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Headley Singing Before FBI About 26/11 Mumbai Terrorist Attacks Lessons To Be Learnt

Updated: April 10, 2010 11:34 am

When a ship starts sinking, the rats try to find escape routes. The perpetrators of the 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai must have never thought that their crime would ever come to light. But the conspiracy came partially to light by the arrest of a live terrorist in Mumbai by the Maharashtra Police and the subsequent investigation by the FBI in USA.

            A US federal grand jury in its 12-count indictment, in 2010, against terror suspects Tahawwur Hussain Rana and David Coleman Headley gave extensive details of the planning of the Mumbai attack. Pakistani-origin Canadian resident Rana was indicted by the jury along with American citizen Headley on charges of preparing the groundwork and providing material support for the LeT to carry out the Mumbai terror attack. Some main points are as under.

            During the course of the attacks, the gunmen were in telephonic contact with three LeT leaders, identified as Members A, B and C–all of whom were located in Pakistan. The indictment reads: “During the course of the attacks, they were advised to, among other actions, kill hostages and throw grenades.” “LeT Member A also sought to arrange the release of a hostage in exchange for the release of a captured attacker,” the charge sheet said. According to the charge sheet, the 10 young Pakistani men were given extensive training by LeT in July-August 2008.

            Pakistani-Canadian terror suspect Tahawwur Hussain Rana, under investigation for possible links to the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, has admitted that he is a deserter from the Pakistani army.

In affidavits filed in federal court, the FBI said that Rana, 48, co-conspirator of LeT operative David Headley, “knew in advance” about the 26/11 Mumbai attack after which he “complimented” the Pakistan-based terror outfit.

Headley, 49, has pleaded guilty to 12-count indictment in a Chicago court. The plea deal states that Headley “must… when directed by the United States Attorney’s Office …fully and truthfully testify in any foreign judicial proceedings held in the United States by way of deposition, video-conferencing or letters rogatory”. Headley pleaded guilty to the following in return for recommendation of a lighter than maximum sentence that could have been the death penalty. The counts are:

            Conspiracy to bomb public places in India.

            Conspiracy to murder and maim persons in India.

            Six counts of aiding and abetting the murder of US citizens in India.

            Conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism in India.

            Conspiracy to murder and maim persons in Denmark.

            Conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism in Denmark.

            Conspiracy to provide material support to terrorist Lashkar.

“In light of Headley’s past cooperation and expected future cooperation, the Attorney General of the United States has authorised the United States Attorney in Chicago not to seek the death penalty against Headley if he “continues to provide full and truthful cooperation, the government will ask the court to grant an unspecified departure from the sentencing guidelines.”

            In the meanwhile, the Government of India has decided to send a team of NIA officials, with some Home ministry officials, to question David Coleman Headley. A questionnaire is under preparation for the same. Though a case has been formally registered in India against Headley, it is more of academic interest, as he would never be sent to India, to face trial.

            However, depending upon the team, the interrogation could yield a wealth of information about the local terrorist modules, sympathisers and sleeper cells of ISI in India. The USA has already promised India access to Headley.

            Pakistan-based terrorists are making no bones and saying that one Mumbai is not enough.   When it is a question of survival of the country, one can learn lessons from others. One thing is clear that our agencies have failed to gather advance information about the plans of the terrorists, despite all the wherewithal, provided by the government to them. They are very good in constructing a picture as to a how a particular incident happened. They try to lock the stables, after the horses have fled.

            Our laws are hideously not only inadequate, but sickeningly not possible to implement. The penchant for an independent witness, even at the dead of night and even when firing is going on and their identification, is not unfeasible. No witness is going to wait for years for a case to come and depose and face threat to his life. Instead of fighting or acting against terrorism, we have been only reacting to it and never made sure that the terrorists get the retribution they deserve. A welcome sign in India is the approach of the Muslim community towards terrorism and terrorists. In the presidential address a conference, rector of the Deoband Madrasa, Maulana Marghubur Rahman declared: “We condemn all forms of terrorism.” He insisted, “In this, we make no distinction. Terrorism is completely wrong, no matter who engages in it, and no matter what religion he follows or community he belongs to.”

            Dealing with terrorism is a total package, involving not only the intelligence, investigation and preventive action, strengthening the instruments of dealing with them, but also involving all sections of population, especially Muslims in curbing terrorism. Even according to the Home Ministry, there are over four lakh vacancies of constables in the police forces in India. The court pendency is one bug bear, for both the genuine and the innocent involved in court cases. With over 3.32 crores cases pending in India, a former Chief Justice said that it would take 370 years for the disposal of court cases, if not even a single case is added. This is apart from the fact that we need a witness protection act to ensure safety and security of witnesses. Instead of restricting the Plea Bargaining Act to a few limited offences, it needs to be amended to include all categories of cases.

            Indeed one reason for prompt justice or judgments in USA is that over 90 per cent cases there are disposed of by plea bargaining. Trials in India become a joke, and terror for the innocent victims, the perpetrators of crimes, as well as the witnesses.

The verdict in Mumbai blasts case of 1993 was delivered in 2006–after thirteen years–in which some of the accused were finally acquitted and some had died during the pendency of the trial. So is the cases of the whistle-blower Satender Dubey, an engineer murdered by the mafia, in which the convictions came after six years. This is something, which is in the hands of the government. Police-bashing would not do as it is not the police that finally acquit or convict a person. In this backdrop, the government must stand for justice and strengthen judiciary, as those who stand for nothing will get only nothing.

By Joginder Singh                     

(The writer is former Director, CBI, India.)

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