By Syed Nazakat
The capture of 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Kasab gave Pakistan away. His interrogation led the terror trail deep into Pakistan. The Mumbai Police’s 11,509-page charge-sheet revealed the hand of high-ranking Pakistani military personnel and the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba in the attacks. Shocked, Delhi pulled the plug on the slow-moving peace process.
Clearly, India has yet to see a strategic shift in Pakistan’s approach to terrorism. “What we want is to bring the perpetrators to India for justice. What we have seen during the last one year are denials, and confusing and contradictory statements,” says Brigadier (retd) Gurmeet Kanwal, director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, Delhi.
India has given six dossiers to Pakistan with details of the terror suspects, including Kasab’s DNA samples, pictures of grenades and guns recovered from the attackers, and details of the conversation among the terrorists during the three-day siege, when the 10 gunmen made 284 calls, running into 995 minutes, on their mobile phones. The dossier says the attackers were contacted from a virtual number, 12012531824, generated by a Voice Over Internet Protocol service based in the US and paid for by Javaid Iqbal, whose identity proof is a Pakistani passport.
Some action was seen on Pakistan’s part. Its security forces raided an LeT camp near Muzaffarabad and arrested LeT commanders Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi and Zarar Shah. Pakistan interior minister Rehman Malik admitted the conspiracy originated on its soil. But contradictory statements from Pakistan followed. It refused to accept Kasab as its citizen, though his father identified him in an interview with Pakistani paper Dawn. Instead of investigating the leads given by India, Islamabad found loopholes in India’s probe and tried to project that non-state elements with which the Pakistan intelligence agency had no connections were behind attacks. Officially, Pakistan has closed the investigation.
India does not believe that the recruitment, planning and training for 26/11 were carried out by the LeT without the ISI’s knowledge. Pakistan’s inability, or unwillingness, to prosecute Hafiz Saeed—one of 38 people said to be behind the attacks—raised doubts about its commitment. “We have given them evidence that would stand in any court of law,” said Home Secretary G.K. Pillai. “All of Pakistan’s previous questions about the investigation have been answered, and there is enough evidence for Pakistan to prosecute Hafiz Saeed.”
Founder of the LeT and head of its charity front Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Saeed was put under house arrest in December 2008, but released in June citing lack of evidence. Though Pakistan had banned the LeT in 2002, home ministry officials say it has morphed and spread with ISI help.
Ajit Doval, former chief of the Intelligence Bureau, says there are several factions in the ISI, and that one group sympathises with al Qaeda. “Unlike Taliban fighters who have been forced to retreat to the mountains in west Pakistan’s tribal areas, LeT commanders have been able to operate more or less in the open,” says Doval. “That is not possible without support from the [Pakistani] establishment.”
How then should India deal with Pakistan? “There are two options—either you continue to back your policy of diplomatic pressure or you brace up for military confrontation,” says Air Vice Marshal (retd) Kapil Kak. He says one way of dealing with Pakistan’s powerful military institution is “develop specific defence capabilities to show that you can inflict damage if they carry out any attack in future.”
Experts say India’s tough talk has not made Pakistan own up responsibility or hand over the terror suspects. Some feel the game is going in Pakistan’s favour. “Post-26/11, we have not even recalled our High Commissioner from Pakistan, leave aside taking military action,” says Major General (retd) G.D. Bakshi. He says there were economic, political and diplomatic options short of war.
Experts also say that a war with Pakistan would have helped the agenda of the terrorists without achieving much progress in countering terrorism. “Without going to war, India has managed to push Pakistan to a corner and there is a general consensus around the world that Pakistan is an epicentre of trouble and terrorism. That is a big achievement,” says Prof. Amitabh Mattoo of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
The onus is on Pakistan to help bring 26/11 suspects to book. A yardstick for India to evaluate Pakistan’s sincerity is to see if it helps prevent any attack from its territory in future.
Nov. 26, 2008: Ten Pakistani terrorists attack Mumbai
Dec. 1: Initial investigations point to LeT involvement
Dec. 8: Pak raids LeT camp in Muzaffarabad; five operatives, including Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi arrested
Dec. 10: IAF reportedly put on its highest state of readiness
Dec. 11: LeT godfather Hafiz Saeed placed under house arrest
Jan. 5, 2009: India gives first dossier on terror suspects to Pakistan
Jan. 23: Pak scrambles fighter jets over its cities after India says “all options open”
Feb. 12: Pak says part of planning for 26/11 took place on its soil
June 2: Saeed released; court cites lack of evidence
July 14: PM Manmohan Singh meets Pak PM Yusuf Raza Gilani at Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt
July 20: Kasab confesses in court
October: Manmohan Singh extends hand of friendship to Pakistan but asks it to stop backing terrorists
Oct. 3: Suspected LeT men David Headley and Tahawwur Rana arrested by FBI in the US; their role in 26/11 being investigated
(THE WEEK, November 2009)