Even though Nawaz Sharif took courage to blame the army for the Mumbai 26/11, his party’s government at the centre as well as in Punjab dragged their feet over the prosecution of the accused terrorist organisation and its leadership … writes Dr Sakariya Kareem
Ousted prime minister Nawas Sharif is right on his comment on Mumbai 26/11. the former Pakistani strong man in an interview with The Dawn newspaper admit that Pakistani terrorists carried out the 2008 Mumbai attacks and suggest that such terror strikes could have been prevented. He also lamented that Pakistan had isolated itself. He indicated that his country should look into why its narrative that it had been fighting terrorism had not been accepted by the international community “despite sacrifices”.
India has long accused Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba of carrying out the attacks in Mumbai on 26 November, 2008, that left 166 people dead and many injured after 10 terrorists with backpacks, automatic weapons and grenades launched a three-day siege on India’s financial capital targeting multiple locations.
Ten years after the Pakistan Army planned and carried out the dastardly terrorist attack on Mumbai, Pakistan remains a terrorist sponsor, a refuge for different terrorist groups and a state that openly, brazenly, uses terror as an instrument of state craft against its neighbours, and,most of all, against its own people.
On November 26, 2008, Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) terrorists sneaked into the Indian territory, with the help of Pakistan Army, and carried out multiple attacks on pre-selected targets, killing about 174 persons. The terrorist siege lasted about two days before all but one terrorists were eliminated by brave Indian security forces.
Though Pakistan was quick to deny any role in the attack, the sole terrorist who was caught alive, Ajmal Kasab, spilled the beans. He gave a detailed account of how he and several others were recruited by LeT and then trained by army trainers at camps run by the terrorist organisation in Punjab, Karachi and Pakistan occupied Kashmir. Soon, direct complicity of Pakistan Army in the attack tumbled out as multiple investigations carried out by different nations progressed. Years later, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pointed out fingers at the army for the attack, and paid the price by being ousted on charges of corruption.
Even though Sharif took courage to blame the army, his party’s government at the centre as well as in Punjab dragged their feet over the prosecution of the accused terrorist organisation and its leadership. In fact, there is clear evidence that the civilian governments obstructed prosecution of LeT and its leadership. Hafiz Saeed, one of the most wanted terrorists in the world, remains free. The state put up a façade of arresting him, charging him under an obscure law against disturbing public order and making it easier, and convenient, for successive high court benches to dismiss the case and free the terrorist leader. Similar was the tactics used to keep the principal trainer of terrorists, Zaki-ur Rahman, out of prison.
The complicity of the state was evident when, within hours of the terrorist attack, Saeed and his men were quietly tipped off to go `underground`, clear their bank accounts and pull the shutters on their offices. The result was when the Pakistan government, under pressure from the international community, ordered the police to arrest the terrorist leaders, none could be found, their bank accounts were clean and their offices were abandoned.
The real culprit was Pakistan Army. The plot was hatched in Rawalpindi, the GHQ and the attack was mapped with minutest of details. There was enough evidence against `retired` officials of the army. These “retired” officials were, and have for long been, part of a clever strategy of the army to create a wall of denial. These men, officially retired from service, are reemployed by the army to carry out activities like terrorist attacks, assassinate political leaders, spy on politicians, journalists, rebels and human rights activists. This group, which works directly under the ISI top command, is used frequently to browbeat and terrorise journalists and social media activists.
The entire chain of command, involved in the terrorist attack, remains unknown and safe. The handful of terrorists, who have been identified, too remain free because the state and its army is not interested in prosecuting them. In fact, the civilian as well as the military leadership have been working together to keep these terrorists safe from prosecution.
These terrorists are freely operating in many areas in Punjab, Sind, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the tribal areas. Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, the terrorist group behind the Mumbai attack, has even floated a political party with its leader, Hafiz Saeed, openly, and freely, subverting the democratic process. Although he has had the support of previous government, the Imran Khan government is openly courting him with many of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s cabinet colleagues keen to be the guests of terrorist mastermind.
The Pakistan’s continued support of terrorist groups and its effort to protect terrorist leaders is the most serious stumbling block in the global effort to contain and eradicate terrorism. Pakistan must be punished for its intransigence, and putting the lives of millions of people in the subcontinent at risk with its terrorist policies.