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Category — Mumbai terror attacks

After charge sheet, what next?

The Pakistan government has, after tremendous Indian and international pressure, decided to charge sheet the key executors of the attack on Mumbai in November last. Such an action was overdue after the Indian government had presented irrefutable evidence of the involvement of Pakistani nationals in carrying out the attack which was compared to the 9/11 attacks in its audacity.

However, it is quite obvious that mere filing of charge sheet in a court of law was only the first step in prosecuting terrorists and their supporters. Pakistan now must move quickly to present evidence and testimonies to prove these charges. Pakistan has enough evidence to do so. The terrorists named in the charge sheet have been in the custody of the security officials for over six months, enough time to piece together the evidence based on their testimony and corroborative evidence gathered by investigating agencies in the meantime.

Intelligence agencies of foreign countries have also provided considerable evidence of the involvement of the persons charge sheeted in the Mumbai attacks. The Indian government has submitted several dossiers containing irrefutable evidence against the persons named in the charge-sheet and much more.

Considering the gravity of the crime and the global attention, it is the responsibility of the Pakistan government to see that the trial of the accused persons is conducted in a fast-track anti-terrorism court. There is a precedent to lean on. The trial of the main accused in the Daniel Pearl murder case in 2002 was completed within six months with the trial court sentencing Syed Omar Sheikh to death for his role in the killing of US journalist Daniel Pearl.

There are considerable advantages for Pakistan to do so. First, and the most important, it will generate public confidence in the State’s determination to wipe out terrorism from the country which has over the years become an existential threat. There is considerable public expectation within Pakistan on this issue. No less is the international community’s expectation from Pakistan which has benefited immensely from generous munificence from them. A serious and determined pursuit of the Mumbai terror case would bring confidence among Pakistan’s well-wishers including China which are relying heavily on it to contain the sweeping fires of terror threatening to singe regions around the new sanctuary of al Qaida and the Taliban.

A determined pursuit of the case filed in the court would, however, remain the first step. The next critical step would be to expand the scope of investigations to file charges against the supporters and allies of the persons accused in the charge sheet. This would mean chargesheeting LeT chief Hafiz Saeed, its deputy Abdur Rahman Makki and its spokesperson Yahya Mujahid to begin with. They should be charged with conspiracy, abetment and for carrying out anti-national activities. The Mumbai attack, which shook India, also dented Pakistan’s image considerably.

The Pakistan government must also move quickly to shut down the funding channels of these persons. The US Treasury has already blacklisted many of them. Lack of funds would cripple groups like LeT.

The Indian dossiers have clearly pointed out the linkages between LeT and some officers in ISI and Pakistan Army. The Pakistan government must carry out an investigation of the involvement of both retired and serving officers in the Mumbai Conspiracy. Some of these officers have, incidentally, been named by Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto weeks before she was assassinated in December 2007. The role of these officers in training and facilitating terrorists sent to Mumbai by LeT. The testimony of the lone surviving terrorist, Ajmal Amir Kasab, has revealed that several batches of recruits were trained at LeT’s training campus outside Muzaffarabad, Baitul Mujahideen. The Pakistan government must not delay in shutting down the campus and its allied facilities in the mountains nearby. The structures must be bulldozed and the vacated land secured with fencing. Similar actions must be taken on LeT’s headquarters at Murdike. Without harming the future of several hundred madrasa students and others living or studying there, the government can put the complex under the care of an administrator who could either be a serving or a retired judge.

These actions have in fact become imperative for Pakistan for its own survival. LeT, for instance, is known to be actively colluding with the Taliban targeting Pakistani State and its Army for more than a year now. LeT cadres have been fighting alongside the Taliban in Swat, Waziristan and other areas. LeT’s hand has been found in the series of attacks that shook cities like Lahore and Islamabad in the recent past. The group’s ploy to search for recruits in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in North West Frontier Province by projecting itself as a welfare organisation should raise alarm bells in Islamabad as also in other world capitals.

Pakistan’s determination to fight terrorism will thus rest on how it pursues the Mumbai terrorist case. It will be the litmus test of its sincerity.

July 23, 2009   No Comments