For four years, Pakistan has been trying and failing to convict those believed to be responsible for the Mumbai attacks. The alleged mastermind of 26/11, Hafiz Saeed, was all but declared innocent by the courts. India, of course, was not happy about this and essentially accused Pakistan of being soft on terrorism. That process is essentially playing out all over again as an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi — where the trials of Pakistanis suspected of involvement in the attacks are being held — ruled the findings of a Pakistani commission that went to India inadmissible. According to the court, the commission wasn’t allowed to cross-examine prosecution witnesses, so its findings cannot be admitted into court.
India’s response has been swift and brutal. The Indian government has once again taken this opportunity to claim that Pakistan isn’t serious about this trial or about jailing terrorists generally. It does seem that our courts have been easy venues for accused terrorists. Mostly, though, that is because of structural and procedural flaws that benefit accused terrorists. Witnesses, policemen and judges are all terrified of possible repercussions, while many of the accused have been illegally picked up and detained by intelligence agencies and hence their confessions are of no legal value. However, India isn’t interested in considering these details.
What is important is that India follows the rules set by Pakistani courts if it wants justice to be done. This means allowing the Pakistani commission to cross-examine prosecution witnesses. Ultimately, however, even that may not satisfy India. India is convinced that the Pakistani state had some role to play in the 26/11 attacks. The testimony of those involved in the attack does, in the eyes of the Indians, seemingly indicate the involvement of some form of state apparatus — and this problem of perception is likely to remain given these recent developments. Simply putting a few people on trial is unlikely to satisfy India and those who want to know the real truth about 26/11.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2012.
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