There appears to be no end to the fight between the two premier agencies of our country- The Intelligence Bureau and the Central Bureau of Investigation. The Ishrat Jahan case is what they are fighting over. Over the past couple of days this fight and the latest revelation by an officer that the Indian government was involved both in the 26/11 and Parliament attacks has been lapped up very willingly by the Pakistan media.
Will this hurt our security especially since there appears to be a lot happening which favours Pakistan. Amar Bhushan, former special secretary with the Research and Analysis Wing says that the country’s leadership is to be blamed. In this interview with rediff.com, Bhushan says this hurts our fight against terror very badly since Pakistan will do nothing but laugh at us and throw papers back when we seek a terrorist from their soil.
There is likely to be further confusion on the Ishrat Jahan case with the National Investigation Agency stating that there was no mention of the lady by David Coleman Headley. The National Investigation maintains that there was no mention about Ishrat Jahan by Headley during their mammoth questioning Headley who is lodged in a US jail.
NIA sources tell rediff.com that their primary focus was the 26/11 case and that is what they intended to find out more about during their questioning of Headley. Any reference to the Ishrat Jahan case by Headley would mean that the 26/11 case would be diluted. Moreover what we had found that there was no proper evidence of what he was trying to say and we felt that it was more of hearsay.
The Home Ministry a couple of days back informed that the probe regarding David Headley has been completed. However there continues to be a slight delay where the filing of the chargesheet is concerned.
Sources informed that the case of David Headley is quite an easy one when compared to the Tawwahur Rana case. Headley’s case largely rests on the confession made by him and this has helped investigating agencies to build up a strong case. However today the NIA is waiting for some more documents from the United States of America and only once that reaches them will the chargesheet be filed.
A source in the NIA said that the emails and other transcripts used by Headley are with them. However the biggest problem in order to make it a water tight case would be the voice samples which unfortunately are in Pakistan. It is not so much of an issue to file the chargesheet against Headley since the case against him individually is a water tight one. The issue remains the others especially those in the Pakistan establishment who were connected with Headley and this is where the reliance on the other countries come into the picture.
The NIA says that Pakistan has agreed in principle to hand over the voice samples. The case to this effect is in court and a lot would depend on that. It is to be seen how much an influence the ISI would have on the judicial procedures, because the agency would try its best to avoid these voice samples getting out Pakistan since the entire focus would be on them. The US will however play a vital role in this exercise and it is to be seen whether they would lead this exercise to persuade Pakistan to hand over the voice samples to India. The NIA says that it is however not too hopeful that it would get the voice samples, but they would continue to make efforts.
The NIA has with it all the details regarding the trips made by Headley to India. The persons who he met with and those who he had sought help from. However the evidence has not been too forthcoming on any of the local contacts that Headley had been in touch with and the fact of the matter is that no one really knew what he was up to. There were many persons with whom Headley had interacted in India, but during the trial all these persons will be turned into witnesses who would in turn have to testify against Headley.
There is a confession by Headley in which he speaks about his India tour. The issue however is that the Indian law is a bit linient towards persons who have confessed to their crime. However this would not be sufficient for the NIA since they would want a harsh order against him. Although it would not be possible to sentence him since he has a plea bargain not to be shifted out of the US, they would still like to make a strong statement on this case since this is really their first Big case.
There are aspects of Headley’s confession which do not make the role of the Pakistani establishment very clear. In fact he has been edgy and chosen to avoid a lot of things. This is where the real role of the NIA began and they started to build up their own case with regard to Headley’s association with the Pakistani establishment. While bringing out this aspect during the trial in India, the court would realise that Headley’s confession reeks in malafide and the order against him would be strong.
In this regard India does find the need to wait for more evidence from the US and if possible from Pakistan. They have sent letters to Pakistan, but at the end of it would request the US to pressurise it to get them that bit of evidence regarding the voice samples which is very crucial to the case.
NIA sources say that unless and until there is clarity regarding this aspect they would not want to go ahead with the chargesheet. We want one final chargesheet and do not want to file one immediately and then go in for an additional one.
Another issue that the NIA has been discussing is that they would want the Rana and the Headley case to be part of the same chargesheet. Their cases are inter connected and their offenses committed in India are inter-linked and it is not as though both have been on separate assignments.
The NIA says where Rana is concerned the documents are expected to take a while longer. Moreover they have not managed to get access to him as yet and that would be possible only once his appeal is complete. Rana has only played the role of a second fiddle to Headley. Although we would prefer to file the chargesheet against the two of them together, we would still take a final call on that depending on how long the Rana case takes. If we get the remainder of the Headley documents early and find that the Rana case is taking too long then we may just go ahead with the chargesheet and the Rana aspect could be added in the additional chargesheet attached to the main one.
