Terror: Some big fish may be in, but we can't afford to relax

Indian security and intelligence agencies are on a high with back-to-back success in netting daring terrorists.

Since June 2012, the agencies have nabbed at least four high-ranking suspected terrorists from Abu Jundal to Yasin Bhatkal besides the smaller fries. If LeT’s Jundal was the ‘handler’ of ten terrorists who carried out the audacious Mumbai terror attack in 2008, Yasin was the ‘go-to-guy’ for the Indian Mujahideen operatives after top leaders of the terror outfit fled India. These arrests –Jundal, Fasih Mohamed, Abdul Karim Tunda and Yasin – over a period of 14 months have been a feather in the cap of the security agencies.

This also depicts India’s new found aggressiveness in pursuing prized targets even if they are holed up abroad and ability to convince foreign countries, especially in the Gulf, to locate, detain and hand them over. New Delhi’s success can be gauged from the fact that India managed to get Jundal and Mohammed deported from Saudi Arabia, a traditional ally of Pakistan in June and September last year while Nepal helped track Tunda and Yasin last month. Interestingly, with both the countries, India does not have an extradition treaty.

With these arrests, some of the big guns are in and the agencies have dealt a severe blow to the terror network of Indian Mujahideen but the work is still half done. India succeeded in even getting Saudis to act against those who had links with Pakistan but New Delhi is still not able to get Pakistan on-board to fight non-state actors operating from their territory.

Whether it is Saudi or Nepal, both cooperated with India after hectic negotiations and eliciting a promise that Indian agencies will not reveal their involvement, which may put them in trouble in their home constituencies. But Islamabad has not heeded to India’s repeated requests for speedy trial in Mumbai terror attacks while its army is accused of aiding terrorists to launch attacks at the borders and in India.

It is not just the support a section in Pakistan — be the ISI or the army — gives to anti-India terrorists but the reluctance to hand over Indians holed up in Pak safe houses and the continued denial about their presence in that country that is also bleeding India. The list includes Pakistanis too: Dawood Ibrahim, Iqbal Bhatkal, Riyaz Bhatkal, Hafiz Sayed, Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi and Iqbal Kana among others.

Will Pakistan change its mind? Will Pakistan realise that bleeding India will bleed Pakistan too? One should not be too optimistic to believe that Islamabad will hand over Sayed or Lakhvi or accept that Dawood or the Bhatkals are in Pakistan. It is at this point that India should use its relentless diplomatic charm and offensive, which should be complimented by the agencies’ continuous liaisoning with their counterparts to pressurise Islamabad. As long as Pakistan fails to cooperate, New Delhi will have to look up to friendly countries for help in apprehending terrorists. The arrests in the past one year were important and substantial but India cannot heave a sigh of relief as it has hit just the tip of an iceberg. Until it gets the top functionaries, India cannot relax.

Persecution of innocents

At a time the agencies are hitting the bull’s eye, one should also not forget that the competition among the police forces to ‘solve’ terror cases or ‘avert’ attacks sometimes result in the persecution of innocents. Despite the successes, the recent examples may not be encouraging. The arrest of Liyaqat Ali Shah, a former militant who was on the way to surrender before Jammu and Kashmir authorities, by Delhi Police and those of scores in Mecca Masjid blast case by Hyderabad Police stand proof for this.

The reports about Yasin telling his interrogators from NIA that it was not Mirza Himayat Baig, who is now on death row in connection with the Pune German Bakery blast, but Qateel Siddique who was with him while planting bombs could be read in this context.
This version is corroborated by interrogation reports of slain IM operative Siddique by Delhi and Bangalore Police but the Anti-Terrorism Squad of Maharashtra Police, which arrested Baig, chose to ignore this. Siddique incidentally was killed in a jail in Maharashtra and now there is no way to corroborate Yasin’s statement once again. One does not know what the truth is but conveniently the issue is buried and nobody dares to dig it up. It will be a travesty of justice if Baig is innocent and is made to undergo punishment. Such incidents, dangerously repeating, will end up in people losing faith in the system.

The ugly competition and one-upmanship among the police forces are also an issue of concern. The anti-terror officers of Delhi Police and the ATS do not see eye to eye is not a secret any more. There is no coordination and both the forces try to outsmart each other. The fight between the two forces even resulted in Yasin managing to escape from Pune soon after the blasts there in 2011 when the ATS arrested two ‘informers’ of Delhi Police who were being used to entrap the IM top operative and his aides.

Turf war may be the norm for men in uniform and even the United States is not an exception in this regard.

The Way of the Knife, a book by Mark Mazzetti of The New York Times, chronicles the fight between the CIA and Pentagon to usurp the ‘war against terror’ to be waged. India cannot afford such turf war or competitive one-upmanship or fraudulent arrests while dealing with terror if it wants to capitalise on the recent successes when it continues to be one of the most persistently targeted countries by transnational terrorist groups like LeT. One should not forget that India lost over 800 people to terror activities last year.

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