Karachi: The Mumbai terror attacks were claimed by India to be its 9/11. For 66 hours, 10 militants played havoc in India’s commercial metropolis in November 2008, bringing the two neighbours to the brink of war. In Ufa, Russia on July 10, 2015, the PMs of Pakistan and India were “prepared to discuss all issues,” and both the leaders “condemned terrorism” and agreed to cooperate “to eliminate this menace from South Asia”. Therefore, we in Pakistan should welcome this wholeheartedly.
Didn’t we suffer the pain and agony of our own 9/11 on December 16, 2014, at the hands of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and its surrogates and aren’t we as a nation determined to root out terrorism? Against this backdrop, the agreement between PMs Sharif and Modi in Ufa to approve the meeting of their national security advisers to “discuss all issues related to terrorism” was a welcome development. Pakistan’s concerns regarding the botched investigation into the Samjhauta Express bombing and alleged support to the Baloch insurgency as well as “terror financing” both in Karachi and Fata by Indian and other foreign agencies should not only be highlighted but evidence presented to end such warfare by agents from both sides.
Pakistan has to deal with the Mumbai mayhem, launched from its soil. The entire state security apparatus must ensure that the perpetrators of the terror attacks are brought to justice. Dilatory tactics by the defendants, frequent change of judges, and assassination of the prosecutor as well as retracting of testimonies by key witnesses have been serious setbacks for the prosecutors. However, the Islamabad HC directed the trial to be concluded within two months.
The following facts are pertinent. First, Ajmal Kasab was a Pakistani national, whose place of residence and schooling as well as his joining a banned militant organisation was established by the investigators. Second, the LeT terrorists were imparted training near Thatta, Sindh and launched by sea from there. The training camp was identified by the investigators. The casings of the explosive devices used in Mumbai were recovered from this training camp and duly matched.
Third, the fishing trawler used by the terrorists for hijacking an Indian trawler in which they sailed to Mumbai, was brought back to harbour, painted and concealed. It was recovered by the investigators and connected to the accused. Fourth, the engine of the dinghy abandoned by the terrorists near Mumbai harbour contained a patent number through which the investigators traced its import from Japan to Lahore and then to a Karachi sports shop from where an LeT-linked militant purchased it along with the dinghy.
The money trail was followed and linked to the accused who was arrested. Fifth, the ops room in Karachi, from where the operation was directed, was also identified and secured by the investigators. The communications through Voice over Internet Protocol were unearthed. Sixth, the alleged commander and his deputies were identified and arrested. Seventh, a couple of financiers and facilitators were arrested and brought to face trial.
After an exchange of multiple investigation dossiers with the Indian police authorities, the trial court was requested to give approval to obtain voice samples of the alleged commander and his deputies for comparison with the recorded voices. The court ruled that the consent of the accused should be obtained. Obviously, the suspects refused. Then a plea was submitted before the sessions court to authorise the investigators to take the voice samples despite lack of consent. The plea was denied on account of there being no such provision in the Evidence Act or anti-terrorism law. The investigators then went in appeal before the high court. That appeal is still pending. The Fair Trial Act, 2013 okays technical evidence. However, its application with retrospective effect is a moot point.
The Mumbai case is quite unique: one incident with two jurisdictions and two trials. While the Indians managed to nab Ajmal Kasab and were able to obtain his confession to close the trial, proving conspiracy in a different jurisdiction is more complex and requires far superior evidence. Therefore, the legal experts from both sides need to sit together. Indian interlocutors, engaged during the talks between the then PMs of India and Pakistan in Egypt in 2009, had conceded that Pakistani investigators had done a professional job in the indictment of seven perpetrators of the attack. However, the Pakistani authorities should not forget that the FIA declared various other facilitators and operatives as fugitives in the case.
The trial will not be over with the disposal of those under arrest or on bail. Other missing links need to be uncovered after the absconders’ arrest. This case will not be over soon. Are we as a nation prepared to muster the courage to face uncomfortable truths and combat the demons of militancy that haunt our land? That is the question!
The writer is former DG, Federal Investigation Agency
(By arrangement with Dawn)