Waiting for Justice
Ajmal Kasab: the elephant in the Indo-Pak talks.
A recent cartoon in the Indian newspaper, Deccan Chronicle, shows a jail staff telling the jailor, “Sir, his last wish is that he should be allowed to live until the Pakistan trial of 26/11 accused is over.” Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh however, put it across more diplomatically to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, when the two met in Tehran on the sidelines of the NAM summit. A speedy conclusion of the trial of the masterminds of the attack on Mumbai by Pakistan will “reduce the trust deficit.”
Pakistan continues to be in denial even after the Indian Supreme Court confirmed the death sentence awarded to Mohamed Ajmal Kasab, the lone gunman captured after the murderous attack on Mumbai, and held that he was part of a conspiracy “hatched across the border” to wage a war against India. Naturally, Pakistan’s credibility has hit a new low, as reflected in the cartoon.
Pakistan has rejected Kasab’s official confession statement. Kasab is accused of executing the attack on Mumbai on Nov 26, 2008 along with nine other heavily armed terrorists, leaving 166 dead, including Americans and Israelis.
The Rawalpindi anti-terrorism court has refused to accept the report of a judicial commission that visited Mumbai last March and examined the testimony of four witnesses, including the special judge who recorded the confession of Kasab. Among the witnesses were two doctors who did the autopsy on the nine terrorists killed in the attack.
The Rawalpindi court has said the evidence gathered by the judicial commission cannot be used against LeT commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, LeT co-chairman Abdul Rehman Makki and five others considered as masterminds, as they have been arrested on the Pakistan soil and are
currently facing trial. Moreover, the commission was not allowed to crossexamine the prosecution witnesses.
However, during the meeting in Tehran, Prime Minister Singh acceded to President Zardari’s request that the judicial commission be allowed to make another visit as directed by the Rawalpindi court. By agreeing to a second visit, India has shown its willingness to walk the extra mile to meet Pakistan’s legal requirements.
But Pakistan has been in denial from the very outset. It initially tried to disown Kasab and his fellow terrorists despite India sharing dossiers on them, not only with Pakistan but also with America and other western countries whose citizens were killed in the attack. Pakistan reluctantly admitted only after Kasab’s parents acknowledged his citizenship.
Despite Kasab’s violent shooting spree in Mumbai, he was given a lawyer to defend him at every stage, from trial court, to the high court to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court itself has termed Kasab and his fellow terrorists actions, as a war on India. “In short, this is a terrorist attack from across the border. It has a magnitude of unprecedented enormity. The conspiracy was as deep and large as it was vicious. The preparation and training were as thorough as the execution was ruthless. A channel of communication between the attacking terrorists and their handlers and collaborators from across the border, based on advanced computer technology, was arranged and put in place before the attack.”
The court dismissed the contention that Kasab was a mere tool in the hands of the Lashkar-e-Taiba. Though he joined the terrorist organization around December 2007, even after his arrest, he regarded himself as a watan parast: a patriotic Pakistani at war with India.
The court has also rejected the charge that Kasab’s confession was not voluntary. There was nothing unusual about his knowing the names of his handlers and their positions as he was not a mercenary but a highly committed, devoted member of the LeT. The handlers who went into the minutest details did not foresee him being caught alive, the court has noted.
The deportation of 30-year-old Sayeed Zabiuddin Ansari, alias Abu Jundal, a key operator in the 26/11 attack case, from Saudi Arabia to India in June last, will help Indian investigators put the missing pieces together. “[Jundal] was the key person and had an important role in the control room. We think such a control room could not have been established without some kind of state support.”
When Jundal was apprehended, the first thing India did was try to match up the voice samples of the 26/11 handlers. Today it has been ascertained beyond doubt that one of the voice that guided the 26/11 attackers was that of Jundal’s. With the cooperation of foreign agencies, India also managed to ascertain that the calls were being made from the Malir area in Karachi, which is close to the international airport.
Jundal, in his confession has also named three civilians, two majors and a colonel who were a part of this attack, including Major Samir Ali, Major Iqbal and Colonel Shah. He has been able to confirm that these were officers (serving) in the Inter-Services Intelligence and the army, and were a part of the operation all the way. Jundal confessed that it was Major Iqbal who provided Rs 20 lakh for the boat that was purchased for the 2008 attacks. These officers were also present in the control room and had asked for the control room to be destroyed once the operation was over.
In the face of such mounting evidence, Pakistan can no longer be in denial. Voices of reason are asserting itself in Pakistan. It is not for nothing that 26/11 is called India’s 9/11. There can be no true closure until the masterminds in Pakistan are brought to justice.