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Thursday, February 15, 2024

Ajmal Kasab: Pakistani Mainstream Media exposed?

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The records at Bidhoona tehsil in Uttar Pradesh’s Auraiya district made a shocking revelation after it was found that Ajmal Kasab – the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack convict who was hanged in 2012 – has been issued a domicile certificate. “If records at Bidhoona tehsil in UP s Auraiya district are to be believed, Ajmal Kasab, the 26/11 Mumbai attack convict who was hanged at Yerwada jail in Pune on November 21, 2012, has been issued a domicile certificate,” reported Times of India.

The district authorities cancelled the domicile certificate and suspended the concerned revenue officer before ordering a probe in this regard. As per the details written on the domicile certificate, terrorist Ajmal Kasab’s birthplace is mentioned as Bidhuna. The certificate, which bore registration no:181620020060722, mentioned Muhammad Amir as his father and Mumtaz Begum as his mother. The domicile certificate of Ajmal Kasab was issued on October 21. The official narrative of the Mumbai attacks tragedy has largely been criticized by neutral observers for several reasons.

Ajmal Kasab, the 26/11 Mumbai attack convict who was hanged at Yerwada jail in Pune on November 21, 2012, has been issued a domicile certificate,” reported Times of India.

Elias Davidsson in his book, The Betrayal of India, has identified many discrepancies such as the framing of the narrative by the Indian government while the attack was underway, a list of failures by Indian authorities in following proper procedures while following protocol as well as extreme secrecy and the withholding of basic information from the population, with the excuse of “national security”. Similarly, An American academic, political commentator and scholar, Dr Kevin Barrett has asserted that the 2008 Mumbai attacks were a false flag by the Indian government.

He stressed that American, Israeli and Indian intelligence agencies had colluded together in pursuit of mutual interets. Dr. Kevin and Elias are not the only ones who are criticizing the official account of the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Many Indians have also pointed out loopholes in the narrative. A former home ministry official has confirmed that a member of the CBI-SIT team had accused incumbent governments of “orchestrating” the terror attack on Parliament and the 26/11 carnage in Mumbai.

Read more: Why India always accuses Pakistan for terrorism?

R V S Mani, who as home ministry under-secretary signed the affidavits submitted in court in the alleged Ishrat Jahan encounter case, stated that Satish Verma, until recently a part of the CBI-SIT probe team, told him that both the terror attacks were set up “with the objective of strengthening the counter-terror legislation (sic)”. Mani has said that Verma “…narrated that the 13.12. 2001 (attack on Parliament) was followed by POTA (Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act) and 26/11 2008 (terrorists’ siege of Mumbai) was followed by an amendment to the UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act).”

Similarly, Former Maharashtra inspector general of police SM Mushrif stated that the Mumbai attacks were not waged by the Lashkar-e-Taiba but actually an insidious conspiracy by some Hindutva affiliated government circles in order to strengthen anti-Muslim feelings and sow a conducive atmosphere for the RSS.

The following excerpt has been taken from Dr. Moeed Pirzada’s article published in March Issue of GVS Magazine titled Hafiz Saeed: Albatross around Pakistan’s Neck

 Indian Ministry of External Affairs Cable, 222018 of Aug 2009

Thanks to Wikileaks and the Australian bravo, Julian Assange, we can access, read and ponder on the cable No. 222018 that was sent by T.C.A Raghavan, the then Additional Secretary Foreign Affairs, Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on 24 Aug 2009 to White House, Secretary of State, National Security Council (NSC), CIA, CENTCOM, PACOM, and several US embassies and Missions (Beijing, Moscow, Tokyo, Geneva and London among others). Raghavan, the polite diplomat, who later was Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad and is now, after retirement, an author of an interesting book “The People Next Door” informed the key US institutions and diplomatic posts that Indian govt. is finding it difficult to re-engage with Pakistan since Pakistan is not making any progress on Hafiz Saeed.

