Tension between Islamabad and New Delhi started to dissipate on Thursday and a thaw set in when Pakistan’s Interior Adviser Rehman Malik conceded that last November’s terror attacks in Mumbai were partially planned in Pakistan, and announced the arrest of a number of accused and his government’s intent to prosecute them.
Rehman Malik’s unprecedented announcement at a televised news conference was greeted by an immediate change in tone and tenor of key Indian decision makers. Both External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Interior Minister P. Chidambaram described as positive Islamabad’s response to the Delhi-prepared investigation dossier on the terror attacks blamed on Pakistan-based militants.
In another positive development, albeit not officially confirmed till our going to press, informed sources told Dawn of the planned trial of more than half a dozen accused, currently detained at an undisclosed location, in Rawalpindi’s Adiala jail. Security consideration, sources said, would preclude an open trial in a local court.
These developments allowed peace activists in the subcontinent to heave a sigh of relief as the rhetoric softened considerably, particularly in India. The Mumbai attacks appeared to have brought the two countries to the brink of war and stymied the peace process.
At least 180 people were killed when 10 gunmen carried out daring strikes on high-profile targets in Mumbai on Nov 26. They laid siege to landmarks like the city’s Victoria train terminus, the Taj Mahal hotel and the Oberoi hotel. Nine of the 10 attackers perished in the four-day siege.
ISLAMABAD, Feb 12: The Adviser to the Prime Minister on interior conceded on Thursday that the Mumbai attacks were partly hatched in Pakistan, saying that an FIR had been lodged against eight assailants. Of them six were in custody.
“Some part of the conspiracy took place in Pakistan. We have lodged an FIR against eight perpetrators, including mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi,” Rehman Malik told a news conference.
The Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad was called to the Foreign Office on Thursday evening and handed over Pakistan’s preliminary findings.
Informed sources told Dawn that investigators believe the detained men had links with Lashkar-e-Taiba.
The adviser said a “network of Islamists” was behind the tragedy as evidence showed a number of countries figured in preparations for the siege.
The report mentioned countries like Austria, Spain, Italy and Russia. The inquiry also threw up the US city of Houston among places with which the attackers had one link or the other.
Mr Malik said all attackers had gone to India from Pakistan, but added he had no information about their identity or family background. He asked Indian authorities to provide names and details of the nine men who had accompanied Ajmal Kasab, the lone survivor.
Three of the arrested have been identified as Lashkar chief in Kashmir Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi (the mastermind), Hamad Amin Sadiq and Zarar Shah.
Three others are Mohammad Kaif, Mohammad Ashfaq and Javed Iqbal. Two others named in the FIR — Abu Hamza and Al Qaima — are at large.
Sources said that LeT’s operational chief Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and Hamad Sadiq, a resident of Karachi, were arrested in December, but the arrest of Zarar Shah provided all leads to investigators.
“The attackers left from Karachi on a boat hired in Balochistan,” Mr Malik said.
“An e-mail claiming responsibility for the attack was sent by Zarrar Shah of the Lashkar-i-Taiba.
“According to the initial inquiry report, a part of the conspiracy was hatched in Pakistan.”
However, Mr Malik hastened to add that links had also been found in other countries, too.
“Among them are Austria, Spain, Italy, Russia and the United States.”
The adviser said an amount of $238 was transferred from Spain for the acquisition of a “domain name” used for communication over Internet.
It was registered in Houston, Texas. Another domain name used by the attackers was registered in Russia and a satellite phone was registered in a Middle Eastern country. One of the accused, Javed Iqbal, lived in Barcelona and was repatriated and arrested for payment of $238.
An FIR (No 01/2009) has been lodged against the eight accused with a special investigation unit in Islamabad police.
“The FIR has been registered. I want to show all of you, our nation, the international community, and all those who have been a victim of terrorism that we mean business,” Mr Malik said.
After registering the case against the accused, Pakistan decided to send a dossier seeking answer to 30 questions from India for further probe into the attack.
“We have asked Indian authorities to share more information so that the culprits could be given exemplary punishment. One should not think that we are passing responsibility to India,” the adviser said.
In the dossier, Pakistan has sought the statement of Ajmal Kassab given to Indian authorities, his fingerprints and accomplices who had taken part in the attack, intercepted conversation, details of seven SIMs used by the attackers, ID cards and photo images of the nine other terrorists.
“We have gone an extra mile in conducting an investigation on the basis of information provided by India and we have proved that we are with the Indian people on the matter,” Rehman Malik said.
The initial inquiry revealed that a total of nine people had set sail for India from Thatta.
“The accused visited Karachi in September and October for drills related to deep sea travel. Three boats used in the operation have been taken into custody while the buyers and crew members of Al Farooq and Al Hussani have been arrested,” Rehman Malik added. He said “all culprits” would be punished in Pakistan.