Focus shifts to LeT commander's trial in Pakistan

Last Updated: Wed, Nov 21, 2012 19:41 hrs

Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab, the only Pakistani terrorist who survived the 26/11 attack on multiple Mumbai targets, was hanged on Wednesday morning, a day before Pakistan’s interior minister, Rehman Malik, was due to arrive in India on a two-day visit.

According to senior government sources, Malik was told that the proposed dates for his visit, November 22-23, would have to be rescheduled because the impending winter session of Parliament left Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde with no time to deal with a foreign visit.

In fact, with preparations for the hanging under way since November 8, New Delhi did not want Malik to arrive immediately after Kasab’s execution, or to cancel his visit at the last minute.

As it turns out, Pakistan’s interior minister has not protested Kasab’s execution. “This is the decision by a court and, therefore, I am nobody to say why they have done it. The court must have had some reason to do it. Hence, I think, whether it is a Pakistani court or Indian, we should respect its judgment,” said Malik according to TV channel CNN-IBN.

The Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi has declined to comment.

Pakistan was aware of Kasab’s impending execution. Soon after the president rejected his mercy petition, New Delhi told Islamabad that Kasab had exhausted all his legal options. Immediately after the execution this morning, Islamabad was informed his body would be handed over to the Pakistan authorities in case they made a request. Pakistan has not responded so far.

Government sources do not expect the Pakistani government to accept Kasab’s body. It would be a lightening rod for radical anger, with the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in particular, expected to exploit it as a cause celebre. The LeT is widely acknowledged to have executed the Mumbai attacks.

According to Reuters, a senior LeT commander in Pakistan has issued a statement calling Kasab a hero and asserting he would inspire more attacks. “To die like Kasab is the dream of every fighter,” the commander told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.

Other jehadi groups, including the Pakistan Taliban, have weighed in on behalf of Kasab. “There is no doubt that it’s very shocking news and a big loss that a Muslim has been hanged on Indian soil,” Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan told Reuters.

Indian attention now focuses keenly on the trial in Rawalpindi of LeT commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and six men accused of complicity in the 26/11 Mumbai strikes. New Delhi has repeatedly insisted, publicly and in bilateral talks with Pakistan, that progress on this case has been glacial.

Pakistan has not yet granted New Delhi’s request for voice samples of the terrorist handlers who directed Kasab and his nine fellow-terrorists over satellite links from Pakistan while the Mumbai attack was in progress. The Indian government also strongly objects to Pakistan allowing LeT founder and chief, Hafiz Saeed, to roam free in Pakistan.

But senior Indian officials also see the beginnings of change in Pakistan’s attitude to the Lakhvi trial. Pakistani intelligence officials have testified before the court in Rawalpindi that the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attacks received training at Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) camps in Pakistan, including navigational training in Karachi.

According to the Dawn newspaper, five inspectors from Pakistan’s crime investigation department, testified as prosecution witnesses on November 17, recounting details of the training and capabilities of the accused persons, including Lakhvi, alleged controller of the Mumbai attacks.

“We see Pakistani officials admitting that the terrorists who took part in the 26/11 attacks were trained in Pakistan. That is new and it is a positive development,” a senior New Delhi official told Business Standard.

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