As the Tawwahur Rana trial draws to a close, there will always be a big question mark on the one man who got away during this entire proceeding. The name of Muzamil Bhat who today without a doubt is one of the biggest operatives in the Lashkar-e-Tayiba has been given a miss.
David Headley the man who has been doing all the talking during the Chicago trial has remained surprisingly quiet about Muzamil. Investigations in India at least have clearly shown the links between the two men despite which this name figures no where during the trial.
Bhat was not some low level operative. He is the man who imparted training to all the ten terrorists who staged the 26/11 attack. Indian investigations clearly go on to show that he had not only trained them in combat but had also given them the specifics of the targets to be attacked as well as how they were supposed to take control of the targets.
This is exactly where the Headley-Bhat link begins. Headley was the man in possession of all the data regarding the targets. During his visit to Pakistan following the recee, he has met with Bhat and discussed the targets based on which the training was imparted to the ten terrorists. This gives a clear indication that there was a close link between the two of them.
The case pertaining to Bhat has not been easy for any of the investigators. Indian investigators too have found it very hard to build a strong case against him. The United States too have faced the same problem and moreover Headley is very quiet regarding Bhat.
Immediately after the attack, the name of Bhat had done the rounds several times. Prior to this attack the intelligence intercepts on him all emerged from the Valley since he was one of the primary warriors for the Lashkar-e-Tayiba over there. A master at combat, he has risen to very high ranks in the Lashkar. In fact the Intelligence Bureau says that he was second to Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi in the Lashkar ranks. This fact was proven when he immediately took over as operational chief of the outfit the moment Lakhvi was sent behind bars. Pakistan claims that it has arrested Bhat too, but his name does not figure anywhere in their investigations which they are supposedly doing on the very same case.
The question now is why there is so much mystery surrounding Bhat. The IB says that there is a manner in which each operative is trained to speak. When Headley was trained by the ISI, he would have been clearly told whose names to reveal and whose not to reveal in case he is arrested. The IB also says that Muzamil Bhat was a name which they wanted to protect very badly and hence there is very little being spoken about him. Moreover the ISI was aware that once the investigations commence, the usual suspects would have been Hafiz Saeed and Lakhvi. They were also aware that there would have been pressure on arresting them. In such an event, it would have become very difficult for the operations to run and hence they needed some names especially of those who are second in command to be concealed.
The Indian case on Muzamil Bhat too is not all that strong. There is not really much information that has generated on this man. India will need access to more data such as the voice samples, the call records between Headley and his handlers in order to build up a stronger case against Bhat.
Today Bhat according to the IB is at Muzafarabad and is running a new camp of the Lashkar. Such things only make the case even more difficult because according to Pakistan he has been arrested. It is very difficult to argue on that, Indian agencies say. They have done the same with Sajid Mir and the case is similar where Bhat is concerned. The fact that Bhat was a close contact of Headley is something that needs to be established. Further details on this are expected to come out once the NIA questions Rana and if possible Headley once again.
India has however decided not to wait for any other court to pass a verdict on Bhat. We will have to conduct our own investigations and the NIA chargesheet will take Bhat’s name so that he is tried in India at least. For India he was a crucial link in the 26/11 attack since he is the man who trained all the terrorists.