As of now the case that has been booked against Headley is the one pertaining to waging a war against the country. He has already pleaded guilty on 12 charges. However the case against Rana on conspiracy was dismissed and an appeal is on at the moment.
The statement by US State Department spokesman Mark Toner has been a very encouraging one for Indian investigating agencies probing the David Headley case He had said yesterday that they would look into it and also consider further access to Headley if the need be.
This is a very encouraging statement for India, since somewhere down the line during the course of the Headley trial, Indian agencies felt a bit let down when he suddenly went soft on the ISI. The trial had begun with a lot of promise and during the first half Headley had spoken considerably about the ISI. However in the second half he appeared to have gone soft on the ISI and said that the top management never knew about the attack.
Officers who interrogated Headley the last time say that there was not a lot of new information that came out. This was largely due to the plea bargaining that Headley had entered into and this actually gave him the security not to divulge more than what he had already said at first. Thanks to this legal issue, there were many questions that remained unanswered and there was not much scope to ask further questions.
However if at all we do manage to get access to him the second time, the questioning would be slightly different. We would be armed with his testimony before the court and also the verdict of the court at Chicago. This would give the Indian investigating agencies more room to interrogate Headley since there will be some fresh questions that would be need to be asked.
The point that India is looking to make in this case is the ISI angle to the case. Although Headley did the turn around and said only a select few of the ISI were involved in this attack. However India has maintained that this attack was completely sponsored by the establishment. The new angle would also be the Ilyas Kashmiri angle which is today being spoken about in the Pakistani media. Kashmiri himself had made a claim to the Late Salim Shehzad that it was the Al-Qaeda which planned the attack and was later hijacked by the ISI. It is a well known fact that David Headley was closely associated with Kashmiri and they did share a lot during the time of the Mickey Mouse project.
India would look to get more information on this aspect and whether Headley and Kashmiri had discussed anything about the 26/11 plot. This would be a very interesting aspect since if Indian agencies do manage to confirm this through Headley then the entire case would have a new dimension. This would not only attribute the attack to the Al-Qaeda but would nail the ISI which eventually cleared or hijacked the attack.
India does hope that the second round of interrogation, if at all granted access would be a more productive one. We are yet to ascertain whose help Headley had taken locally to go about his work. This continues to remain a dark part of the investigation since it is impossible that only he and Rana may have gone about this job all by themselves, sources also said.
Dawood Ibrahim may be number 2 on the worlds most wanted list, but for India the top man is Hafiz Saeed. He tops the list today of being India’s most wanted and has been termed as India’s Osama Bin Laden post 26/11.
Dawood Ibrahim, the primary financer of the ISI and its terror affiliates figures 8th on the list of India’s most wanted. The list of the top 50 remains the same, but the order has changed. The new inclusions in the list are the Pakistan majors who had aided David Headley. Apart from this the list finds the regulars from the D gang, Indian Mujahideen and also those involved in spreading terrorism in Punjab. The list of fugitives on this list are either hiding in Pakistan, Bangladesh or the Gulf.
Hafiz Mohammed Saeed: The big boss of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, he is the main person behind the 26/11 massacre. A blue eyed boy of the ISI, Hafiz Saeed is a provocative speaker and it is said that a large chunk of the recruitment process in Pakistan is dependant on his speeches which are fiery in nature. His names figures on top of every chargesheet that has been filed in India for terror attacks carried out by the Lashkar.
Sajid Majid: An unheard of name, this man came into the limelight post 26/11. His name came up repeatedly during the David Headley interrogation and it was established that he was the handler with whom Headley stayed in touch during his India operation. A red corner notice has already been issued against him by India.
Syed Hashim Abdur Rehman Pasha: The main coordinator in the Headley case, he retired from the Pakistan army in the year 2007 following which he was on the rolls of the Lashkar. Although Pakistan continues to deny that this man had anything to do with Headley, he has been named by the United States Justice Department during the Headley case. He stayed in touch with Headley during the operation and it is said that the there are telephonic conversations between him and Headley to support the case. Headley too in his interrogation told the NIA about the role played by Pasha.
Major Iqbal: Charged now by the United States for taking part in the 26/11 attack, this man is said to be an officer in the ISI. During the Headley operation, he was said to be the main handler and guided Headley through the operation. He is currently in Pakistan and his name will come up once again when the Rana trial takes place on May 16th.
