The recording of David Coleman Headley’s testimony in the 26/11 case is bound to put additional pressure on Pakistan to bring to book the perpetrators of the attacks that claimed over 166 lives in Mumbai in 2008.
The case being pursued by Pakistani authorities against Lashkar-e-Taiba leader Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and some other accused can be termed anything but a trial, as the accused were treated with respect and extended the best of comforts.
It was only due to international pressure created by New Delhi’s aggressive diplomacy that Islamabad reluctantly initiated action against the accused. Can similar pressure following Headley’s deposition force the Nawaz Sharif government to act against Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief Hafiz Saeed? Will they again put in jail Lakhvi who is roaming free after being granted bail?
There have been reports that Lakhvi was openly meeting his LeT associates and overseeing operations against India. He was reportedly given personal bodyguards and phones and is said to have fathered a child while in jail. This exposes Pakistan’s doublespeak on the question of punishing the terrorists responsible for the 26/11 attacks.
Much of what Headley told a Mumbai special court from Chicago via videoconferencing on Monday was stated by him before the National Investigation Agency (NIA). But his naming Saeed as well as Pakistan army and ISI officers as those who planned the deadly attack will certainly embarrass Pakistan that has been blaming it on so-called non-state actors.
India is likely to seek action against Saeed whose recent threat to repeat Pathankot-type attacks has been noted with anger and concern in New Delhi. Will Pakistan act against Saeed and the army officers – Major Iqbal, Major Ali and Major Abdul Rehman Pasha?
Headley testified that he was trained by the LeT in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Abbottabad near Islamabad under the guidance of Saeed and Lakhvi.
Already, India has supplied enough evidence in the form of dossiers to Pakistan. Also, New Delhi has been exerting diplomatic pressure on Islamabad through the US to act against terror groups that target India. But Pakistan has failed to act, so far.
The US has announced a reward of $10 million for the capture or any information leading to the capture of Saeed, one of the most wanted criminals in the world. After Headley’s deposition, India is expected to ask the US to take action against Saeed. Four of the victims of 26/11 were US citizens and India wants Washington to take cognisance of Headley’s statement and act against the JuD chief.
If Pakistan is serious about punishing those responsible for killing scores of innocent people, it can ask for a copy of Headley’s testimony. Alternatively, it can request the US to allow it to record Headley’s testimony the way India has done and take the case in Pakistan to its logical conclusion.
But the power equations between Islamabad, Rawalpindi (army headquarters) and Muridke (the LeT’s nerve centre) are such that successive elected governments have failed to act against the ISI-backed “non-state actors”.
So, will the Nawaz Sharif government muster courage and show the political will to buck the trend?