions on the terms and conditions for the visit of a judicial commission from Pakistan. The panel wants to come to India to cross-examine four key witnesses in relation with the ongoing Pakistani trial against conspirators of the Mumbai terror attack of 2008.

Home Secretary R K Singh told The Indian Express that the date for the team's visit to Pakistan had not yet been decided but it would happen "very soon".

Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik, who flew back to his country after a three-day visit to India, said earlier in the morning that the Indian team was to come to Pakistan on Tuesday itself.

India had allowed a judicial commission from Pakistan to visit Mumbai in March this year but it had not been given access to four key witnesses it wanted to cross-examine. Pakistan has been insisting that its judicial process requires the statement of these four witnesses. Malik has said that had India allowed its request a few months earlier, the trial against the seven conspirators in Pakistan would have been completed by now.

"I hope that the judicial commission would be able to come to India and cross-examine the four witnesses by the first week of January," Malik said at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) lecture. Sources in the Home Ministry, however, said that the timeline could be longer.

So keen was Malik on expediting the visit of the judicial commission that, at the delegation-level talks on Friday, he offered to take some NIA officials on his own flight to Pakistan to work out the arrangements. The Indian side, however, turned down the offer.

Malik has been saying that the conspirators, against whom India is demanding action, are being let off by the courts in the absence of the statements of these four witnesses.

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