The Pakistani investigator who led the probe into the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks has said sleuths uncovered a raft of evidence linking the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) to the carnage that was “planned and launched” from Pakistani soil.
Tariq Khosa, who was made head of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) weeks after the assault that killed 166 people, said Pakistan has to deal with the fallout of the attacks and this will require “facing the truth and admitting mistakes”.
The training camp near Thatta in Sindh province, where the LeT terrorists were trained and launched by sea, was identified and secured by investigators. The casings of explosive devices used in Mumbai were recovered from the same training camp and duly matched, Khosa .
The fishing trawler used by the attackers for hijacking an Indian trawler, in which they sailed to Mumbai, was brought back to a Pakistani harbour, painted and concealed. But it was recovered by investigators and connected to the accused, Khosa wrote in an article in the Dawn newspaper.
Ajmal Kasab, the lone attacker captured and subsequently executed in India after his conviction, was a Pakistani national whose place of residence, initial schooling and his joining a banned militant group was established by investigators, he said.
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 a LeT-linked militant purchased it along with the dinghy”, he added.
The money trail was followed and the accused who bought the engine was arrested.
The “ops room” in Karachi, from where the attackers were directed, was identified and secured by investigators. Communications through voice over internet protocol (VoIP) were unearthed, Khosa said.
The alleged commander – Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi – and his deputies were identified and arrested and a couple of foreign-based financiers and facilitators were arrested and brought to face trial, he wrote.
Khosa acknowledged that the trial of the seven men charged for the attacks had “lingered on for far too long” and Pakistan must ensure the “perpetrators and masterminds...are brought to justice”.
He 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” had been serious setbacks for Pakistani prosecutors.
During their meeting in the Russian city of Ufa last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif agreed that the two sides will discuss ways to expedite the trial of the Pakistani suspects, including the use of voice samples.
The seven Pakistani suspects, including LeT operations commander Lakhvi, have been charged with planning, financing and executing the carnage in India’s financial hub. The slow progress of their trial and the release of Lakhvi on bail have emerged as key irritants in bilateral ties.
The Islamabad high court ruled that the trial should be completed within two months but the deadline set by it has already passed.
The anti-terrorism court conducting the trial of the seven accused ruled that their consent should be obtained for recording voice samples. The suspects refused and the matter was then taken up with the sessions court, which too turned it down because there is no provision in Pakistan’s Evidence Act or Anti-Terrorism Act for collecting voice samples.
The new Fair Trial Act of 2013 caters for admissibility of technical evidence like voice samples and Khosa said “its application with retrospective effect is a moot point”.
He said the Mumbai case was “quite unique” as it involved one incident with two jurisdictions and two trials. While India managed to nab Kasab and obtained his confession to close the trial, “proving conspiracy in a different jurisdiction is more complex and requires a far superior quality of evidence,” he said.
Khosa suggested that legal experts from both countries “need to sit together rather than sulk and point fingers”. At the same time, Pakistani authorities should not forget the FIA declared various other facilitators and operatives as fugitives and the trial “will not be over with the disposal of those under arrest or on bail”.
He wrote: “Other missing links need to be uncovered after the absconders’ arrest. This case will not be over soon.”