Nov 26, 2008, a black chapter in the history of this region, takes us down the memory lane to a terrorist attack orchestrated by Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba. The extremist group raged through several hotels in the Indian city of Mumbai, leaving 170 innocent people dead and 304 severely injured. Not even foreign citizens were spared as there were victims with 16 other nationalities, including British and American. The reason this incident takes a different dimension is that Pakistan's intelligence agency ISI masterminded and financed the attack with the entire plan being supervised by the agency's Major Iqbal. Two five-star hotels (Taj Mahal Hotel and Oberoi-Trident Hotel) and four other spots (Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station, Cama Hospital, Nariman House business and residential complex, Leopold Cafe) reverberated with shootings and bombings. The charge-sheet submitted by Mumbai police in February of the next year revealed that a total of 34 Pakistani terrorists acting out the plan of the ISI under their patronage carried out the massacre. Nine of the terrorists were killed on the spot while three others (Ajmal Kasab, Yusuf Ansari, and Sabbir Ahmed Sheikh) were arrested and tried. The rest are still out of reach whom Pakistan is believed to provide with a safe haven.
Ajmal was the sole terrorist picked up alive by the police from the spot. He opened, through his confession, a Pandora's Box of information, naming some other birds of his flock, and revealing the role played by the ISI. He was executed in November 2012 while two other suspects, Ansari and Shahabuddin, were found not guilty. The investigation exposed more cracks and crevices such as the involvement of Taiba member David Coleman Headley, an American terrorist of Pakistani origin, who, assigned by the ISI, surveyed the entire area and picked targets. He had to pay for it dearly with 35 years of imprisonment awarded to him by a US court. The Mumbai attack held the world by shock and global leaders lashed out at Pakistan. United Nations also condemned the incident. Laskar-i-Taiba chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed and his cohorts were listed under UN Security Council Resolution 1267.
Hafiz Saeed, the ultimate plotter of this mind-boggling act of terrorism, has been nurtured by Pakistan for 12 years. Recently, Pakistan, in a farcical trial, awarded him imprisonment, an act of eyewash that cannot evade even a layman's eye. Nestled in a limousine, gifted by the government of Pakistan, he used to make it to the court. Even evidence is rife that he received a bounty from the government following the Mumbai attack.
This staged-verdict can easily be dubbed a feeble trial to manage the situation. It is even believed that he may be released after a while. Though India tipped off Pakistan on Hafiz, no charge of carrying out Mumbai carnage was pressed against him. If he was charged with this crime, the minimum punishment doled out to him would be life imprisonment. Rather, they diluted the charge to only financially assisting the terrorists, curtailing his imprisonment span to 11 years.
Moreover, Hafiz, facing the so-called arrest, enjoyed a cozy accommodation in the name of jail. Another terrorist, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, was released as the case record against him was poorly framed and no appeal was made against his release. Conjectures are that the trial was eyewash aimed at ridding the 'grey list' tag pinned by Financial Action Task Force (FTF). Pakistan is even at the risk of landing on the blacklist published by FTF in its upcoming plenary of FTF in February 2021, which may culminate in a financial embargo against Pakistan. Under that apprehension, Pakistan, with impressive haste, staged the farcical trial of Hafiz Saeed. Moreover, the terrorist list enumerated by Pakistan Investigation Agency didn't pick up a single name involved in the Mumbai carnage.
Though the Nov 26 carnage turned out in India, it issues a clarion call for us as well. Several years ago, a diplomat at the High Commission of Pakistan in Dhaka met quite a few terrorists and extremists on its premises and the meeting didn't evade the surveillance of our intelligence. Then that diplomat was compelled to fly off our country. Back in 2000, Pakistani Deputy High Commissioner Irfan Raza, facing expulsion from Bangladesh for making disparaging comments on the Liberation War of Bangladesh, dillydallied but finally was compelled to leave the country. The road beside the High Commission of Pakistan was named after a valiant freedom fighter. The ambassador of Pakistan didn't think twice before requesting our foreign ministry to change the name, which is an audacious violation of the 1964 Vienna Convention. It testifies to the fact that Pakistan is still struggling to wipe out the memory of their historic defeat in 1971. Another example of their audacity is passing a resolution to express serious concerns over the execution of war criminals in Bangladesh.
Even the High Commission of Pakistan doled out a hefty sum of money to the BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami during the 2000 parliamentary election of Bangladesh, which then chief of ISI openly confessed at a Pakistan court. The role of Pakistan in the assassination of the father of the nation of Bangladesh is conspicuous. With the type of grenades used in the Aug 21, 2004 attack taken into account, there are ample reasons to suspect Pakistan's role in the carnage. That Pakistan's notorious terrorist Daud Ibrahim had multiple meetings with Tarique Rahman in London is also strongly supported by sources. Pakistan was also involved in the failed attempt during the tenure of the BNP to dispatch 10 trucks of arms and ammunition from Bangladesh to create instability in the North-Eastern states of India.
Since the terrorist attack on Dhaka's Holy Artisan was modelled on the Mumbai carnage, the probability that Pakistan's sleight of hand worked in it runs high. It is also undeniable that Pakistan's ISI is persuading the Rohingya community not to return to their homeland and they are inciting the community to take part in violence. Pakistan is fuelling up terrorism and carrying out terrorist activities in the entire region using extremist outfits such as Laskar-i-Taiba. Former US president Barack Obama in his recently published book directly referred to sheltering Osama bin Laden by Pakistan, which is why the US was compelled to kill him with utter secrecy even without the knowledge of Pakistan. This is enough to corroborate that Pakistan is a safe haven for terrorists.
About the export of terrorist activities by Pakistan, the US director of national intelligence issued the cautionary statement that terrorism-based Pakistan may not leave any negative impact inside its territory but the dire consequence is being borne by the stability of the region.
When Ajmal Kasab was hanged, I went to the event of the International Council of Jurists to deliver a speech supporting his execution, and it was printed on the first pages of prominent Indian newspapers, which also carried the piece of news about the chief justice of Pakistan who was scheduled to grace the event with his presence but didn't turn out in the end.