Illyas Kashmiri: The Chief of the Al-Qaeda’a 313 brigade. Primarily dedicated to the cause at Afghanistan, he had a falling out with the ISI when they wanted him to stay away from India and continue his war against the US. However Kashmiri came to the limelight when he claimed that the 26/11 plot was initially hatched by him but hijacked by the ISI to help the Lashkar. His name once again cropped due to his association with Headley and the latter had said that the two had planned on staging more attacks in India.
Rashid Abdullah: This man also goes by the alias Rehan and is an operative of the Lashkar. His primary job was to arrange for local contacts during terrorist strikes on Indian soil. Currently hiding in Bangladesh, it is said he was sent there to mobilize forces to carry out strikes on Indian soil.
Major Sameer Ali: An officer in the Pakistan army, his name cropped up during the Headley case. He is believed to have worked closely with Major Iqbal during the 26/11 operation and had helped Headley too.
Dawood Ibrahim: India’s fugitive don is number 2 on the world list. Termed as a terrorist by the United States of America, Dawood is currently in Pakistan under the protection of the ISI. His primary role is to raise funds through fake currency and the drug trade. Also he is wanted in the 1993 serial bombings at Bombay. He is also primarily responsible for creating routes for Lashkar operatives which are already in use for his drug trade.
Memon Ibrahim: A close aide of Dawood Ibrahim and was one of the key accused in the 1993 serial blasts. He is said to be hiding in Pakistan and furthering the business of the D gang.
Chota Shakeel: Dawood’s right hand man, Shakeel is more wanted for extortions in India. He also has a major role in all D company related operations in India.
Memon Abdul Razak: Known as Tiger Memon, he alongwith other co accused persons hatched a criminal conspiracy to cause terrorist acts in India. In pursuance of the said conspiracy, he arranged weapon training for co accused persons in Pakistan. Arranged smuggling of RDX, chalking of plans for explosions in 1993.
Anis Ibrahim: Brother of Dawood Ibrahim hiding in Pakistan today. He is a key member of the D gang and has control over the business in the Gulf areas.
Abu Hamza: His name first cropped up during the Indian Institute of Science attack at Bangalore. Following this attack, he was packed off to Pakistan and was put in charge of organizing attacks from there. He came into the limelight once again post 26/11. He was one of the handlers who was on the phone with the terrorists who carried out the attack. He was made a handler after the Lashkar realised that his skills on the field were not up to the mark. Today he continues to be in Pakistan and is one of the primary handlers of the Lashkar since the outfit found him to be a better motivator and a planner when compared to a foot soldier.
Zaki-ur-Rehman-Lakhvi: The number two on the Lashkar hierarchy, he goes by the name of Lakvhi chacha for all his cadres. While his boss Saeed is the ideological face of the Lashkar, Lakvhi is more in charge of operations and recruitments. He was the one who personally oversaw all aspects pertaining to recruitments and training for the 26/11 attack.
Maulana Masood Azhar: A key figure in the valley, this Jaish-e-Mohammad. He focus had always been on Kashmir and is accused of carrying out mass killings in the valley. However his name came to the limelight during the Khandahar hijack case where the hijackers traded passengers for his release.
Syed Salahuddin: The supreme commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen and runs the all powerful United Jihad Council. His war has been primarily in Kashmir and latest reports suggest that he is becoming a menace to the US also. Under the HM, he organized forces to fight in Kashmir and later he formed the UJC which is said to be closely associated with the Al-Qaeda. There is not much spoken about this man since he always maintains a low profile. He is extremely close to the Pakistani establishment and more or less does exactly what they want. There have not been any reports of any rebellion from his side which puts him on par with the likes of Saeed and Lakhvi who are the blue eyed boys of the ISI in Pakistan.
The rest of them:
Anwar Ahmed Haji Jamal
Salim Abdul Ghazi
Mohammed Salim Mujhahid
Khan Bashir Ahmed
Yakub Yeda Khan
Feroz Rashid Khan
Sagir Ali Shaikh
Maulana Mohammed Masood Azhar
Syed Zabiuddin Jabi
Zahur Ibrahim Mistri
Pathan Yaqoob Khan
Lakhbir Singh Rode
Paramjit Singh Pamma
Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi
Amir Raza Khan
NIA sources say that the questionnaire for Rana would be more on the lines of the David Headley one, but there would be more additions to it once his testimony before the US court is complete.
