Pakistan Needs To Walk The Talk

26th November this year marked the 10th anniversary of the Mumbai attacks. Concerns about unwillingness of Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of 26/11 to justice even after 10 long years of the dastardly attacks in which 166 victims from 15 countries lost their precious lives, poured out in different capitals of the world.

The Spokesperson for UN Secretary General; US Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Nathan A Sales, Director, South & South East Asia Division at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Michael Ronen, and others have echoed Indian concerns in this regard.

It is therefore naïve on part of the Pakistani leadership to make the usual noises regarding peace. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan should bring to book the culprits of the 26/11 attacks instead of harping on other things.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the “barbarity” of the attacks that had “shocked” the world, and called “upon all countries, particularly Pakistan, to uphold their obligations to implement sanctions against the terrorists, including Lashkar-e-Taiba and its affiliates”. The US President also tweeted his reactions and said his country stood with the people of India on this issue. The US Department of State Rewards for Justice (RFJ) Program has offered a new reward for up to $ 5 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction of any individual involved in planning or facilitating the Mumbai attacks.

Pakistan does not seem to budge under such overwhelming criticism of its brazen advocacy of terror and its use as instrument of its foreign and security policy vis-à-vis India and the world. The Pakistani state has ensured that the mastermind of the Mumbai attack, Zakiur Rahman Lakhvi and his six accomplices—Abdul Wajid, Mazhar Iqbal, Hamad Amin Sadiq, Shahid Jamil Riaz, Jamil Ahmed and Younis Anjum—are prosecuted so poorly that the criminal justice system in that country does not convict them.

Among the attackers, allegedly, Hamid Sadiq was one of the main handlers and the operational head, responsible for hiring the premises in Karachi that served as the launching pad for the attacks; Riaz had arranged the finances. Another colleague of Lakhvi, Zarar Shah, also accused of coordinating the attack, and arrested in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) in December 2008, was not even prosecuted. All the names were given to Pakistan by Indian investigators based on the confessions of the lone survivor among the Mumbai attackers, Ajmal Qasab, who was executed in 2012.

The story of Lakhvi after his arrest on December 7, 2008 under tremendous international pressure proves how seriously Pakistan pursued the case. Until his release on bail in April 2015, Lakhvi led a comfortable life inside prison. He remained the operational commander of Lashkar-e-Taiba all these years. He was allowed to keep his cell-phone and had uninterrupted internet access. Reports have revealed Lakhvi met about 100 people per day secretly in prison beyond the surveillance of security personnel. Most interestingly, even Lakhvi’s family was allowed to visit him in jail regularly, flouting rules. For all practical purposes, he was treated like a privileged state-guest in the jail.

The trial of the other six accused has also witnessed several twists and turns. The defending lawyers have adopted delaying tactics. One of the prosecutors was assassinated. Trial judges have been frequently shifted out. Key witnesses have gone hostile. Over and above that, India’s disinclination to allow Pakistani investigators to come to Mumbai to examine the boat and other places and sending Indian witnesses to Pakistan to record their statements in Pakistan has been touted as the principal hurdle on the path of prosecution!

All this has been a travesty of justice and the world knows it. The sooner Pakistan fulfils its international commitment to fight terror by bringing the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to justice; the better would be its reputation before the world. Otherwise, all its claims of fighting terror at home would fly in the face of hard facts.

Script: Dr. Ashok Behuria, Coordinator South Asia Centre, IDSA