By Mohammad Jamil
After so many bad news since 2nd May, 2011, there is some good news for Pakistan, but escaped the attention of Pakistani media, as some anchorpersons and reporters of big groups are preoccupied with their diatribe against military and intelligence agencies. With the US court’s verdict on 10th June, 2011, acquitting 26/11 conspirator Tahawwar Hussain Rana of the charge of abetting and providing material support for the terrorist strike, read along with David Headley’s testimony that the ISI was not involved in masterminding or otherwise in 26/11, Pakistan’s position has been vindicated. On the other hand, India’s hopes for indictment of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) for masterminding the Mumbai attack were dashed to the ground. The 12-member jury also announced that Rana was not guilty of conspiracy in the Mumbai attack – in which six Americans were killed – otherwise a conviction could have resulted in a life sentence for him. He of course is facing other charges regarding Danish newspaper, and even if he is convicted on that count, will not have any impact on Pakistan.Reacting on the verdict, Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna said that India was “not entirely satisfied” with the verdict and that the trial had shown substantial linkages between Headley-Rana and the 26/11 plot. It is a matter of record that in initial stages of investigation Secretary External Affairs Shiv Shankar Menon had also said: “We have no evidence of ISI’s involvement in Mumbai mayhem”. Mumbai’s Joint Commissioner of Police Rakesh Maria had told newsmen that investigations had not thrown up anything that could speak about the involvement of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). “It is an operation carried out by the LeT and we have not yet come across any evidence of ISI’s involvement,” he had added. However, David Headley in his earlier testimony had said that Rana and the ISI supported the Mumbai attack, and that Major Iqbal was from the ISI. Later he told the court that the ISI establishment was not aware of the 26/11 plot, and he had no evidence that Major Iqbal was an ISI officer. When asked if he meant that neither the head of the ISI nor its senior leadership was involved, Headley testified “Yes”. Headley was testifying against his childhood friend and alleged co-conspirator, Tahawwar Hussain Rana, in exchange for avoiding the death penalty and extradition to India, Pakistan or Denmark. In June 2010, Indian investigators questioned Headley for a week in the United States, noting that while he had provided significant amounts of information they still had further questions. As part of the cooperation and partnership between the United States and India in the fight against international terrorism, Indian law enforcement officials were provided direct access to interview David Coleman Headley. During investigation by Indian interrogating team, David Headley was reported to have said that Pakistan’s ISI was behind Mumbai terrorists’ attacks, and gave some names that kept liaison with members of Lashkar-e-Taiba. Pakistan’s Foreign Office due to its usual lackadaisicalness did not appear to have requested America for access to David Headley to confirm whether what India was propagating indeed was Headley’s version or a pack of lies. Except one odd official statement or so, Pakistan’s Foreign Office did not pursue the matter to ascertain the truth. Since seven alleged terrorists are facing court for their involvement in Mumbai attacks, Pakistan could have rightfully asked America access to David Headley to interrogate him, in order to have incriminating material and evidence which could help expedite the proceedings of the court in Pakistan. It is worth mentioning that during his visits to India, Headley frequently introduced himself as a CIA agent.
- The Abbottabad incident revived the memories of media role during the East Pakistan crises of 1971. In the dark days of 1971, Pakistani media turned a blind eye to the crises and chose to sway in the direction a dictator had set for them. After 1971, now again media were put to test. People this time deserve to know the real causes that led to extremism and terrorism in the country in the wake of Soviet interventaion in Afghanistan. Media should bring in well informed experts to tell the truth as to how people like Osama bin Laden were launched in Pakistan by the US. Who gave them free hand to set up seminaries that indoctrinated immature minors to become extremists. What were the factors that were responsible for state failure to check unwarranted activities in the name of religion? What is on stake for Pakistan in the context of extremism, religious bigotry and terrorism if gone unchecked? The media in Pakistan have not raised these questions for public debate in the aftermath of Abbottabad issue. This is the most appropriate time to debate these issues. It is time the forces behind extremism and terrorism are exposed. It is time that extremism and terrorism are not allowed to be justified in the name of religion.
A profile in the New York Times had carried details that in 1998 Headley (then known as Daood Gilani) was convicted of conspiring to smuggle heroin into US from Pakistan. Court records show that after his arrest, he provided so much information about his own involvement with drug trafficking and about his Pakistani suppliers, and his willingness to work with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that he was sentenced to less than two years in jail. “Later he went to Pakistan to conduct undercover surveillance operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA),” the NYT report said. This suggested that Headley had cut a deal with authorities in the US that allowed him to get away with mild punishment in exchange for a promise of cooperation. He was arrested at Chicago O’Hare International Airport before boarding a flight for Pakistan in October 2009. He was charged with conspiracy to commit terrorist acts outside the US and to provide material support to terrorist groups. Headley had pleaded guilty on March 18, 2010, in the Northern District of Illinois to 12 federal terrorism charges, admitting that he participated in planning the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Writer and journalist Webster Tarpley wrote in July 2010: “If this David Headley was working for the CIA all along, which is a very plausible conclusion, then the CIA was implicated in running and masterminding the Mumbai terror attack of 2008.” Webster also observed that America or at least the CIA wish to see strained relations between India and Pakistan. Anyhow, Headley’s issue was given publicity to malign Pakistan and at the same time to instill fears in the minds of Europeans so that they continue supporting America’s misadventures. There is a perception that America had made a deal with Headley that it would take a lenient view if he gives all the details. It is possible that he had been cajoled or persuaded by Indian interrogators to name some serving Pakistan army officers to prove that Pakistan army and state were involved in promoting non-state actors. It should be borne in mind that David Headley was first arrested in the US for heroin smuggling in 1997 in New York but earned a reduced sentence on the basis of his commitment to work for American Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) wherein he was facilitated to have ingress into Pakistan-Afghanistan linked narcotics gang. So he could be either FBI or CIA’s man or both, and perhaps it was on their behest that he developed links with religious organisations in addition to his contacts with drug mafia. There is a perception that he was a double agent working at the same time for the CIA and terrorists’ organisations. He was a socialite, and led a life of pleasure and had many friends in Mumbai. One would not speculate that what sort of help they might have given him to advance his pernicious plans, but the fact remains that he had developed friendship with scions of big business and celebrities of film industry in India. There is a question mark on American spy agency, as to why it had not taken action after Headley’s wife had informed American Embassy in Pakistan and elsewhere about her husband’s surreptitious moves and truck with militants. Why America did not arrest him after receiving information about his contacts with terrorists’ outfit? Had the FBI arrested him earlier and interrogated him, Mumbai terrorist attacks could have been avoided. There is a perception that conservative and Jewish lobbies have been active in framing Pakistan, and they had persuaded the widows of Jews killed on 26th November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks to file cases against the perpetrators of the attacks. Since the courts in the US are independent, it was hoped that machinations of Conservatives, Jewish lobby and India caucus would fail to convince the court and the jury. Pakistan should, however, learn to move at the right time, and must counter enemies propaganda and expose them to the international community.