One of Mumbai’s most wanted has finally been caught. Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal’s arrest, though a relief, has also brought back memories of the 26/11 attacks. At a time like this, you’d expect Pakistan, if it were truly looking for a meaningful transformation in relations, to at least not launch a bizarre attack against India on the subject of terrorism. But that was precisely what its interior minister Rehman Malik did after Jundal’s arrest once again drew attention to Pakistan’s role in 26/11.
Most of the statements Malik made can be easily responded to, but one thing he said is both disturbing and alarming and calls for careful thought and immediate action on the part of authorities in India and, specifically, in Maharashtra.
Statement 1: Zabiuddin is Indian, he was caught in India, he did everything in India. Why are you blaming Pakistan?
Response: Of course he is Indian. But then it is highly odd that he was given a passport by Pakistan. It is also odd that Pakistan was trying to deport him to its own territory from Saudi Arabia and was trying, for a year, to block Indian efforts to get him here.
Statement 2: If Hamza (one of Jundal’s aliases) entered Pakistan, he did so illegally.
Response: That Pakistan is a sanctuary for terrorists is the unfortunate truth. Osama bin Laden was in Abbottabad. None of those who harboured him have been prosecuted, but the doctor who helped the US in their search for him has been sentenced to 33 years in prison.
Statement 3: ISI, state actors were not involved in 26/11… Please do not drag the Pak army into everything.
Response: We need not rely on what Jundal is now telling Indian authorities. Pakistan-born American jihadi, Daood Gilani alias David Headley, has set out in detail the role played by the ISI in planning and executing 26/11. At the time of striking a plea bargain in the US in order to avoid the death penalty, Headley told a Chicago court that five ISI officials were involved in the attacks and that they had trained him in espionage. Explaining how the ISI co-ordinated with the terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba, Headley said he had first received training at a Lashkar camp in Pakistan, but because ISI officials weren’t satisfied with that, they gave him special coaching in surveillance tactics before sending him to India. He said one Major Iqbal trained him in a two-storey safe house in Lahore and asked him to set himself up in Mumbai. Headley also said he had been put in touch with Major Iqbal by an ISI officer in 2005, and that in 2006, he had told Tahawwur Rana that the ISI had given him $25,000 to fund his operations.
Statement 4: We have shared a lot of information with India. If any Pak involvement is there, we have asked for proof.
Response: India has been asking for voice samples of 26/11 accused based in Pakistan. Those samples have not been sent. There has been hardly any progress in the trial of seven 26/11 suspects for more than a year, and recently, hearings in the case were delayed because there was no judge to conduct the trial. Pakistan has also not acted on the demand that it should hand over those involved in the 1993 Mumbai blasts who are staying in palatial houses in Karachi and elsewhere.
Statement 5: He is your citizen. That means your agencies failed to control their citizen. There is something wrong in your system too.
Response: This might sound insensitive, coming as it does from the country that has backed anti-India activities, but the bitter truth is that a lot of ISI supporters have cropped up in our own backyard. Beed, and the entire Marathwada region of Maharashtra in particular, have produced many terror recruits. We failed to see the signs, though a SIMI convention held in 1999 in Aurangabad and addressed by LeT commander Azam Ghori, should have alerted us to the dangers that lay ahead. Not only 26/11, most terror attacks in India in recent times have had a Marathwada connection. It is incumbent on our police and other agencies to crack down on radicalised elements and rein in potential Jundals before they can commit more acts in association with, and from the secure soil of, Mr Malik’s nation.