This cable, sent three days after a dossier was handed over to Pakistan High Commission in Delhi and western embassies, (Aug 21) then lists the charges and the evidence against Hafiz Saeed. The evidence, as summed up in Raghavan’s cable, is essentially coming from three accused persons in the case no. 175 of 2009. These are: Ajmal Kasab, Fahim Ansari and Sabeeh-ud-Din. What do they tell? Ajmal Kasab informs prosecution that he had joined LeT in Dec 2007 (didn’t exist under this name or banner after 2002) and went to a training camp in Azad Kashmir and there he saw and heard Hafiz Saeed who exhorted all for Jihad in Kashmir, he gave names to all recruits and named Kasab as Abu Mujahid. Later, he saw Hafiz in an operations center in or near Karachi who gave instructions regarding the forthcoming attack on Mumbai.

Fahim Ansari, who was already under arrest since Feb 2008 in Rampur Attack Case, confessed on 18 December 2008 that he was recruited by LeT in 2007, he too went to a training camp in Pakistan and towards the end of his training Hafiz Saeed visited the camp. Sabeeh-ud-Din, the third accused (also in custody in Rampur Attack Case, since Feb 2008) confessed, also on 18 December, that during his training inside Pakistan he was taken to Muridkay where (he perhaps believes) Hafiz and others were based. After his release from house arrest, Hafiz offered a special prayer at Mochi Darwaza in Lahore; it was where Sabeeh-ud-Din first saw Hafiz and claimed that “he was enlightened by his preaching during the prayer”.

Read more: Ajmal Kasab was an Indian – UP records show

T.C.A Raghavan had sent his cable in Aug 2008, and it is obvious that Indian government was merely relying upon confessions of men in Indian custody and the statements even then were sketchy. This is like Pakistan demanding action against current RAW Chief, Anil Kumar Dhasmana, on the basis of statements of RAW Officer, Kulbhahsan Yadav who has admitted, while in Pakistani custody, to supervising several acts of terrorism across Pakistan and has told his investigators of his meetings with Anil Kumar (before 2016; when Anil Kumar was RAW’s second in). But we don’t need to go in that direction; something more interesting happened when in 2010, Indian sessions court, the trial court, acquitted both Fahim Ansari and Sabeeh-ud-Din.

An American academic, political commentator and scholar, Dr Kevin Barrett has asserted that the 2008 Mumbai attacks were a false flag by the Indian government.

Indian charge sheet against Fahim Ansari, and Sabeeh-ud-din, linking them with Mumbai terrorism was that both were hired by LeT in 2007 (that does not exist; replaced by JuD for all practical purposes) to do reconnaissance and provide maps to the attackers. According to prosecution, Fahim had done the reconnaissance, made sketches and maps and then Sabeeh-ud-din handed these to LeT and these maps were used by the attackers on 26 November. The prosecution had produced confessional statements from another accused, Sheikh, and the maps.

Indian Judge examining the maps and the evidence concluded that Mumbai police had made a bogus case because the quality of information (maps on record by prosecution) Fahim Ansari allegedly provided or could provide was far inferior than what was easily available from Google and the witness against them was not reliable. Prosecution challenged trial court decision all the way till Indian supreme court and their case was rejected by courts at all levels. Finally, Fahim was acquitted from Indian Supreme court in 2013. All this has been reported by Indian media and anyone can access this. Sabeeh-ud-Din case, linked with Fahim Ansari, followed similar trajectory.

Cables of Ambassador Anne Patterson

If Wikileaks had leaked, T.C.A Raghavan’s cable of Aug 22, 2008 then it also leaked Ambassador. Anne Patterson’s cable of April 2009 to her principals in Washington. Patterson, then Washington’s point person in Islamabad, was one of the senior most US diplomats that earned the respect of her interlocutors wherever she worked. I recently met ex-President, Asif Ali Zardari and as we talked casually about international relations, I was struck by the level of respect he showed for Anne Patterson and her integrity.

