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Pakistan's Deep State involvement in 2008 Mumbai attacks- A Primer

Pakistan's Deep State involvement in 2008 Mumbai attacks- A Primer

Nearly 170 innocent citizens from India, the UK, USA, Israel, among other nationals were killed and 304 wounded on November 26, 2008, in the Pakistan-sponsored Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) terrorist attacks at different locations across Mumbai. Also, four sailors from the trawler '<em>MV Kuber</em>' were also killed by the terrorists. These attacks were carried out simultaneously by multiple teams at the historic Taj Mahal Hotel, the Oberoi Trident Hotel, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Cama Hospital, Chabad House, Albless Hospital, near the Metro Cinema area and the Leopold Cafe.

<strong>Investigations in India</strong>

The Mumbai Police began investigations and filed a consolidated chargesheet on 25 Feb 2009 against three arrested persons and 35 Pakistan nationals which included LeT members and Pakistan ISI officers, who aided and abetted the planning and execution of these attacks. Mumbai Police investigations established the identity of the three arrested and wanted accused terrorists as:

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(i) Mohammad Ajmal Mohammad Aamir Kasab alias Abu Mujahid, aged-21 yrs;

(ii) Fahim Arshad Mohammad Yusuf Ansari @ Abu Jarar @ Sakib @ Sahil Pawaskar @ Sameer Shaikh @ Ahmed Hasan, aged-35 yrs;

(iii) Sabauddin Ahmed Shabbir Ahmed Shaikh @ Saba @ Farhan @ Mubbashir @ Babar @ Sameer Singh @ Sanjiv@ Abu-Al-Kasim @ Iftikhar @ Murshad @Mohammad Shafik @ Ajmal AIi, aged-24 years;

(iv) nine deceased terrorists along with the 35 wanted accused terrorists who had jointly hatched the criminal conspiracy and committed crimes under various sections of IPC; and

(v) Ajmal Kasab, the lone Pakistani terrorist who was caught alive, faced a regular trial under Indian laws and was sentenced to death on May 6, 2010. He was finally hanged in Yerwada Jail, Pune, on November 21, 2012.

The Mumbai Police had also arrested Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin as suspects in the terror attack. However, they were acquitted by the trial Court. The acquittal was upheld by the High Court and also the Supreme Court.

Subsequently, NIA registered Case No. 04/2009 in a special National Investigation Agency (NIA) Court, New Delhi on November 04, 2010. During investigations NIA found that David Coleman Headley, an LeT operative had conducted detailed surveillance and reconnaissance of all the five targets in Mumbai from September 2006 to July 2008. The NIA investigation revealed that the Mumbai attacks were conceived, controlled, planned and financed by the ISI and executed by the LeT.

ISI provided active logistic and financial support for the entire operation. Sajid Majid @ Wasi was handling the operation on behalf of LeT. David Coleman Headley was directly handled by Major Iqbal of the ISI. On several occasions Major Iqbal had direct meetings with David Headley and Sajid Majid on the progress of the operation. Major Iqbal, Sajid Majid, Hafiz Saeed, Zaki-ur-Rehman emerged as the main conspirators of the Mumbai terror attacks in the NIA investigations.

The special NIA Court, New Delhi took cognizance of the charge-sheet filed by NIA on December 24, 2011 and issued non-bailable warrants of arrest against the accused persons. Red Corner Notices were issued against seven accused persons in Pakistan and two in the US. These included Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, Zakir-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, David Coleman Headley (USA), Tahawwur Hussain Rana (USA), Sajjid Majid, Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed, Major Iqbal, Major Samir Ali, and Illyas Kashmiri.

Besides the above, the initial Mumbai Police chargesheet also contained the names of other Pakistan-based accused.

<strong>Status of the case in Pakistan</strong>

Following intense international pressure the Pakistan, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) initiated investigation into the Mumbai attacks. However only a sham of a trial of seven accused was done. Expectedly, it made little headway claiming lack of evidence. A divisional bench of the Islamabad High Court, comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mihsin Akhtar Kiyani conducted a hearing on January 22, 2019 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 Financial Action Task Force (FATF), on November 19, 2020, Hafiz Saeed and four of his associates were sentenced in two terror funding cases by the Anti-Terrorism Court, Lahore. These cases, however, are not even remotely connected to the Mumbai attack case.

It is pertinent to mention that Hafiz Saeed and his associates, though UN designated terrorists, are still 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.

<strong>Pakistan's support to terror as state policy</strong>

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 Pak Government has been trying its best to convince the global community that despite whatever happened in the past (including the 26/11 Mumbai Attack), 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.

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

It is evident that despite the international pressure, particularly from the FATF/Asia Pacific Group (APG), Pakistan is not willing to act against terrorist outfits like LeT and JeM and is likely to continue its support to them as a policy against India.

The current activities of LeT and JuD including radicalisation, recruitment, training and fund raising continues unabated despite the purported ban and restrictions imposed by Pakistan..