Although the ISI links of Rana will be the prime focus of the questioning, India would be looking to get more information regarding the role played by Rana while helping Headley undertake his mission in India. This is a crucial missing link in the NIA investigation which is looking into the Headley-Rana link to the case. It has been ascertained that Rana had helped Headley with the travel papers to India, but the other unanswered question is whether Rana and Headley had taken the help of any local elements while they were in India. Headley’s interrogation did not give a clear enough picture of the local link and they would be relying upon Rana to get the required information.
The next part of the questioning would be obviously the ISI angle to the case. Rana has made it clear that he never worked for the Lashkar-e-Tayiba. He has maintained that he was working for the ISI as an agent and he carried out the job assigned to him since he thought of it as national pride to work for the ISI. Sources say that when India questions him, they would be interested in trying to find out who exactly were the men in the ISI that he reported to. There is Sajid Majid, Major Iqbal and Abu Qahafa who continue to remain a mystery in this entire case. These men are part of the ISI and they have been mentioned by Headley too. However Headley did not go on to provide more information on these men and said that he was not be too sure whether they had given him the real names while dealing with him. Various attempts to find the right names have gone in vain and India would be hoping that Rana will throw more light on these men.
The road ahead to get the real identities of these men is going not going to be an easy affair. The NIA says that they will have to depend on voice samples heavily and unless Pakistan offers any sort of cooperation it would be tough to crack this aspect of the case. Pakistan’s interior minister Rehman Malik has assured to provide the voice samples and India feels that if at all he lives up to his word it would be truly helpful to track down these ISI agents.
The third aspect of the questioning by the NIA would of course deal with the role of the Lashkar. Although Rana has claimed that he didn’t deal with anyone from the Lashkar, the NIA would still go after this point since a large part of the charge sheet which is under preparation deals with the role of this dreaded outfit. The NIA has not prepared any specific questionnaire on the Lashkar link to Rana as yet. We would wait and see what he has to say at the trial since we do expect that the prosecution will question him about that and based on what he would say, we would question him on this aspect sources also pointed out. Apart from this the questioning would also be based largely on the investigation conducted by the NIA and also on what David Headley had spoken about Rana during his interrogation.
This would mean that the NIA chargesheet would be filed only once the questioning of Rana is completed. The trial is expected to complete by the end of May and India expects access to Rana during the later part of June which would mean a chargesheet would be ready by the mid of July, sources also added. Post filing of the chargesheet, India will try and seek an extradition of Rana and if this does not happen they will have to try him and convict him in absentia like how they would do in the Headley case. Currently it is possible to extradite Rana since he has not entered into any plea bargain.
Home Secretary, G K Pillai says that they expect that the trial would be completed in two weeks once it commences on May 16th and one will have to wait for that result before commenting further on the case, he also said.
The Home Ministry of India termed the German Bakery case as unsolved before handing it over to the National Investigating Agency. The German Bakery case had a lot of significance since it was the first major attack that India faced post 26/11.
The NIA today has its task cut out since not only will it have to probe the case afresh but will also have to overcome several obstacles that have been set during the shoddy investigation that the ATS carried out.
This case was mired in controversy since day one when the ATS claimed to have made a very important breakthrough. Various theories were being floated at that point of time that the target was part of the David Headley reccee. The first of the arrests was that of Sammad Bhatkal, a resident of Bhatkal in Karnataka. Claiming that he was related to Indian Mujahideen founders, Riyaz and Iqbal Shahbandri Bhatkal, he was picked up from the Mangalore airport. Despite various theories being floated by the ATS, Sammad was released on bail.
The next person who was on their radar was a man by the name Maulana Shabir. He was termed as the financer of the blasts and he was being interrogated on these lines. However the ATS found no leads and to make matters worse, there was a hue and cry in his home town of Bhatkal where people said this man has no home of his own and how can he be the financer of the blasts.
After the Maulana fiasco, came the Himayath Baigh angle to the case. In their chargesheet, the ATS had named him as an accused. However his arrest and interrogation was not short of drama with Baigh claiming that he had not been given access to his counsel. To add to the embarrassment, Baigh had also stated that he had been picked up much before the German Bakery blasts. There was more embrassment when the ATS chief said that Baigh a chief of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba had visited Pune at the time of the blasts. However a deputy in the same force contradicted the statement saying that Baigh had never visited Pune.
The ATS however decided to go ahead with the chargesheet but then again there was a contradiction. The ATS chief, Rakesh Maria had claimed that the blasts were triggered off by a mobile phone, but the same thing does not find a mention in the chargesheet.
