The Supreme Court verdict on Thursday irrevocably faulted Pakistan, and its Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) for the serial blasts on March 12, 1993. This confirms the observations made earlier by the trial court in Mumbai and comes as a significant affirmation of the Mumbai Police’s investigation into the serial blasts.
However, the ISI was not the first suspect 20 years ago as the investigating team got down to work. It was not even on the radar for the first few hours after the blasts had stunned the city. When the trail was traced to underworld dons settled in Dubai and then mapped out to Pakistan and the ISI, then chief minister Sharad Pawar had asked the then city police commissioner AS Samra: “Are you absolutely cent per cent certain this goes across the border?”
Initial suspicion, expressed by Pawar and then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao, centred on one of the three groups: the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who Pawar said “had the expertise” of conducting such a coordinated attack and a grudge against India, pro-Khalistan groups working from abroad and insurgents from Kashmir. The New York Times, in its follow-up story on March 14, 1993, carried the headline: “Focus is on Tamils in Bombay blasts”.
The recovery of arms and grenades with markings that read “Peshawar” and “Islamabad” gave the first indication of Pakistan’s involvement in the terror attack. Interrogations revealed a route, now familiar, where young men had been taken to Dubai in January 1993, and flown in and out of Pakistan where they had received training in explosives and firearms.
“The Pakistani Consulate in Dubai had given them visas on plain paper to avoid evidence on their passports,” said MN Singh, then joint commissioner (crime) heading the investigation. Mumbai police managed to get photo-copies of passenger manifests of the various flights which the men had taken to Dubai and Pakistan, and back. Key accused spoke of meetings in Dubai between Dawood Ibrahim and ISI officers, later confirmed by Abu Salem who was present at these meetings.
“The accused arrived in Pakistan for training and were received by ISI operatives who took them out of the airport without observing any immigration formalities. Meaning thereby, they had a green channel entry and exit in Pakistan,” the SC observed today.
“Pakistan-based groups and the ISI are now first suspects in terror attacks here,” pointed out Singh.
The political establishment then was shaken by the dossier prepared by the investigating team. Two decades later, the ISI seems to continue working its evil designs on India, the only difference being that its involvement is utterly believable now.