ISLAMABAD: In a dramatic turn of events, a key prosecution witness in the Mumbai attacks case claimed to have met Ajmal Kasab recently.
Mudassir Lakhvi, headmaster of the Government Elementary School in Faridkot village, Okara, appeared before the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) to record his statement during the trial of seven suspects, the alleged mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, Abdul Wajid, Mazhar Iqbal, Hammad Amin Sadiq, Shahid Jameel Riaz, Jamil Ahmed and Younus Anjum, accused of involvement in the attacks on Nov 26, 2008.
Kasab was the lone surviving member of the team that rampaged through the port city of Mumbai. He was arrested by law-enforcement agencies following the attacks, tried and then executed by hanging in November 2012 in a Pune prison.
The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) produced the headmaster to verify the record which was obtained from the school in question, where Kasab is said to have been enrolled between 1997 and 2000.
Proceedings of the Mumbai attacks case had been declared in-camera by ATC Judge Atiqur Rehman, but sources privy to the trial told Dawn that during his cross-examination by defence counsel Raja Rizwan Abbasi, the headmaster claimed that he had met Ajmal Kasab only a few days ago.
The revelations shocked everyone in the courtroom because this was something the defence counsel did not expect to hear during the cross-examination.
Chief prosecutor Mohammad Azhar Chaudhry, raising an objection, claimed that this was not relevant to the proceedings of the trial.
But he did ask the court to allow the prosecution to re-examine the witness as this change in stance could be based on mala fide intentions.
According to the prosecution, Muddasir, in an earlier statement given to the FIA, said that he did not know Ajmal Kasab and only handed over the admissions register, attendance sheets and some other material to the investigators.
Sources in the prosecution admitted the possibility that Muddasir might have changed his statement out of fear.
They said the prosecution would re-examine the witness and, if necessary, Mudassir could be declared a ‘hostile witness’, rendering his testimony invalid.
The sources also said that certain members of the prosecution team as well as an investigating officer had received threatening calls while in a meeting at the FIA headquarters in Islamabad. They said the unknown caller warned the prosecutors of dire consequences if they continued to argue against the suspects.