26/11 probe series: Tough investigation conducted but several questions remain unanswered
Six years after the 26/11 attack there are several questions that remained un-answered. The local link to the attack, the case against Tawwahur Rana who is alleged to have assisted David Headley and more importantly the trial against the masterminds holed up in Pakistan.
It has been a tough investigation no doubt, but then the crime branch of the Bombay Police which undertook the main part of the investigation was criticized for undertaking a shoddy job. Watching the probe closely what I realized was that it was an extremely lazy investigation which relied completely- in fact only on the confession of Ajmal Kasab.
What Kasab did was there for everyone to see and hence bringing him to justice did not require any specialized investigating skills. The crime branch can consider themselves lucky that they managed to catch one of the ten terrorists alive.
Where they bungled the most was on the local link. It was evident that a lady part of a major diesel scam was the one who helped the ten terrorists enter into the city. In fact all the ten were sheltered a day before the attack and they made their entry into the city on November 26.
However this aspect was not touched during the probe and the police decided to go after Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin Ahmed. The prosecution repeatedly failed to obtain a confession against them.
In fact looking at the probe against these two Indian nationals it was evident that it was done in a major hurry. It was the contention of the police that they found maps on terrorists which were drawn out by Fahim and Sabahuddin. However it was even more surprising that there was not even a crease on these maps recovered from the slained terrorists leave alone blood stains.
When Sabahuddin and Fahim were nabbed by the Uttar Pradesh police three months before the attack for their role in the CRPF attack case, they had confessed that there was an attack being planned.
In their confession they said that they had conducted a survey of certain targets in Bombay, but the crime branch was not able to ascertain any of these facts. This led to their acquittal which was confirmed even by the Supreme Court.
This was a mystery man for the Indian agencies. Until the Americans decided to make it public none were even aware of the existence of this man who so easily carried out surveys of the targets which were attacked that fateful night. The name of Headley and his accomplice Tawwahur Rana, the man alleged to have prepared the travel documents came in almost a year after the incident.
Would it be fair to say that the Indian agencies were caught napping? No it would not since this was a heavily guarded secret by the Americans who were more interested in protecting the fact that he was formerly an agent of the CIA who had turned rogue.
Headley made a detailed confession to the FBI after his arrest. The National Investigating Agency too visited the US and obtained a confession against him. However it was not a fruitful exercise since Headley who was under a plea bargain did not utter a single word that was different from what he had told the FBI.
Although the Indian government at that time kept insisting that they were working on his extradition, we all knew it was a bunch of lies since the plea bargain entered into by Headley cleared stated that he shall not be extradited and also not awarded a death penalty.
Rana was the accomplice to David Headley and his role allegedly was to prepare the travel documents. He in fact was India's best chance since there was no plea bargain arrangement where he was concerned.
There was nothing that suggested that India could not seek his extradition. However our attempts regarding Rana too failed for several reasons. The NIA which is probing the foreign link to the case has not even an iota of evidence against him and his alleged activities in India.
India relied very heavily on his trial in the US. However Rana was cleared of charges regarding 26/11. He only faced charges for being part of the Denmark Mickey Mouse project which he had conspired along with David Headley.
Trial in Pakistan
The less said the better. It appears to be a never ending trial and looking at the manner in which it is going, one could say with a great deal of confidence that it is going to end up no where.
The mastermind is Hafiz Saeed. Not only is he out of jail, he even is plotting attacks openly against India. His current job is overseeing the disruption of the Kashmir elections.
The commander of the opereation, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi is in jail. However the trial against him is soon reaching a dead end. He has been provided a mobile phone, a television and a luxurious cell.
The Pakistanis' says that the Indian evidence against these persons is not sufficient. India had even facilitated the visit by a commission from Paksitan to question some of the witnesses. However Pakistan has blatantly claimed that it was not sufficient. A request by the NIA to visit Pakistan and question the mastermind was turned down or never materialized for obvious reasons.
While the local angle to the attack would remain a major mystery, there is another man against whom Pakistan will just not speak. This is Sajid Mir a former officer of the Pakistan army who was the brain behind staging the attack.
He was the one who kept in touch with Headley and was also in the control room guiding the attackers. Paksitan has denied the existence of this man who features right on top of India's most wanted list. According to the Intelligence, he is far too important for Pakistan and revealing any details against him would only expose the establishment there.
While the probe by the crime branch is complete, the foreign angle to the attack is still being probed by the National Investigating Agency. They have with them an important man called Abu Jundal.
He was the one who tutored the ten terrorists to speak Hindi. He hails from Maharashtra and left several years back to Pakistan and rose in the ranks of the Lashkar-e-Taiba. He was present in the control room in Pakistan at the time of the attack.
The NIA's probe was largely hampered as they do not have access to David Headley. Leave alone extraditing him, they were not even given a second chance to question him. The NIA has made little progress in this case. Since 2010 the proceedings have been virtually stalled as there was too much resistance on part of the US.
However the NIA has now managed to record the statements of some of the witnesses in the case who are based in the US. They have with them the emails written by Headley.
NIA officials who have signed a non-disclosure agreement with the US, will prepare a chargesheet and try these accused before a Delhi court. However in the case of the NIA, all the accused on its list are either in Pakistan or the US and hence the conviction which they will obtain will be more ceremonial in nature.