Patterson in her cable No. 206598, of 12 May 2009, (SUBJECT: MUMBAI PROSECUTION UPDATE: PAKISTAN LACKS EVIDENCE TO CONVICT TOP SUSPECTS) informed Washington that India (GOI, as she refers in her cable) has failed to provide any certified substantive evidence against the accused in Pakistan. She demands that Washington must persuade India to come forth with more substantive evidence otherwise the case in Pakistani courts will soon collapse; following is an exact excerpt from the summary of this cable:

 “While the FIA and prosecutors have been able to use the repeated extensions to gather more evidence, time is running out, and the prosecution does not/not have enough evidence to convict the top Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) suspects, Lakhvi, Zarar Shah, and al Qama. If the FIA does not receive the necessary third-country evidence from the GOI (or the FBI after GOI approval), these three suspects will likely be acquitted and released. Repeated USG interventions at several levels with the GOI have not yielded any certified evidence being passed to the GOP. If the top LeT terrorists are released, India will certainly accuse Pakistan of a lack of good faith in prosecuting and of directly sponsoring terrorism against India..”

Read more: Nawaz claims others have given similar statements on Mumbai and gotten…

Ambassador Patterson’s cable in para 4 also mentions that, “FIA does not/not have enough independent evidence to successfully prosecute the senior LeT leaders, Lakhvi, Shah, and al Qama. Unfortunately, due to political pressure, the FIA was put in the position of arresting and charging the three individuals before it had conducted a complete investigation or collected the proper evidence..” Pakistan, however under tremendous pressure being exercised by India through the US, kept moving with a flawed legal process that ended up creating more and more “media narrative” and increasing indictment of Pakistan in public imagination worldwide.

At the eve of 17th SAARC summit, the media dialogue that took place between Rehman Malik, the then Pakistani interior minister and Ranjan Mathai, his Indian foreign secretary further helps to understand the nature of Indian evidence and sum total of Indian position on it. Rehman Malik stated that “Indian side is giving us lots of information and dossiers but no credible evidence” (Rediff.com, Nov 2001; Addu City, Maldives). Responding to Malik’s statement, Ranjan Mathai, India’s respected Foreign Secretary, stated, “If the Pakistani Interior Minister thinks that Kasab must be sent to the gallows then he is saying that based on the information we have provided” (Rediff.com – SARRC Summit, Addu City, Maldives).

According to prosecution, Fahim had done the reconnaissance, made sketches and maps and then Sabeeh-ud-din handed these to LeT and these maps were used by the attackers on 26 November.

What becomes obvious from T.C.A Raghavan’s cable of 22 Aug, 2009 and Ranjan Mathai’s response in the Maldives is that Indian government totally relied upon – for its case against Hafiz Saeed and others – on the confessional statement of Ajmal Kasab and two other accused. As mentioned earlier, both Fahim Ansari and Sabeeh-ud-Din (66% of the evidence Indians relied upon against accused in Pakistan) were soon acquitted by Indian courts of all charges related to Mumbai terrorism. Ajmal Kasab recanted his confession later and took the stand that confession was extracted from him under duress. This makes his confessional statement legally inadmissible to be used against others he had earlier accused.

However, problems with Indian position on Ajmal Kasab do not end there. While Pakistani government never sought consular access for Kasab, Pakistani investigators did. Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and police officers who were working to piece the story together for the trial of accused in Pakistan wanted to cross-examine Kasab on his confessional statement. They were repeatedly denied by Indian authorities. Same happened to the lawyers of the defendants; they under law had the right to cross-examine the person whose statements and evidence was being used to frame their clients. However, after several months of wrangling, and frustrating debate, all what they could get was access to the Mumbai police officers who had recorded Ajmal Kasab’s statement.

Read more: Mumbai attack comments: What future holds for Nawaz Sharif after his…

Did Ajmal Kasab enter India from Nepal?

