"Welcome to the headquarters of the Lashkar-e-Taiba," said one of my Lashkar escorts sarcastically as he escorted me through the sprawling complex in Muridke, just 40 km from Lahore. I was there barely ten days after the 26/11 attacks, and Ajmal Kasab had confessed to initially being trained here.
His handlers didn't deny the fact that he had 'studied' there, and my minder, Khalid Waleed - also the son-in-law of Mumbai mastermind and LeT supremo Hafiz Saeed - simply said, "We are not responsible for what students do after passing out from here."
A few hours after the student of terror was hanged at Pune's Yerwada jail, I called Lahore-based Waleed once again. His sarcasm hadn't lost its edge. "See how generous the government of Pakistan is," he said. "It has pardoned so many Indian prisoners, but India has no heart. It has sent Kasab to the gallows."
Kasab's journey to the gallows had begun in 2000, eight years before the Mumbai attacks, when he dropped out of school and left his parents' home at Faridkot, Okara district, Pakistan's Punjab.
Kasab, born third in a family of five children, was 13 years old when he left his father Mohammed Amir Kasab and mother Noori Tai to go and live with his older brother, Afzal, in Lahore. Kasab had hoped for better living conditions in Lahore, but his brother - who eked out a living on a labourer's wage - could not afford to sustain Kasab.
A row with his parents in 2005 saw Kasab leave his home, and work as a labourer that fetched him Rs. 200 per day. Kasab, however, found the work degrading and ran into the company of petty thieves and robbers in Lahore. With an old-time friend, Kasab decided to start a career in armed robbery in 2007.
It was this decision that got him close to the Jamaat-ud-Dawa - the now banned parent political organisation of the LeT.
Kasab and his friend, who had gone to purchase weapons at Raja Bazaar in Rawalpindi, got hold of the pamphlets the organisation was distributing.
The fledgling terrorist, trained in Muridke, was one among the 32 selected for the Mumbai attacks. Brainwashed and indoctrinated on films depicting India's purported atrocities in Kashmir, Gujarat riots and speeches of "terror guru" Hafiz Saeed, Kasab started believing that the doctrine of violence was worth giving his life for.
Before Kasab arrived in Mumbai via the Karachi sea route, he and nine other terrorists were personally trained by Hafiz Saeed and Lashkar's military commander, Zakiur-Rehman-Lakhvi. Nariman House | Trident Hotel | Taj Mahal Hotel
They were taught how to operate GPS devices at sea and shoot with precision at moving targets. Kasab reportedly earned the praise of both the major general and Saeed for his expertise in these matters.
On the day of the Mumbai attacks, Kasab and partner Ismail Khan went on an indiscriminate shooting spree at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and Cama Hospital, killing close to 55 persons - including three police officers.
However, Kasab's short career as a terrorist came to an abrupt end soon afterwards. And four years after that day, a nervous Kasab took his last tentative steps to the gallows.