Bengaluru, Feb 25: A jury in the United States of America awarded American victims of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict a whopping $218 million in damages while holding the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority guilty. In this high stakes civil trial which comes as a setback for the image of Palestine which has always blamed Israel for the bloodshed.
While the Manhattan Federal Jury has been liberal in awarding compensation and blaming Palestine groups, the question that needs to be asked whether similar punishment would be meted out to Pakistan, a country against which a similar plea has been made in the US?
Around nine victims of the 26/11 attack have demanded compensation in a New York court to the tune of $688 million. The plea accuses the Pakistan establishment of supporting the Lashkar-e-Tayiba which carried out the 26/11 attack.
What is the case against Palestine?
Around 10 American families had filed a plea that they lost their loved ones in the Palestine uprising between 2002 and 2004. It was alleged that several of their family members lost their lives. In the plea it was stated that several persons had been killed in various parts of Israel and Jerusalem in the shootings and bombings.
The claimants alleged that they lost their loved ones in these series of attacks which was directly backed by the Palestine authority. As a result of this verdict which holds the Palestine authority, they would now have to cough up the amount and pay the victims' families.
Moreover the verdict also deals a blow to Palestine which has always claimed that they are being victimized by Israel and not the other way around.
Will the US act against Pakistan?
India which has been pushing the US to take strong action Pakistan has been waiting for a long time for a jury verdict on the 26/11 attack. The claim made before the New York jury by nine Americans and Israelis is that they had lost their loved ones in the 26/11 attack. They had claimed damages from the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, Jamaat-ud-Dawa and the Pakistan establishment to the tune of $688 million.
This plea which was filed on November 19 2010 also takes the name of the ISI blaming the Pakistan spy agency of aiding the attack. The claimants say that even the ISI should be made liable in this case.
While summons had been issued to the Lashkar and the Jamaat-ud-Dawa both oufits which have been banned by the US, there has been no response from them.
US let ISI go because of immunity:
While the US appeared to be serious about this case pertaining to 26/11 much to the dismay of India, the ISI was let off. When the plea was filed before the New York court, the ISI was also mentioned in it and the court was told to make them liable for the 26/11 attack too.
At first the US appeared to be extremely serious about pursuing the case even against the ISI. However a meeting between the US authorities and Ahmed Shuja Pasha who was the ISI chief in 2011 changed everything.
Following this meeting, the US submitted before the jury that the ISI enjoyed diplomatic immunity and hence cannot be made a party in this case. The court accepted this submission by the US government and ruled out any action against the ISI in this case.
This was a major blow for India which had submitted ample proof of an ISI involvement in the 26/11 attack. The confessions of David Headley, Ajmal Kasab and Abu Jundal all accused in the 26/11 case point to a direct involvement of the ISI in the attack.
India had pointed out that it was disappointing that US decided to let the ISI go on a technicality. India had also pointed out two of the ISI's former officers were involved directly in this case and hence they should be brought to justice. However Pakistan said that the two officers that India was speaking about were fictitious in nature.
Who will take the blame for 26/11?
With the US court ruling out charging either the ISI or the Pakistan establishment, it is now difficult to fix the liability. The Lashkar and the Jamaat have not responded to the summons which means that the verdict will have to be pronounced in-absentia (without the presence of the accused).
Even if the US awards the $688 million who will cough up that amount. In the Palestine case the US court has made it clear it would be the authorities who would pay that amount. What about the 26/11 case and will the Pakistan establishment pay the amount?
It hardly appears to be so since the establishment in Pakistan is not even part of the case now. The US would have two options now. They would have to extradite Hafiz Saeed and Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi out of Pakistan and tell them cough up the amount of track down their bank accounts and recover the sum. It appears to be a tough proposition since the Lashkar does not have a dedicated bank account.
Why a jury verdict is important?
When this case pertaining to 26/11 was filed India took a conscious decision to stay away from it. India wanted this to be between the US and Pakistan. Indian officials in the Home Ministry said that Pakistan would accuse it of bias and hence it would be better if this matter was dealt directly by the US and Pakistan.
If a verdict blaming the Pakistan establishment were to be passed, it would show Pakistan in poor light and make it answerable to the state sponsored 26/11 attack. Moreover it would justify India's stand against Pakistan sponsored terrorism against India. However at the moment the prospects for India in this case look bleak as the case proceeding without the IS or the Pakistan establishment being party has made this entire exercise a damp squib.