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Why revelations of the 'perfect terrorist' matter little (Comment)

229 Days ago

Media and political brouhaha about David Coleman Headley notwithstanding, the recent admission of the Pakistan-American terrorist about his already known terror links actually mean little to India's Mumbai attack investigations -- not least in New Delhi's attempt to nail Islamabad's complicity in the meticulously planned operation.





Headley has off and on been hogging the headlines since his arrest from a Chicago airport in 2009 for his terror odysseys that included surveying targets unsuspectingly in several Indian cities and meeting with senior terrorist operatives of Al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan.

And the master plotter did that for years under the nose of intelligence and security agencies without raising the index of suspicion in the countries, including Denmark, where he scouted freely. He managed to do so without being noticed partly because of his deceptive American looks with heterochromatic eyes and partly because of his "no-guts-no-glory" attitude.

When he was arrested more than six years ago, Indian authorities had hoped that the big terror catch by the Americans will help nail Pakistan and its terror lies. But that was not to be.

This was revealed by none less than G.K. Pillai, the then home secretary, in an interview with IANS in 2010 when he told me that whatever Headley speaks in the United States, it won't make the Indian case against the Pakistanis any stronger.

"I don't think we will get much cooperation from Pakistan. That is not really hoped. We can shout and scream (but) we will have to tackle Pakistan separately," Pillai told me when an Indian team of investigators visited the US to interrogate Headley in a Chicago prison.

Pillai was unequivocal in saying that any questioning of Headley was not to nail Pakistan, which he said "is a separate issue" and needed a different strategy than getting evidences from the terror mastermind.

That holds good even now despite the fact that India's Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju was expecting that Headley'a stating the obvious will end all ambiguity between state and non-state actors involved in the Islamist terrorism that sprouts from Pakistan.

Rijiju, in fact, himself admitted that "it is known that who all were involved" but still the government, he said, believes that "Headley's statement will lead to a logical conclusion. It will help us."

The inferences from Headley's statement and the minister's reaction are even more obvious. Are we yet to understand that there are no differences between state and non-state actors when it comes to Pakistan's known support for extremism as an instrument of its foreign policy?

Moreover, Headley has revealed nothing that was not already known. The names of perpetrators, including from the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Pakistan Army have already come up in the terror dossiers -- one has lost count of them -- India has handed over to Pakistan. The dossiers include DNA samples of Mumbai attackers, photographs, voice records and detailed operational information of the carnage that was being carried out in India in 2008 and overseen in Pakistan.

In fact, all these so-called "revelations" have already been recorded judicially in a US court. All these statements, including the names of the terror masterminds -- Hafiz Saeed, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi -- have been recorded by the investigators who interrogated Headley in 2010.

An argument is being made that India did not know all that judicially before Headley spoke to an Indian judge through videoconferencing from the US jail. Will it really help to make a case against Pakistan is a question that begs an answer.

Doesn't look like that is possible. Because the Pakistani court which is hearing the Mumbai attack case against the five accused has rejected as "inadmissible" even what looked like plausible findings of two judicial commissions from that country which visited India for evidence and testimonies. Are we to believe that the Pakistani court will take into account an Indian court's findings out of Headley's testimony?

Nothing will change in that country till its security, political and judicial establishments look within and realise in true sense the Frankenstein monster has outgrown everything else there. No Headley's medley of information, known and unknown, is going to change that. Least of all, the terror policy to destabilise India.

If Headley's judicially valid statement should change anything, it must be India's alertness of its intelligence and swiftness of its security agencies to thwart and prevent attacks like at Mumbai, which was planned long before by Lashkar and ISI operatives who had employed the "perfect terrorist" to map the city unnoticed for two years and develop a blueprint for the mayhem that killed 166 Indians and foreigners.

(14.02.2016 - Sarwar Kashani is a Senior Editor with IANS. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at sarwar.k@ians. (IANS)

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