New Delhi: Home secretaries of India and Pakistan will begin wide-ranging talks on Monday, including cross-border terrorism, smuggling of narcotics, inflow of fake Indian currency notes and the progress in the Mumbai terror attack trial in Pakistan, Indian news reports said on Sunday.
However, a WikiLeaks revelation in The Hindu on Sunday concerning India’s diplomatic engagement with the world and with Pakistan to move against alleged terror mastermind Hafiz Saeed and his associates over the Mumbai terror attack may have queered New Delhi’s pitch on the key issue.
Fresh US cables published coincidentally on Sunday, the day Pakistan’s home secretary crossed the Wagah border into India, indicate that New Delhi’s case for Pakistan to act against alleged terrorists of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) was based primarily on the statements of three men, two of whom were later acquitted.
While Ajmal Kasab, a Pakistani gunman, was sentenced to death, the other two -- both Indian Muslims -- were acquitted in the case. The fact that the Indian dossier on Hafiz Saeed was corroborated by the condemned man -- Ajmal Kasab -- with the statements purported to have been given by Messrs Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin seems to have been implicitly rejected by both the trial court and the Bombay High Court.
According to one US embassy cable, the Indian dossier “is drawn almost entirely from the confession of the surviving gunman, Ajmal Amir Kasab, and statements by Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin (Shaikh)”. The three are accused in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks case. National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan described the material in the dossier as “Grade-1 evidence”.
The cable noted that while “Kasab was eventually sentenced to death by the Mumbai trial court, the other two were acquitted as the court found the evidence against them to be insufficient and wanted to give them the ‘benefit of doubt’.”
Both Ansari and Sabahuddin are involved in other cases. Sabahuddin is facing charges for the 2008 attack on a Central Reserve Police Force camp in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh, and the 2005 blast at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. Fahim has a case pending against him in Rampur for alleged forgery and possession of a weapon.
Details of how Kasab was indoctrinated and prepared by the LeT, specifically by Hafiz Saeed and an unnamed “Major General Saab” emanated from Kasab’s statement, and corroborated by the other two. According to the Indian dossier, “Hafiz Saeed fixed the time as 7.30pm to carry out the attack and justified the time by saying ‘at this hour there is considerable crowd at the places of our target’.” While acquitting the two Indian accused, the judges discarded a portion of Kasab’s confessional statement which referred to the involvement of the duo. “We find no difficulty in excluding that part of the confessional statement which refers to the duo’s involvement as there is no sufficient corroboration to that part,” they said.
The court also noted that the prosecution had not established beyond doubt the handing over of maps of 26/11 targets by Fahim to Sabahuddin in Kathmandu in January 2008.
Indian reports at the time said that Mumbai police’s elite crime branch was again left red-faced after Bombay High Court dismissed its appeal challenging the acquittal of the Indians as co-conspirators.