Islamabad must admit 26/11 mistakes, says former Pak intel official

Islamabad must admit 26/11 mistakes, says former Pak intel official
The 26/11 mayhem was planned and launched from Pakistan for which LeT terrorists were trained in Sindh, the former head of Pakistan's investigation agency who had led the probe into the Mumbai attack has acknowledged while asking the government to admit its "mistakes".

In an article for the Dawn newspaper, Tariq Khosa, who was made head of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) weeks after the 2008 assault that killed 166 people, said, "Pakistan has to deal with the Mumbai mayhem, planned and launched from its soil. This requires facing the truth and admitting mistakes."

He also demanded that Pakistan's state security apparatus should ensure that the perpetrators and masterminds of the "ghastly terror attacks" are brought to justice.

Noting that the case has lingered on for far too long, Khosa said dilatory tactics by the defendants, frequent change of trial judges and assassination of the case prosecutor as well as retracting from original testimony by some key witnesses have been serious setbacks for the prosecutors.

In candid admissions, some of which contradict Pakistan's stand on the issue, Khosa lays down the facts of the Mumbai attack trial in the article.

Listing out the facts of the case, Khosa writes, "First, Ajmal Kasab was a Pakistani national, whose place of residence and initial schooling as well as his joining a banned militant organisation was established by the investigators.

"Second, the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists were imparted training near Thatta, Sindh, and launched by sea from there. The training camp was identified and secured by the investigators," he writes.

Khosa also pointed out that the casings of the explosive devices used in Mumbai were recovered from this training camp and duly matched.

"Third, the fishing trawler used by the terrorists for hijacking an Indian trawler in which they sailed to Mumbai, was brought back to harbour, then painted and concealed. It was recovered by the investigators and connected to the accused," he writes.

"Fourth, the engine of the dinghy abandoned by the terrorists near Mumbai harbour contained a patent number through which the investigators traced its import from Japan to Lahore and then to a Karachi sports shop from where an LeT-linked militant purchased it along with the dinghy," he added. Khosa also talks about the money trail that was followed and linked to the accused who was arrested.

"Fifth, the ops room in Karachi, from where the operation was directed, was also identified and secured by the investigators. The communications through Voice over Internet Protocol were unearthed," Khosa writes.

"Sixth, the alleged commander and his deputies were identified and arrested. Seventh, a couple of foreign-based financiers and facilitators were arrested and brought to face trial," he says.

Khosa writes that people in Pakistan should welcome the development of the meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in Ufa, Russia, last month.

He also, significantly, calls on the Pakistan government to remove the distinction between the good and bad Taliban.

"The duality and distinction between good and bad Taliban, including all militants and terrorists, should stand removed from Miramshah to Muridke, from Karachi to Quetta," he says in the article.

Elaborating on the Mumbai attack probe, Khosa notes that after an exchange of multiple investigation dossiers with the Indian police authorities, the trial court was requested to give approval to obtain voice samples of the alleged commander and his deputies for comparison with the recorded voices.

"The court ruled that the consent of the accused should be obtained. Obviously, the suspects refused. Then a plea was submitted before the sessions court to authorise the investigators to take the voice samples despite the lack of consent. The plea was denied on account of there being no such provision in the Evidence Act or the anti-terrorism law applicable at that time," he noted.

"The investigators then went in appeal before the High Court. That appeal, I believe, is still pending. The Fair Trial Act, 2013 caters for admissibility of such technical evidence. However, its application with retrospective effect is a moot point," Khosa says.

A one-page joint statement outlining a five-point roadmap issued after the Modi-Sharif meeting had said, "Both sides agreed to discuss ways and means to expedite the Mumbai case trial (in Pakistan), including additional information like providing voice samples".

However, in a turnaround, Pakistan later asked for "more evidence and information" from India on the case.

Stating that the Mumbai case is "quite unique" as it involves one incident with two jurisdictions and two trials, Khosa opines that the legal experts from both sides need to sit together rather than "sulk and point fingers".

However, the Pakistani authorities should not forget that the FIA declared various other facilitators and operatives as fugitives in the case. The trial will not be over with the disposal of those under arrest or on bail. Other missing links need to be uncovered after the absconders' arrest," Khosa writes, adding that, "this case will not be over soon."

Khosa states that he has no doubt that Pakistan's political and security leadership has resolved to eliminate the scourge of terrorism, militancy and extremism through the counter-terrorism National Action Plan.

Against this backdrop, he cites the agreement between Sharif and Modi in Ufa to approve the meeting of their national security advisers to 'discuss all issues related to terrorism".

"Pakistan's concerns in respect of the botched investigation into the Samjhauta Express bombing and alleged covert support to the Baloch insurgency as well as reported 'terror financing' both in Karachi and Fata by Indian and other foreign agencies should not only be highlighted but concrete evidence presented to put a stop to such means of non-kinetic warfare resorted to by sleuths from both sides to further their so-called national interests," he says.

India has always rejected allegations that it has any involvement in fomenting trouble in Pakistan.

"There are very knowledgeable and competent professionals with investigation and intelligence background in Pakistan who can meet the Indian security officials and talk as professionals. They too have many skeletons in their cupboards. So why fight shy? Let both India and Pakistan admit their mistakes and follies and learn to co-exist while trying to find solutions to their thorny issues through peaceful means," he suggests.

Khosa concludes the article, saying, "Are we as a nation prepared to muster the courage to face uncomfortable truths and combat the demons of militancy that haunt our land? That is the question!"
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