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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The 26/11 Case - How Pakistan and its Judiciary Help the Terrorists - Part III

Pakistan's diplomatic ploy against India is quite well known and has been evolving with changing circumstances. However, there is a fundamental and constant foundation on which it operates: perfidy. Pakistan has been denying for long that it has any terrorists at all targetting India though everyone knows that Pakistan-sponsored terrorism has been the story since 1947. It claimed furtively that the terrorist attacks in India were purely indigenous. Indeed, terror was the tactic that the Muslim League used in pre-partition India during the last phase. No wonder that an independent Pakistan, implacably obsessed with India, chose to carry on with terror as a weapon. Once, terror could no longer be plausibly denied, as proof was coming thick and fast, Pakistan blamed inflamed passion generated by the long-running Kashmir question as the root cause, little recognizing that it had a legal, moral and binding responsibility to prevent such terrorist activities, inflammation notwithstanding !

Then it blamed India itself for amassing 700,000 troops along the Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) border and yet being unable to stop infiltration of the terrorists. Yet, there has never been a single instance of Pakistan having caught even one such terrorist infilitrator trying to cross into India. It is as though Pakistan wants to present the face of a disinterested spectator in this whole drama. On the other hand, it is well known that it provides covering fire and diversionary attacks to make it easy for these jihadi infiltrators to sneak into India. Mr. Zardari's flight of fancy has resulted in a new term 'non-state actors' as though it is again not Pakistan's responsibility and international committment to arrest these terrorists, dismantle their outfits and prosecute them, let alone prosecute speedily. When things reach a difficult stage where it becomes indefensible for Pakistan anymore, it invokes the sob-story of itself being a great victim of terrorism. What a travesty and what a pathetic performance !! Its citizens, elite and ordinary alike, partake this shameful and disgusting performance of mendacity. If international pressure mounts further, it promises actions, only to speak with a forked tongue and make just the very minimal efforts to give the appearance of some action being taken with tantalizingly more to follow only to be belied later.

In the case of 26/11 probe and prosecution, it has done all these and in addition blamed India also for not providing it with concrete evidence, forgetting that evidence is what it should establish for the events that took place within its borders and against the terrorists who operate from there !!! It was in this context that the Indian Home Minister, P.Chidambaram stated "If it is half-baked, they (Pakistan) are welcome to bake it fully". So, when the then Indian National Security Adviser, M.K.Narayanan, said towards end of August, 2009, that he did not expect Pakistan to proceed much further as "They’ve done just enough to take the heat off them from the West.", it was not only an accurate assessmnet but also indicated India's conclusion that it would be futile to expect any further movement by Pakistan. The accuracy of the above Indian assessment is proved by the fact that even two years later, by March 2011, only one witness had taken the stand and already three judges have heard the case.

Therefore, when Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi promised that serious action would take place in the courtrooms from October 3, 2009, nobody in India believed it. Pakistan has not belied such Indian (non-)expectations. On October 3, 2009, the Trial Judge was taken ill and so the hearing was postponed for the sixth time in the previous two months ! Rehman Malik had said that the nine accused would be formally indicted on September 26 and then Qureshi had promised that a full fledged trial would positively start on October 3 and yet none of these milestones was met. Finally, the accused were chargesheeted only on October 10th. But, framing the chargesheet itself was wrought with high drama. There was an on-going siege of the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the Pakistani Army at Rawalpindi on that very same day and the ATC judge therefore asked the defence lawyers to leave the court to save their lives and not be caught in traffic jam and stranded while he bravely went ahead with framing the accused ! {I have really not made this up} After thus asking the defence lawyers to run for their lives even when they protested that they would stay behind, the Judge asked the prosecution lawyers and the accused to appear before him and he framed the charges. The accused refused to accept the charges citing the absence of their lawyers and the chargesheet being in English. The Judge should have very well known that the defence, which even otherwise was raising objection after objection to delay and kill the case, would surely object to this flouting of law at the next hearing and yet he went ahead with this ! What a convenient ruse to delay the case further ! Pakistan makes every attempt to stifle this case and it gives us great merriment to chronicle their efforts and expose them. If the Judge cannot be accused of being hand in glove with the terrorists and their lawyers in giving them loopholes to challenge the very process of framing charges and thus delay the proceedings, can anyone disagree with that ?

Two days later the spirit of the jihadi camp was mightily lifted when the jihadi-pasand Lahore High Court dismissed the twin charges (of inciting jihad and collecting funds for jihad) against Professor Hafeez Saeed saheb. It said, inter alia, "Anti-terror law does not apply to Saeed," because JuD was not a banned organization in Pakistan ! It is thus very clear that either Pakistani government failed to prove that LeT and JuD were one and the same and were involving themselves in terrorism and jihad or the Lahore High Court did not accept such proof in order to help the terrorists. It is also possible that both were true. Of course, the United Nations' Security Council (UNSC) had already declared, in December 2008 itself, JuD as a terrorist organization which was binding on all member countries but apparently not in Pakistan !! Later, Interior Minister Abdul Rehman would offer weak excuses that since JuD was already declared as a terrorist organization by the UNSC itself, Pakistan did not deem it necessary to issue such a declaration within Pakistan. For its part, the Punjab government confirmed that JuD was only on a 'watch list' as it was a charity organization. What was most striking was the speed with which the Lahore High Court disposed of this case, less than a month, in contrast with the 26/11 trial at ATC-II at Adiala prison.

Back in the ATC-II, there was more drama to come when the court re-convened on October 17 for the hearing. As was expected, the defence lawyers protested serving of chargesheets to their clients in their absence the previous week. The lawyers boycotted the proceedings and the Judge, Baqir Ali Rana, promptly postponed the hearings to October 24th. Meanwhile, India decided to send to ATC-II, court-certified copies of witness depositions as well as the deposition of the Judge to whom Kasab confessed. Two days later, and before the next adjourned hearing, Justice Baqir Ali Rana of ATC-II, Adiala refused to take any further part in the hearings and asked the Lahore High Court to recuse him from the case due to "unavoidable personal reasons". News reports said that the judge felt that his position had been made "vulnerable" because of the move to conduct the proceedings behind closed doors. Thus the 'gag order' he himself issued came back to haunt him ? Or, was he forced to issue the 'gag-order' in the first place ?

In the meanwhile, in the jihadi-pasand Lahore High Court (LHC), another case came up for hearing and that pertained to the one filed by Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi asking the LHC to transfer the case out of Justice Baqir Ali Rana's court as he was acting under directions from the Interior Minister, Rehman Malik. Thus, both the Judge and the accused wanted the case to be out ! So, the LHC appointed a new judge on Octoer 24 to conduct this all important case !

(To Be Continued . . . )

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