Pakistan’s 26/11 Anniversary Gift to India
After a year of vehement denials the Government of Pakistan has charged seven suspects involved in the 26/11 terror siege in Mumbai. The most high profile name among those charged is Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, head of the banned militant group Laskar-e-Taiba. The secret trial and timing of the charges against Lakhvi and others should create unease rather than relief among the Indian diplomats. Ilyas Siddiqui, lawyer to one of the charged suspects is preparing to contest the verdict as he opines that the prosecution does not have the evidence to support the charges it has framed. Since the trial is being held in secret, there is no possibility for Government of India or the international community to question the legal proceedings if Lakhvi and others are let off the hook or handed minimal sentences in the follow-up trial.
Pakistan has contested India’s assertion that the ten terrorists who killed 170 people in Mumbai last year had any Pakistani connection. India is awaiting response to the 7th dossier on investigations into the terror operation, but no major surprises are expected. However, the statements of an FBI officer at the recent session of a special prison court provide the much needed third party perspective to the case. According to FBI electronics engineer and forensic expert, data recovered from a satellite phone and three global positioning systems recovered after the attacks establish the fact that the attack was being coordinated from Pakistani soil.
It is naïve to expect that Pakistan will allow any investigation or action on the 26/11 attacks that exposes the role of any Pakistani official agency. And with the sloppy investigations by the Indian authorities there is not much hope that Pakistan will be confronted with undeniable evidence. Even after questioning Ajmal Kasab, the lone terrorist who survived 26/11, for almost a year the investigators had no clue on David Coleman Headley. Kasab was questioned on the Headley connection only after the latter was nabbed by the FBI. The HBO documentary Terror in Mumbai portrays Kasab as a misled Pakistani boy who taken for a ride by his trainers. If this was true to any extent then he would have revealed Headley and other such covert connections. Kasab is simply following the instructions of this commander, “prolong this as much as you can.”
National Investigative Agency, created after 26/11 to coordinate intelligence and action on national terrorist threats, has now constituted Special Investigative Team to probe the leads emerging from Headley’s arrest. But NIA would have to be provided with more manpower in order to complete the probe expeditiously. After the loss of 170 lives and year of dossier diplomacy the Government of India still constitutes teams and cells to investigate the deeper roots of 26/11…when will those responsible be identified and punished? Brahma Chellaney, India’s leading stratetic analyst raises an important issue: Would U.S. President have skipped 1st anniversary of 9/11 to be overseas, the way P.M. Singh is observing 26/11 anniversary abroad?
Not only has the Government of India failed to ensure action against the planners of 26/11, security preparations around the country remain abysmal. According to Ajai Sahni, Executive Director of the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi, “Nothing has changed to alter the vulnerabilities of Mumbai.” Crowd may be pouring at the Taj Mahal and Trident Hotels following the private security measures undertaken by these establishments but silence in Chabad House reflects official apathy and public insecurity. Security arrangements at the entrance of Chhatrapati Shivaji train station, targeted on 26/11, are appalling.
Lakhvi verdict comes a day before the first anniversary of the ghastly terror operation in Mumbai. The timing makes it appear more a ‘window diplomacy’ exercise rather than a serious attempt at punishing the masterminds of 26/11. According to the WSJ, “The Islamist militant group behind the deadly attack in Mumbai one year ago remains a potent force determined to strike India.” U.S. officials and experts say hitting India remains the primary focus for Lashkar, which was nurtured in the 1990s by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency for use as a proxy against Indian forces in the divided Himalayan region of Kashmir. Despite India’s assertions and Pakistan’s claims the ground situation remains unchanged.
Pakistan has handed India an anniversary gift for 26/11 in the form of Lakhvi & company’s verdict; the people of India are still hoping to receive forgotten anniversary gifts. March 13th 1993, December 13th 2001, July 11th 2006, November 26th 2008…how many more strikes do we need before even a single mastermind of these terrorist attacks is punished by the Government of India?
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