The trial of seven suspects accused of involvement in the Mumbai terror attacks was adjourned for a week apparently due to concerns among Pakistani authorities that any adverse developments in the proceedings could impact ongoing talks with India. When lawyers defending the suspects, including Lashkar-e-Tayiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, reached Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, where the trial is being conducted, they were informed that Judge Malik Muhammad Akram Awan was on leave.
The lawyers were also informed that the case had been adjourned for a week and the next hearing was scheduled forJuly 3. However, sources told PTI that a decision was made on Friday night by authorities to put off the hearing scheduled for Saturday in view of Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram's visit to Islamabad to attend a SAARC meeting and to hold talks with his Pakistani counterpart Rehman Malik. The authorities were concerned that any sort of adverse development during proceedings in the trial could cast a shadow on the re-engagement process between India and Pakistan and thus decided to get the hearing adjourned for a week, the sources said.
Shahbaz Rajput, a lawyer defending some of the accused, protested the adjournment of the trial, saying: "These are all part of delaying tactics being adopted by the government." Rajput also noted that the government is yet to appoint a replacement for Special Public Prosecutor Malik Rab Nawaz Noon, who died of a sudden heart attack recently. "Such matters affect the proceedings in court and affect the interests of my clients," he said.
Indian sources have said they are not "not satisfied" with the progress in the trial of the seven suspects and it is understood that Chidambaram too raised this issue with his Pakistani counterpart during their talks last night. Chidambaram is believed to have pressed for stronger action by Pakistan to bring to justice all planners, financiers and handlers of the terrorists who attacked Mumbai. Since the trial began last year, it has been mired in controversy and protracted delays over procedural reasons. The judge has been changed twice and Lakhvi's counsel has filed at least seven petitions seeking his acquittal, challenging the case prepared by the prosecution team and asking for the transfer of the trial to another court.