for more evidence to expedite and complete the trial of seven men charged with involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks flies in the face of the voluminous proof provided by India to link the attackers to their Pakistan-based handlers, experts say.
Even before Indian authorities began sharing evidence through a series of dossiers, Western powers such as the US and Britain had provided to Pakistan proof such as intercepts of communications that showed the attackers were guided from a control room in Karachi.
The dossiers handed over by India since 2009 have included items such as the confessional statement of Ajmal Kasab, the lone attacker who was captured alive, intercepts of mobile phone and VoIP conversations between the attackers and their handlers in Karachi and details of the financing and criminal conspiracy behind the attacks in November 2008 that killed 166 and injured hundreds more.
Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam, who handled the prosecution of Kasab and visited Islamabad in 2012 as part of efforts to take forward the trial of the seven Pakistani suspects, described Pakistan’s demand for more evidence as “illogical and illegal”.
“It has been judicially proved by India that the conspiracy behind the Mumbai attacks was hatched on Pakistani soil. Evidence of the overt acts committed by the 10 terrorists in Mumbai has also been furnished to Pakistan,” Nikam told Hindustan Times.
“Pakistan’s demand for India to furnish more evidence is illogical and illegal. The criminal conspiracy was hatched in Pakistan, the headquarters of the Lashkar-e-Taiba is in Pakistan – it is for the Pakistani authorities to gather evidence and act on it,” he said.
The investigation by India and security agencies of countries such as the US had uncovered a clear trail that led back to Pakistan, sources familiar with the probe said.
Payments for VoIP accounts that were used by the attackers were made to a New Jersey-based service provider by Pakistani nationals. The GPS sets that were used by the terrorists too were traced back to Karachi, where the attackers were trained over months, the sources said.
Pakistani prosecution witnesses too identified one of the seven suspects – Shahid Jamil Riaz – in an anti-terrorism court as the person who had bought inflatable boats used by the attackers.
Other prosecution witnesses have testified that some of the accused bought Yamaha boat engines, obtained customs clearance certificates for the engines, and opened and operated several bank accounts that were used by the LeT to transfer funds for the attackers.
Former home secretary GK Pillai, who played a key role in overseeing the probe into the Mumbai attacks, said Pakistan’s demand for more evidence appeared to be an effort to obfuscate the issue.
He cited an instance to show that Pakistani authorities had initially acted on evidence provided by India, which he said was mainly due to the intense pressure from the world community in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks.
“We found a satellite phone on the trawler (hijacked by the attackers) and gave its details to the Pakistani side. They carried out a search and found the packaging for the phone in a house in Karachi,” Pillai told Hindustan Times.
But, he said, as international pressure on Pakistan eased, it began going slow on the prosecution of the seven suspects, including LeT operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, who was freed on bail in April.
“There is no more evidence that India can give. It has all been handed over and things like Kasab’s confessional statement are part of the evidence in the Pakistani anti-terrorism court. All the evidence needed for the prosecution of the suspects has been provided and now it is up to Pakistan to act,” Pillai said.
Kasab’s confessional statement makes numerous references to the role played by LeT founder Hafiz Mohammad Saeed and Lakhvi – whom he referred to as ‘Chacha’ – in the training and indoctrination of the 10 terrorists who attacked Mumbai.
Lakhvi had urged the attackers to wage jihad to make Kashmir independent and visited the camps where the terrorists were trained with Saeed and a man who was apparently a senior Pakistan Army official, Kasab said in his statement recorded before a magistrate.
Zarar Shah, another of the seven suspects, was identified by Kasab as a computer expert who put together a hi-tech “media room” in which the attackers were trained how to get around Mumbai.
The first charge-sheet filed by Pakistani prosecutors against the seven suspects in November 2009 states they were all involved in the “criminal conspiracy for committing (the) Mumbai terrorist attacks”. It further stated that Lakhvi was the “mastermind” of the attacks as he “firstly received instructions and training and then imparted the same training and instructions in the making and use of firearms, explosives, bombs and grenades to” the attackers.
However, the first charge-sheet and supplementary charge-sheets have all been silent on Saeed, for whom the US has offered a $10 million bounty.
(The writer tweets as @rezhasan )