Going by the events, the NIA has a major task on hand. Sources say that they will first have to go through the investigation conducted by the ATS and preliminarily the finding is that there have not been any forthcoming leads and it appears that the case was conducted in a hurry.
The question now is whether this probe will now focus only on the Lashkar and Indian Mujahideen angle. The main link to the Lashkar angle was the fact that David Headley had conducted a survey in some of the places in Pune following which this city was targeted. The NIA itself is seized off the Headley case and so far there was no concrete link showing that the German Bakery was part of his survey. The only concrete Headley-Pune link that they have managed to find is that he had visited the Osho Ashram and had carried out a survey over there considering the number of foreign tourists that visit that place.
When asked whether there would be a Hindu angle being probed in this case, sources say that it is too early to tell, but they would be exploring that possibility as well. First on the cards for the NIA would be to inspect the ammunition that has been used in the various blats that have rocked the country. So far they have managed to track the similarities in the routes through which the RDX used for the Mecca Masjid, Samjautha blasts and Ajmer Blasts were brought in. The same exercise would be conducted in the German Bakery blasts as well.
In addition to this the NIA would also find the links between the Varanasi and the German Bakery blasts. The Varanasi blasts blast has been credited to the Indian Mujahideen and the Intelligence Bureau had claimed that this blast announced the resurgence of the IM.
Sources say that investigations into the German Bakery case may take nearly 5 months to complete. It does not pertain to just one individual case, but there are other cases which are inter-linked and they have to be looked into in depth.
India could not have been happier. The confession of Tahhawur Rana which nails the ISI and the Pakistani government is a shot in the arm for the Indian government which has repeatedly reminded Pakistan and also the rest of the world about this.
Naming the ISI and the Pakistan government repeatedly and leaving the Lashkar-e-Tayiba out of it clearly indicates that all is not well in the ISI. Documents and investigations show that Rana who worked as a doctor in the Pakistan army for 16 years before settling down in Chicago was also part of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba when the 26/11 attack was carried out.
This confession would put Pakistan in a spot of bother because once Rana starts speaking in court which will be coupled by cross examination the names of several persons remotely associated with the 26/11 attack and planning will come out in the open. The onus would then be on Pakistan to bring to justice these persons who Rana would name.
The three names that would come out during the course of the trial are that of Major Sameer, Major Iqbal, Colonel Shah and Major Sayeed. The four names mentioned here are all part of the ISI and the Pakistan army. Their names have cropped up during the investigation both by Indian and American agencies. The voice transcripts that have been provided to India by the United States do make a mention of these names and clearly spell out the roles that these men have played.
Headley for instance was in touch with Major Iqbal during his operation. This Major was in constant touch with Headley and the latter interacted with him through emails and gave him details about the job he was doing. The other Majors whose names find a mention were all part of the planning and execution of the attack. In the case of Colonel Shah, he was in charge of the maritime aspect of the attack. The Musa Company an elite naval wing of the Pakistan was used during the attack and its officers are the ones who offered training to the terrorists who finally carried out the attack. Shah was part of that team which helped train these terrorists.
Another name that India would want out is that of Colonel Abdul Rehman Syed who goes by the name Pasha. India has been saying that this man was another key person in the Headley affair and during the later part of his operation he stayed in touch with Pasha. During one of his visits to Pakistan, Pasha even introduced Headley to Ilyas Kashmiri following which the Mickey Mouse project was discussed.
Now Pakistan has always been in denial about the role its establishment had to play in the attack. For the establishment keeping the Lashkar united was of primary importance and hence they had to ensure that a major attack was staged in order to keep the outfit united.
While all these aspects would be discussed during the trial, another interesting aspect is the non inclusion of the Lashkar in the Rana confession. There are tensions between the CIA and the ISI and in some pockets the Lashkar troops in Afghanistan have withdrawn from their primary outfit and are fighting alongside the US forces. This suggests that the Lashkar is splitting up and the ISI is not amused with this new development. There have been efforts on part of the ISI to keep the outfit united but some elements have diverted in lure of power and money, sources also point out. If Rana sticks to his confession then the ISI would come under immense pressure and its bluff would be out in the open, sources also point out.
India will be looking to lap up this information and use it in their fight against Pakistan. There has not been an official word on the Rana confession as yet, but the trial will be observed carefully. India like the Headley case will have to make good with the information that the US gives out on Rana and a build a case on the basis of that. India would also seek an extradition of Rana in case he does not enter into any sort of plea bargain like what Headley did. If this one too goes that way that the two would be tried in an Indian court in-absentia and convicted accordingly.