Mumbai’s forsaken probe
by Sandhya Jain on 11 May 2010 15 Comments

Judge M.L. Tahaliyani’s decision to acquit the alleged Indian collaborators of Ajmal Amir Kasab for lack of evidence reveals serious lacunas in the investigations into the terrorist attacks on Mumbai in 2008. Faheem Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed allegedly gave logistical support for the November 26 attack by preparing maps of the terror targets for the Lashkar-e-Taiba. The special court judge was so unimpressed by the evidence adduced that he directed that the men be released immediately if they were not wanted in any other case.


That the surviving Pakistani terrorist, Ajmal Amir Kasab, received the death sentence is no credit to India’s investigating agencies. Kasab was caught on CCTV camera along with Abu Ismael, spraying deadly assault rifle fire on innocent passengers at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, and was later apprehended by ASI Tukaram Omble, who sacrificed his life to capture him. As several witnesses testified to his crimes, it was an open and shut case. He was held guilty of waging war against the nation, murder, criminal conspiracy and committing terror activities.


It is poetic justice that the judgment that holds Kasab, and by implication his dead colleagues and Pakistani handlers, guilty of ‘waging war against the nation’ comes on the heels of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s capitulation to American pressure at Thimpu, where he again met his Pakistani counterpart and agreed to continue a futile dialogue. Islamabad, of course, has refused to hand over LeT founder Hafiz Saeed and operations chief, Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, to a nation that cannot abide by its own commitment not to hold talks without credible action against the perpetrators of 26/11.


Now, with Kasab alone arraigned for this deadly attack on the nation, it may be pertinent to revisit the loopholes left untended by then national security adviser M.K. Narayanan (who was invisible throughout the 60-hour trauma) and home minister P. Chidambaram, who took over from the effete Shivraj Patil.


First, the terrorists’ western links were not even touched. On Dec. 1, 2008, the London Daily Mail reported that seven of the assailants were of Pakistani origin with British passports. That number soon fell to two, and a few days later Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said no British Muslims were involved. Despite the whitewash, some traces remained, so on December 14, 2008, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown rushed to Delhi to quash this line of enquiry and urge Dr Manmohan Singh to allow MI6 to interrogate Kasab. Why this urgency? And why did India agree when at St. Petersburg, Russia, in 2006, then PM Tony Blair had repulsed Dr Singh’s request to hand over 14 terrorists who had committed attacks in India and were harboured in Britain?


The then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also arrived in New Delhi to demand non-action. As Congress party’s Prime Minister-in-waiting was then busy with the wedding ceremonies of former Amethi MP Satish Sharma’s son, nationalism was easily superseded by the personal convenience of the Page Three people. Soon afterwards, British foreign secretary David Miliband arrived, gave unsolicited advice on Jammu & Kashmir, a clean chit to Pakistan, and rejected New India’s demand for the conspirators behind the attack.



It is pertinent that Pakistan initially expressed willingness to cooperate, offering to send the ISI chief to India to assist in the investigation. But Islamabad was sharply rebuked by its British and American friends (read Masters) and forced to backtrack. Scotland Yard and FBI arrived instead, obviously to ascertain the extent of evidence available with India. The UPA supinely agreed to let the FBI interrogate Kasab without any reciprocal accord; India is now running in circles trying to get a look at David Coleman Headley who did the major part of the reconnaissance for the attack!

UPA shamelessly outsourced the task of chastising Islamabad to Washington, DC, and London. A dossier of 20 most-wanted terrorists was copied to major world capitals; Ms Condoleezza Rice did not promise to get even a token two for New Delhi, which meekly accepted her warning not to aggravate regional conflict because of American preoccupation in Afghanistan. No one followed up on the satellite phone recovered from the trawler with the body of the Gujarati captain, which had been hijacked to Karachi Port. While there, the phone was used to make calls to Australia, where CIA has a famous outpost! 


Regardless of the guilt or innocence of Faheem Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed, the Mumbai operation certainly had strong local support. Dawood Ibrahim, who lives under ISI protection in Karachi, reputedly loaned his network. Dawood used to smuggle gold from the de facto British-controlled Dubai, UAE, and later drugs, and fled India after masterminding the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts. On December 18, 2008, The Times of India reported that Moscow, which was sharing intelligence with India, “believes that Dawood’s drug network, which runs through Afghanistan, was used to finance the Mumbai attack.”


On November 26, 2008, the day the Mumbai attack was launched, Indian Express reported that a Briton, Mohammed Raheel Ataur Rehman Sheikh, accused of funding the July 11, 2006 serial explosions in a Mumbai train that took over 200 lives, had been detained by authorities in England on the basis of an Interpol Red Corner Notice (RCN). Sheikh is a LeT operative, and considered responsible for the 2006 Mumbai attack. On November 10, Interpol contacted the CBI for details behind the Red Corner Notice against Sheikh, but reports suggest he has been released, and remains in England!


Many other facts remain unknown or uninvestigated. In the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, the terrorists moved as if they knew every nook and corner, and away from the CCTV camera. They entered the manager’s room and killed him. Home Minister Chidambaram angrily rebuked Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi when he said locals were involved in 26/11. It is pertinent that the Supreme Court has only now banned narco tests of accused without consent, but though narco and brain mapping was freely done on Sadhvi Pragya and Col. Srikant Purohit (without finding an iota of evidence), it was not resorted to in the case of Ansari and Ahmed. Why the double standards?


There were persistent press reports that insiders at Taj Hotel helped the terrorists to stockpile arms on the sixth floor; perhaps helped Headley’s surveys. Yet no insider has been arrested and charged. Why?


The author is Editor,

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