What should have been a feather in the cap of the police force has now become a crown of thorns. On the face of it the Delhi police seemed to have nabbed a terrorist and with this averted a possible attack. But the jubilation of preventing a fidayeen attack on the Capital with the arrest of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Liaquat Shah alias Kaka Khan in Gorakhpur, near the India-Nepal border, by the Delhi police was short-lived when it was reported that the Jammu and Kashmir police were informed about Shah's arrival and were waiting for him. Shah, according to the J&K police, was on his way to surrender before the Kupwara district police under J&K's 2010 surrender-cum-rehabilitation policy. The policy is a major effort by the state to woo Kashmiris who crossed over to Pakistan but now want to return and lead a normal life.
While it is positive news that the Centre has, following a request from J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah to Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde, asked the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to probe the matter, the claims and counter-claims by the Delhi police and the J&K police raise a lot of questions, none of which reflect well on our 'preparedness' to counter a terrorist attack. The 26/11 attacks exposed the pitiable state of our intelligence-sharing mechanisms. Since then, a lot has been said about coordination and sharing of information among various intelligence and investigative agencies. The Shah arrest reveals that while the J&K police and the ministry of home affairs were informed about his return, and thus on the same page, the Delhi police, which was acting on information from its 'sources', was not in the loop. 'Let not the right hand know what the left is doing' is an ideal which may work in some fields but it is fatal as a dictum for intelligence and security agencies entrusted with the protection of the nation from threats, both from inside and out.
However, all is not lost. The Centre is considering reviewing its existing policy towards militants who surrender, to work on a 'larger policy framework' and to fill in the gaps. Shah's arrest and the publicity it has gathered are definitely not what scores of such militants, who return to Kashmir after abandoning their past ways, want. After being a militant for years the crossing-over is not easy: it's a daunting task to gain the confidence of the government. The greater threat comes from their earlier masters who generally do not take kindly to such changes of mind. Given that our government has a less than foolproof record of protecting ex-militants, the most prominent being the killing of Mohammad Yosuf, better known as Kuka Parrey, who was heading the counter-insurgency movement in Kashmir, it can hardly afford any more goof-ups like the one it seems to have made with Shah.