A US jury on Thursday, June 9, 2011 cleared Pakistan-born businessman Tahawwur Hussain Rana of involvement in the 2008 Mumbai siege and in the process also cleared the Government of Pakistan and its intelligence agencies from accusations of support and involvement in the 26/11 terrorist attacks.
The man on trial in a US court Tahawwur Hussain Rana was accused of allowing his immigration business to be used as cover for his friend David Coleman Headley to scout out potential targets in India’s financial and entertainment capital before the attacks. The prosecutor’s star witness was David Coleman Headley, Rana’s old friend from high school in Pakistan. Headley, who has admitted lying to authorities, has been cooperating with prosecutors since his 2009 arrest at a Chicago airport. In a plot that reads like a movie thriller, Headley spent two years casing out Mumbai, even taking boat tours around the city’s harbor to identify landing sites for the attackers and befriending Bollywood stars as part of his cover.
Testimony from the trial provides detailed information vital to understanding the intricacies and complexities involved in the planning of the Mumbai attacks. Headley, in his testimony, elaborated in detail how he befriended members of the banned jihadi group LeT and was assisted by some rogue elements. When questioned closely, Headley admitted that top officials of Government of Pakistan and Pakistan intelligence agency did not know about the attacks and were against it.
Actually, claims of official support for the 26/11 plotters were disproven precisely by the fact that Headley and Rana found themselves in the court room. Rather than finding official protection after the attack happened, the 26/11 plotters told Headley to go underground since the Government of Pakistan and ISI officials were furious and were arresting the perpetrators. The Government of Pakistan and its intelligence agencies arrested most of the named individual in testimony, and they are currently under trial in Pakistan on various criminal and terrorism charges.
The claim put forward by Indian government that Pakistan’s intelligence agency aided and abetted in the Mumbai attacks turned out to completely mistaken. Just as the British government and its intelligence agency MI6 cannot be blamed in the Cambridge five affair and the US government and its CIA cannot be held responsible for Aldrich Ames, Government of Pakistan and its intelligence agencies also cannot be blamed for the actions of rogues and impostors, many of them having been already discharged from service for prior suspicions.
Now the truth is out in the shape of the facts revealed by the Tahawwur Hussain Rana trial. These facts confirm the statements of US security officials that Pakistan is committed in the fight against terrorism. Only the most hardened RSS-type conspiracy theorist could deny the facts as they have been proven not by an internal Pakistani investigation but by a neutral court of the United States.
It should be remembered that Pakistan is fighting this war on two fronts: Against Al Qaeda and Taliban and against their affiliates in Pakistani society such as LeT, SSP, and other militant groups also. A complete generation after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan imbibed this warped ideology which was allowed to grow unchecked even by the Western countries as it was used to defeat Soviet Russia in Afghanistan. Over the period of three decades, the jihadist ideology was institutionalized in Pakistani society by the Wahhabi madrassas and the financial backing they received from wealthy Arab states. Unfortunately, the Government of Pakistan lacked the resources to stem its growth and the rise of this jihadi ideology was not given proper consideration even by US till 9/11 attacks. This makes it a very complex war where Pakistan must fight not only the militant groups but at the same time purge the ideology of extremist jihad that has festered in society.
The Government of Pakistan and its intelligence agencies have been instrumental in dismantling the network of terrorist in region, the proof being counted in the thousands of Pakistani troops and intelligence agents who have laid down their lives in the fight against terrorism and continue to do so. This greatest of sacrifices in the war against terrorism has been recognised by US Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael G Mullen recently.
Admiral Mullen lauded the sacrifices and efforts of people of Pakistan and its security forces and reassured that security ties will not be allowed to unravel between the two armed forces.
Gen Kayani and Admiral Mullen acknowledged that evolving Pak-US strategic relation was important for the achievement of mutual long term objectives of comprehensive security of both the countries.
The outcome of Rana trial which was carried out in the US courts should clear any remaining misunderstandings and misguided perceptions. The Government of Pakistan and ISI officials had no role in supporting the 26/11 attacks or terrorism more generally.