Still stonewalling

Pakistan’s continuing stonewalling in bringing to justice its nationals who plotted and facilitated the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai has been laid bare yet again. It has responded to the three dossiers India handed over to its officials in February this year by claiming that the evidence is not credible or enough to prosecute Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and six others who are being tried in a Rawalpindi anti-terrorism court for their role in the Mumbai attacks. To facilitate their prosecution it has requested Delhi to hand over Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving terrorist from the Mumbai attacks and his associate Fahim Ansari to Pakistani authorities. It has also asked for three Indian officials — two magistrates and an investigating officer — to testify in the ongoing trial in Rawalpindi.

India has rightly ruled out handing over Kasab to Pakistani authorities. Even if there were no legal obstacles in the way — there is no extradition treaty between the two countries — handing over Kasab to Pakistan is a bad idea. Kasab admitted his role in the terrorist attacks — although he went back on that statement later — and provided much information on the role of Pakistani citizens, including senior officials in the military, in the plot. His confessions put Pakistan in an embarrassing spot. Many in the LeT and the Pakistani military are therefore likely to be keen to silence him. There is a possibility too that Kasab’s friends in the military might facilitate his escape while in Pakistani custody.
Some will argue that Pakistan’s request for Kasab is aimed at putting the onus of responsibility on India to take forward the trial of the LeT operatives. There is no need for Kasab’s physical presence in Pakistan. The testimony of the magistrates, in writing if not in person, should be enough to convict the LeT operatives. India has already provided Pakistan with enough and more evidence on the role of the LeT in the Mumbai plot. If Pakistan has not been able to convict them yet this is because of the absence of political will to do so. It is not just bilateral ties that are being marred by Pakistan’s obstinate refusal to act against the accused. The failure to act against the terror networks is threatening the very survival of Pakistan.

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