How UPA messed the Headley probe

Photo courtesy:
Photo courtesy:

The government of India very often says that it is working on getting access to David Headley. While even a child on the street would say that this is not possible, it would be interesting to note how the government handled the entire issue and the files to this effect would show that it was far from satisfactory.

The very fact that the Headley case was bifurcated from the original 26/11 case which was being fought by the Maharashtra government itself was surprising. While on one hand the Crime Branch of Bombay was struggling with details of the case, the union government did not make their job any easier. The prosecutor in the 26/11 case which was primarily against Ajmal Kasab had sought for details on David Headley the moment that angle to this incident cropped up. The intention of the prosecutor Ujwal Nikam was to add the Headley angle to the case as it was the same case and had to be tried before the same court. However the then Union Home Minister, P Chidambaram had refused to share any information on the ground that Nikam was not a government prosecutor. In fact the government said that he was a private lawyer hired by the Maharashtra government for the trial.

The government of India was always reluctant to use the Headley information and proof to this effect was found in a secret cable dated February 26 2010. In the cable, it was found that US Ambassador in India, Timothy Roemer, informed his home government that Home Minister P Chidambaram had stated that India may not be using impeccable evidences against the perpetrators of the 26/11 attackers because of the suffocating legal intricacies and opaqueness in case. Chidambaram said that the Government of India would not file formal charges against Headley until the trial of Kasab is finished for fear that Kasab would use the Headley charges as a way to delay conclusion of his own trial.

On the other hand the NIA was given the responsibility of investigating the larger angle of 26/11 attacks and the involvement of Headley and Tawwahur Rana. The NIA registered a case on 11 November 2009 against Headley and Rana in Delhi for allegedly plotting terror attacks in India. As fresh facts started emerging and the involvement of officers from the Pakistan army and ISI, it filed not less than four charge sheets in the same case. On 21 July 2010, a Delhi court issued non-bailable warrants (NBW) against five Pakistanis, charging them with facilitating terrorist attacks in India — Karachi residents Sajid Mir and Major Hashim, Pakistan army officers Major Iqbal and Major Sameer Ali, and PoK resident Illyas Kashmiri.

All these new angles and bifurcating the probe for reasons best known to the government only ensured that the entire case went haywire. India which should have been pushing hard at the US seeking more details on Headley and also Rana were slow in their approach and were caught in a web of legalities. In the meantime, Tahawwur Hussain Rana, was acquitted by a US court after it was found that he had no involvement in the conspiracy angle to the case.

India also continued to watch the developments in the US since 2009 and there was not enough protest from the Indian government. The FBI filed the chargesheet on October 21, 2009 at the Chicago court. In the 48-page chargesheet, of Rana and Headley did not mention their role in the 26/11 attack. Ironically this came to light only when Headley and Rana were acquitted by the US court in the 26/11 attack. The FBI agents knew that if they implicated Rana in the 26/11 conspiracy and if there was a judgment against Rana in a US court, it would be hard for them to deny extradition of Rana to India. The only mention about India found in the charge sheet was when the agent wrote about a proposed attack plan of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba to carry out the 26/11 attack.

Meanwhile in India, the prosecution on February 25 2009 filed a 11280 page chargesheet which ironically does not even mention the word ISI in it. It only devotes one paragraph to the Lashkar. The fact that the name of the ISI does not figure in the chargesheet has a lot to do with the centre not insisting that the David Headley angle be included in the main chargesheet. It was Headley who spoke in detail about the Lashkar and the ISI and had this been included there would have been much more information in the chargesheet. While Home Minister Chidambaram had claimed that adding Headley to the main chargesheet would delay the probe trial against Kasab, another chance to include some details was not taken. When Kasab appealed before the High Court against the death sentence, the government of India once again refused to produce material regarding Headley.

Author: Vicky Nanjappa

just a reporter

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