File photo of the Taj Mahal Palace hotel, which was one of the targets of the 26/11 attacks. (PTI photo)
For the eighth time, the judge of the anti-terrorism court conducting the trial of seven Pakistani suspects charged with involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks was changed on Wednesday as the case was transferred to another court.
Judge Kausar Abbas Zaidi of the Anti-Terrorism Court in Islamabad, who had granted bail to Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi - the 2008 Mumbai terror attack mastermind - had been conducting the trial for the last three months.
"On Wednesday the case has been transferred to the ATC-II Islamabad. The judge of new court will begin the hearing on January 28," prosecution chief Chaudhry Azhar said.
To a question as to why the case was transferred to another court, Mr Azhar, who is also a special prosecutor of the Federal Investigation Agency, said, "A total of 31 cases each have been divided between the ATC-I and ATC-II (Islamabad) by the judicial authorities and the Mumbai case is transferred to the latter".
Besides Mr Zaidi, Attiquer Rehman, Shahid Rafique, Malik Muhammad Akram Awan and Pervez Ali Shah were among the judges who remained associated with the Mumbai trial since it began in 2009.
No proceedings of the case were held on Wednesday after the judicial authorities notified transfer of the case to the ATC-II. The court office adjourned the hearing till January 28.
Pakistan faced strong reaction from India following the bail of Lakhvi on December 18.
"Transfer of the case from Mr Zaidi may be seen in this backdrop," a source in the court said. He said the transfer of the case might cause further delay in the case.
Mr Zaidi had cited "weak evidence, the registration of the FIR invoking irrelevant sections and hearsay evidence against the suspect" in his bail order.
He noted that the main evidence on the basis of which Lakhvi was implicated in the case was the confessional statement of Ajmal Kasab, who was executed in an Indian jail on November 21, 2012.
The evidence against Lakhvi was based on the statements of the officials of the Crime Investigation Department (CID) which apparently were 'insufficient' to refuse the grant of bail to the accused.
The government has challenged the trial court's decision to grant Lakhvi bail in the Islamabad High Court.