India seeks closure on 26/11 as Pak plays hardball

IANS- For a bellicose Pakistan, 26/11 is not its wound to suture, yes the FATF specter hangs over its head, but rogue and toxic states like Pakistan don’t feel enough gravitational pull to bend before the world community. In what was the deadliest terror attack since 9/11, by targeting India’s financial capital, it brought India to its knees.

India has been in a classic double-bind since wanting to narrow its focus on retribution and equally on the closure of some kind. However, India’s tradecraft of following proper rules of engagement has not allowed it to go out and seek war.

India seeks closure on 26/11 as Pak plays hardball. (IANS Infographics)

Meanwhile, metastasis has spread to different parts of the Pakistan civil-military-Jehadi complex and a recall ration has meant that Indian defense installations have been brazenly attacked. India is using all means diplomatically to nail Pakistan’s lies and prevarications globally. The whiplash, inducing the 26/11 attacks which struck us like terminal velocity, now 12 years later needs a ripcord for release as Janus-faced Pakistan continues to fob us off. The ISI C Wing is operating in segue, moving away from one attack to another, unperturbed by the global condemnation of its terror factory status.

Following intense international pressure, Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) initiated a probe into the Mumbai attacks. However, only a sham of the trial of seven accused has been done and has expectedly made little headway so far, claiming lack of evidence against them.

A divisional bench of the Islamabad High Court, comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mihsin Akhtar Kiyani, conducted (January 22, 2019) hearing on a petition by the FIA seeking stay on anti-terrorism court proceedings. The court suspended the 26/11 trial to give the prosecution more time to produce 19 witnesses who have not yet testified.

On account of fear of continued grey-listing by the FATF, on November 19, 2020, Hafiz Saeed and four of his associates have been sentenced in two terror funding cases by the Anti-Terrorism Court, Lahore. These cases, however, are not even remotely connected to the Mumbai attacks case.

It is pertinent to mention that Hafiz Saeed and his associates, though UN designated terrorists, are not being prosecuted on terrorism charges. On the contrary, they face minor cases involving funding just to satisfy the FATF. Moreover, while LeT leaders have been declared as “arrested”, it is established that they have only been taken in ‘protective-custody’ and accommodated at their residences with complete freedom to operate and run the activities of the outfit, including fund raising.

As per Pakistan’s own admission, LeT has at least 200,000 active members and out of them 20,000 are trained armed cadres. The Pakistan government and its Deep State have time and again displayed their unwillingness and inability to take on the LeT as well as other India-centric terrorist outfits operating from its soil.

On the contrary, the Pakistan government has been trying its best to convince the global community that despite whatever happened in the past (including the 26/11 Mumbai attacks), it was trying to mainstream such outfits through their inclusion in the political process. However, this mainstreaming has only allowed LeT and other terrorist outfits to enhance their public outreach for further radicalization, recruitment and fund collection for jihad against India and the West.

The Pakistan government has refused to act on the irrefutable evidence provided by India against the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and has maintained that there was no evidence against Hafiz Saeed and others involved in the Mumbai attacks, conveniently skirting the fact that the onus of gathering the evidence lay on Pakistan as the conspiracy/planning/funding and execution of the attacks happened in Pakistan itself.

It is evident that despite the international pressure, particularly from the FATF/APG, Pakistan authorities are not willing to act against terrorist outfits like LeT/JeM and are likely to continue to prop and support them through all available means as a policy against India.

Current activities of LeT/JuD, including radicalization, recruitment, training and fundraising, continue unabated despite the purported ban/restrictions imposed by the Pakistan authorities.

The perpetrators of terror:

Hafiz Muhammad Saeed

Born in 1950 in Sargodha in Punjab province, Hafiz Saeed is the founding member of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Markaz-ud Dawa-wal-Irshad (MDI) and Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD). The US Department of Treasury had designated Hafiz Saeed as Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) on May 27, 2008. The UN had banned Hafiz Saeed on December 10, 2008, while the Interpol issued a Red Corner Notice against him on August 25, 2009 for his role in the 26/11 attacks. He is in NIA’s most wanted list for his role in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. India designated Hafiz Saeed as ‘terrorist’ on September 4, 2019 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967.

Hafiz Saeed was arrested on July 17, 2019, in terror funding charges. On November 19, 2020, Hafiz Saeed has been sentenced to 5 years and 6 months in two terror funding cases. These two imprisonments will run concurrently.

Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi

One of the founder members and currently the supreme commander of operations for LeT, Lakhvi (60) was named as the chief planner of the Mumbai attacks. Lakhvi was directly involved in the conspiracy, planning and execution of the attack. Investigation has also established as to how Lakhvi persuaded, guided and handled David Headley for conducting reconnaissance in India prior to the 26/11 attacks. Lakhvi had reportedly offered a huge sum of money to the family of Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone terrorist to be caught alive in the attack. Lakhvi was also arrested by Pakistan army from a LeT camp in Muzaffarabad on December 7, 2008.

Yusuf Muzammil

Muzammil had assumed a role in directing LeT’s Afghanistan operations, working under the guidance of Lakhvi and Abu Alqama. Abu Alqama used to hold a similar position to Muzammil at the time of the Mumbai attacks and had played a prominent role in attacks. Muzammil was also involved in 26/11 Mumbai attacks and is in NIA’s most wanted list for his role in the ghastly strikes.

David Coleman Headley

Headley was an LeT operative who conducted reconnaissance in various locations in India, including Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Goa and Pushkar, prior to 26/11 Mumbai attacks during 2006-08. He was taken into custody by the FBI in the US in 2009 and is currently under detention in the US. He is serving a 35-year sentence in the US after being convicted in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.

Tahawwur Hussain Rana

Investigations have established the role of Rana (59) as a co-conspirator, who provided logistic, financial and other assistance to David Headley and the other co-conspirators towards the fulfillment of the criminal conspiracy to organise terrorist attacks in India. Rana also visited India between November 13, 2008 and November 21, 2008, just before the 26/11 attacks. During his stay, Rana along with his wife visited various places, including Hapur, Delhi, Agra, Cochin, Ahmadabad and Mumbai.

Rana was convicted by a US court in 2011 and sentenced to 14 years in prison for his role in an LeT terror plot in Denmark. The NIA is processing the deportation proceedings of Rana from the US for his involvement in the Mumbai attacks case.

Sajid Mir

Mir (42) was the in-charge of the ‘Karachi project’, which involved launching cadres of Indian origin for attacks in India. He planned and executed the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. Headley had recceed Mumbai and provided video footage/memory chips of each trip to Major Iqbal in Lahore and Mir in Muzaffarabad. Sajid reportedly underwent plastic surgery in 2008. According to Headley, there has not been much change in his appearance, only ‘his eyes have become bigger’. He is in NIA’s most wanted list for his role in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

Abdur Rehman Syed

Syed (49) was arrested in 2009 for his involvement in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks but was later released. Also known as Major Pasha, Syed is in NIA’s most wanted list for terrorism-related charges. Headley had been in regular contact with Syed during the course of the conspiracy, planning and execution of the 26/11 attacks.

Major Iqbal

Iqbal (55) is one of the main conspirators of the Mumbai terror attacks and had direct meetings with David Headley and Sajid Majid on the progress of the operation. He is in NIA’s most wanted list for his involvement in the 26/11 attacks.

Major Sameer Ali

Ali (54) is in NIA’s most wanted list for his role in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

Illyas Kashmiri

In 2011, the US had announced a reward of $5 million for information leading to the arrest of Kashmiri, holding him responsible for a 2006 attack on its consulate in Karachi. Kashmiri was killed June 3, 2011 in a US drone attack close to the Wana area in South Waziristan.

Abu Qahafa

Qahafa was one of the main conspirators of the Mumbai terror attacks. He is around 5’6″, slim, sports a long beard, long hair, has sunken cheeks and is around 40 years old. Qahafa had done the Bait-ul-Rizwan training with Headly. He is a close associate of Sajid Mir. He worked as secretary to Sajid Mir and trained the attackers of 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

Qahafa showed the map of the targeted sites to the 10 terrorists involved in the attacks. Qahafa had provided GPS to Headly and trained him to use it. He also showed the Google map and a blueprint of layout design of Hotel Taj to Headly. He was present in the LeT control room in Pakistan and was speaking to the attackers during the incident. He was saying to the attackers that the entire Muslim Ummah (Muslim nation) is looking up to them and they should not fail them.

Mazhar Iqbal alias Abu Alqama

Around 40 years, whitish complexion, heavily built with mustache and beard, Alqama is a senior LeT commander who was in charge of the Kashmir set up till 2008. Alqama was a key conspirator of the Mumbai terror attacks. He was involved in training and briefing of all the 10 terrorists who carried out the Mumbai terror attacks. He was present in Karachi when the attackers left the shores of Pakistan for Mumbai. He has been arrested and chargesheeted by Pakistani authorities in the case registered by them in connection with the Mumbai terror attacks.