For a period of 34 hours, between June 03, 2010 and June 09, 2010, India’s National Intelligence Agency (NIA) was given access to interrogate a man, without whose research and recon, the Nov 2008 terrorist rampage in Mumbai couldn’t have happened – David Coleman Headley, alias Daood Gilani.
At that point in time, Headley, a 49-year old ex-drug addict and trafficker and FBI informant, with a Pakistani Muslim father and an American white Christian mother, was in American custody and that is where the nIA team met with him.
Except for details regarding his family, Headley sang like a canary, linking the terrorists who perpetrated the massacre with the terrorist outfit, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and confirming an alignment between the LeT and the Pakistani establishment, through Pakistan’s only intelligence agency – Inter Services Institute (ISI).
No audio or video recording was permitted by the Americans during the interrogation and therefore Headley’s testimony to the Indians fell under the realm of hearsay, inadmissible in any court of law. The Indians had known this in advance but they still went ahead with the questioning, believing that it would enable them to connect all the dots.
The NIA team had been specifically interested to know if the Pakistanis had used an Indian connection in the operation but Headley disappointed them in this, stating vehemently that there were no active Indian participants in the attack, though there were persons of Indian origin present in the Karachi ‘control room’ while the attacks were in progress.
Headley also let on during the interrogation that besides Mumbai, he also scoped out targets in Pune, Goa, Delhi and Bengaluru, attacks on which are yet to happen so far.
Is the Indian security establishment prepared? I doubt that. India is the world’s prized ‘soft underbelly’, a nation of misguided Gandhian wimps and timid pacifists. A piddly two-bit nation like Pakistan can play it along and leave it in a permanent state of tizzy and India will still send it’s leaders to ‘talk’, believing in diplomatic speak known as ‘engagement’.
The information that David Headley provided the Indians was unusually graphic – details about LeT’s training facilities and programs, LeT/ISI safe houses and camps, cyber warfare capabilities and a new ‘Naval Wing’ consisting of fast, heavily armed, ocean-going vessels that were being planned, to provide back-up and extraction capability in future operations inside India.
Headley identified the British GCHQ’s voice intercepts as well as photographs of scores of ISI officers and LeT commanders and trainers who had been directly connected to the Mumbai attacks and specifically those who were present in the ‘control room’ in Karachi from where the operation was directed in real time through cellphones. Most importantly, Headley provided a rare glimpse into the mind of the Iblis himself – the LeT’s Emir, Hafeez Saeed, whom he had met multiple times in Lahore.
In comparison to the November 2008 strike in Mumbai, the 2006 commuter train bombings in the same city had been even more horrific. On 11th July 2006, within a span of 11 minutes, seven powerful pressure cooker bombs ripped through overcrowded compartments of Mumbai commuter trains during the rush hour, when the coaches are usually very crowded. In all, 209 died and over 700 were injured. Headley stated that when the attacks happened he had been in the US and when he asked two of his ISI handlers about them, they confirmed that the strikes had been choreographed in the same Karachi control room and that the operatives in that instance were members of a local outfit called the Indian Mujahedeen, who had been trained at LeT camps.
Headley revealed to the visiting NIA team a picture of the LeT that was clearer than any that the Indian security agencies had until then. It was the profile of a terrorist organisation which had it’s own country – Pakistan.
Since his first meeting with his NIA interrogators inside an American jail cell in 2010, David Coleman Headley has come a full circle. This month, he appeared via a video link at a Mumbai sessions court and gave the following deposition….
“I have pleaded guilty to the charges in the US and admitted that I was participant in these charges. I accept responsibility for my role in those offences and agree to make myself available as a witness in this court. I appear here today, ready to answer questions regarding these events, if I receive a pardon from this court.”
Why did Headley choose to go official with his testimony? The prospect of a pardon from India doesn’t cut it since he is already serving a 35-year jail sentence in America, with no chance of early parole, which means that he’ll be close to 90 if he manages to live out his sentence. No, I believe it was a nudge from the Indian Prime minister, Narendra Modi, to President Obama and a subsequent threat to Headley that he could be transferred to a facility where he would be guaranteed a rough time from the other inmates. Being the slimy coward that most terrorists really are, he quickly agreed.
In exchange for his deposition in what is commonly known in American law enforcement as ‘cutting a plea deal’, Headley has been conditionally pardoned by the Indian government. A plea deal is done on the caveat that the accused shall come clean totally and withhold no information whatsoever. Thus, David Headley is expected to spill all the beans that he had already spilled in 2010.
Unfortunately, it is possible he will make up many stories along the way, until the lines between truth and fiction are completely blurred.
Those Pakistanis he is going to finger cannot be arrested and incarcerated in India even if hell freezes over. They can only be tried in absentia, a legal process that is expected to be just another completely farcical exercise. After being judged guilty, these Pakistani vermin might be relegated in the background, as miserable bargaining chips for some later negotiations – if at all.
India says it agreed to pardon this man ‘in the larger interests of proving guilt of the main perpetrators, which otherwise would have been impossible to accomplish in a conspiracy case’. But when did absolute proof deter Pakistan from committing acts of terrorism? What would that proof achieve?
With this judgement, India pardoned a man who played so central a role that without his participation, the 26/11 Mumbai massacres would certainly never have happened. We now know that Headley went even further and laid the groundwork for future attacks on at least four other Indian cities, the likelihood of which is a very real one, given India’s atrociously incompetent intel capabilities.
India is still attempting to ‘engage’ with this nation which sends out it’s citizens to murder innocent Indians with clockwork frequency. A wimp’s heart always has hope – that one day his tormentor shall somehow miraculously begin to see his folly and turn a new leaf.
Frequently, the rock stars and prima donas of Indian TV, like Vikram Chandra and Barkha Dutt, invite Pakistani generals and politicians as guests on their shows, offering known terrorism sponsors a platform to spew their absurd rhetoric, believing that this is how the media should be seen – offering a fair and balanced debate. Sure, letting murderers use an Indian talk show to claim that the Peshawar school massacre was directed by India, is being fair and balanced, huh, Barkhaji?
Except perhaps in a very limited manner with Jordan, do Israelis engage with any of the folks in the neighboring Arab nations in the manner that Indians try to do? Would an Israeli talk show host invite a Hamas commander to his TV program?
Instead of negatively impacting it’s long-term security, Israel’s refusal to engage has strengthened it and at the very mention of it’s name, it’s adversaries virtually pee in their pants. Israel stops at nothing in it’s resolve to seek retribution, shadowing targets thousands of miles to other nations and assassinating them there. If India had been Israel, the bones of the LeT Emir, Hafeez Saeed, would be rotting in an unmarked grave by now.
If India wants to rid itself of the annoyance of a hateful Pakistan, it shall have to turn itself into another Israel and teach Pakistan a hard lesson. And hard lessons aren’t taught through engagement. Indian’s citizens shall have to get off their butts and train to be ready to take up arms and fight as soldiers, every single one of them. It’s leaders shall have to come from the ranks of the military and the intelligence community. Through history, only those leaders who have been in the military, have been successful leaders.
Yes, Senator Rick Santorum was right when he declared during the last GOP debate that this is World War III – it is. Does India wish to remain standing when the dust settles or not?
Sometimes nations, like men, need to transform en masse. Those that do, come up on top. Angela Merkel’s Germany is virtually unrecognizable from Hitler’s Germany. Likewise, it is time for India to transform – from a Gandhian India to one that will not hesitate to shed blood and occupy territory, in order to secure itself.
Indians has to first hurt, to get better.