Why Indian authorities were so afraid of granting access to investigators and lawyers to Ajmal Kasab? Why they consciously weakened the case knowing fully well that defendant’s lawyers and investigators had to get access to the man whose statement creates the basis for FIR? Why denying access was so important that it superseded all other considerations? There is no satisfactory answer to this question. Nature abhors vacuum and Indian diffidence on this has lead to interesting theorizing in Pakistan.

As soon as name Ajmal Kasab had appeared on horizon, immediately in the aftermath of Mumbai terrorism, in December 2008, there were murmurs in Islamabad that Ajmal Kasab might be an agent of LeT or even some Pakistani agency but he was someone who had entered India from Nepal, 2-3 years ago and was considered lost; he was believed to be in Indian custody – just like Col. Habib who recently disappeared from Nepal (after RAW Officer Kulbhashan’s arrest in Pakistan) and is believed to be in possession of Indian external agency. These arguments, from hushed discussions in drawing rooms, soon reached television programs and such programs do exist on YouTube – and have been written about in major papers.

When Kasab’s confessional video, from a hospital bed, appeared on Indian TV and on YouTube, Pakistanis were struck by the fact that he spoke Urdu/Hindi in a local (Marathi) accent and did not sound like a young Punjabi lad from Pakistan. Most Indians easily ignored this aspect, westerners off course had no capacity to pick up such subtle shades of ethnicity and dialects, but Punjabi Pakistanis, native to Punjabi street, were intrigued that this young man, from dusty Farid kot, not formally educated, does not exhibit the usual rough Punjabi accent, of how you utter words and syllables, that easily creeps into the Urdu expressions of all less educated Punjabis. Many satisfied themselves that maybe he did penetrate from Nepal, was in Mumbai for a while and had picked up local accent –and could have joined the gunmen from Mumbai.

But Ajmal Kasab on hospital bed, singing like a canary, also used word, “Bhagvan” and Indian prosecution case states that he came from Karachi on the boat and had joined the Hafiz’s LeT in 2007. If that is the case, then his “Bhagvan” and local accent did not make sense. This theory does not deny that Ajmal Kasab was a Pakistani born in Farid Kot, or he could be recruited by Hafiz’s militia but it certainly raised the question: If the man, singing like a canary, on hospital bed, and repeating words like, “Kaha maro maro” was in fact the same Ajmal Kasab? Or he was someone, a look-alike, who was needed to fill in the gaps in prosecution’s case?

Read more: Hafiz Saeed: Albatross around Pakistan’s Neck?

Whatever the reality, this theory does help to explain the possible Indian anxiety in providing access to this man, Ajmal Kasab, to the lawyers of defendants and Pakistani investigators. Perhaps it will be a safe conclusion to argue that in terms of media and public narrative, carried by tv broadcasts, columnists, think tankers, news agencies and counter-terror specialists of all kinds Hafiz Saeed is definitely the evil mastermind of Mumbai terrorism but in terms of evidence on record, provided by the Indian government, the case was always a non-starter. This is nothing to do about innocence or being guilty; its about the evidence.

Could it be possible that Indian imperative to focus on Hafiz – even if evidence had to be stretched or fabricated – was driven by the strategic realization that he had been, from 1990’s, an instrument of Pakistan’s state policy on Kashmir and getting him implicated was a necessary step in getting Pakistan in the dock. In 1992, the then Indian PM, Narasimha Rao, had ordered Indian intelligence, in what has been described as “Rao Doctrine” to initiate a strategy of isolating Pakistan by getting it declared as a “terrorist state”. Al Faran terror group, that abducted western tourists and beheaded some, appeared soon afterwards.

Pakistanis and their jihadi assets in Kashmir had immediately cried that “Al Faran” appears to be an Indian ploy. Almost 18 years later, two British scholars, Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott, armed with massive research, in their book, “Meadow- Kashmir; Where the terror began” argued, as cautiously as they could, that Al Faran was under the control of Indian intelligence that did not want a negotiated outcome and wanted to prolong it. Pakistanis had always argued that Al Faran was a narrative shaping bombshell.