A Pakistani judicial commission probing the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, which have been blamed on Pakistan-based terrorist group, Lashkar-e-Taiba is in India to gather evidence and record the statements of key officials.
An eight-member commission of prosecutors, defense lawyers and a court official from Pakistan began its work in earnest soon after arriving in Mumbai, India's financial capital, the scene of the worst terror attack in recent memory.
For four days, the commission, will record statements of key people involved in the investigation. Its work is accompanied by tight security.
Those providing statements include magistrate Sawant Waghule, who recorded the confession of the lone surviving Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Kasab, crime branch officer Ramesh Mahale, who was the investigating officer in the case and two doctors who conducted autopsies on the victims of the attack and the gunmen who perished.
Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam, who represented the Maharashtra government at the trial against Kasab, has been appointed to assist the commission.
Over 160 people, including foreign nationals, were killed in November 2008, in 10 separate incidents of shootings and bombings and a siege that lasted for nearly 72 hours.
Not allowed to meet Kasab
Kasab, who was sentenced to death after being convicted in May 2010, has appealed for his sentence to be overturned. The 24-year-old Pakistani was found guilty of a series of crimes, including waging war against India, murder and terror acts.
An Indian senior intelligence official told Deutsche Welle - on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak - that the commission had "expressed a desire to meet up with Kasab but we have disallowed this. Moreover, a prisoners' exchange treaty does not exist between the two countries."
Supreme Court lawyer Nitya Ramakrishnan criticized this decision: "The commission should have even got to meet Kasab instead of just the four key witnesses," she told Deutsche Welle.
The commission is not allowed to meet Mohammed Ajmal Kasab
The head of the judicial commission, senior special prosecutor Mohammad Azhar Chaudhry, refused to comment on his visit and declined to say what his expectations were.
But before his arrival in India he had told the media in Lahore that Pakistan was cooperating fully with India in the investigation.
Tense bilateral relations
India agreed to the Pakistani proposal to host the judicial commission during home secretary-level talks held in New Delhi in March last year.
Islamabad has argued that it is necessary to record the statements of the investigative officer and the magistrate to ensure a fail trial for the accused.
"Technically this visit is a judicial requirement," terrorism expert Ajay Sahni told Deutsche Welle. "They have to revalidate whatever Kasab said before the Indian court. Whether it will help in prosecuting the suspected masterminds of the 2008 attack who are in custody in Pakistan is another matter altogether."
Over 160 people were killed in the Mumbai attacks of November 2008
Currently an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan is conducting the trial of Lashkar-e-Taiba's (LeT) chief Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and six other suspects, accused of facilitating, aiding and abetting the 10 Pakistanis who carried out the attack on Mumbai.
But Pramit Sinha, a research scholar was pessimistic: "The trial in the Rawalpindi court has been going on at a snail's pace and I am not hopeful that the guilty will be punished any time soon," she told Deutsche Welle. She expressed concern about the court proceedings: "Curiously, four judges of the court have been changed ever since the trial began in early 2009. There is now a fifth judge appointed to hear the case."
Relations between Pakistan and India have been tense for a long time for historic reasons. They deteriorated rapidly after the terror strike, further hampering ties between the two nations. New Delhi maintains that it has handed over three terror-related dossiers in the past which had enough evidence to convict the accused in Pakistan.
Nevertheless both countries have moved on in recent months by boosting economic ties. Trade ministers from the two countries announced visa concessions for businessmen on both sides and pledged to increase the annual trade volume to $6 billion within three years.
Author: Murali Krishnan
Editor: Anne Thomas