NEW DELHI: India wants Pakistan to prosecute Pakistan-American David Coleman Headley, and seek his testimony as a witness, in the 2008 Mumbai attacks case, TOI has learnt.
The government conveyed this to Islamabad last week, while reiterating that India is open to hosting a Pakistan judicial commission for examining witnesses in Mumbai or to questioning them through a teleconference.
The 26/11 plotter who pleaded guilty is serving a 35-year sentence in the US for planning terror attacks in Denmark and India. India believes though his deposition before Pakistan authorities, exposing Pakistan’s ISI links with the perpetrators, will set to rest any doubt whatsoever about the role of Pakistan state actors in the attacks that left 166, including 6 Americans, dead.
Headley has confessed before both US and Indian agencies that he acted at the behest of ISI and that the terror group responsible for the attack, LeT, was acting under the same spy agency’s umbrella.
That he turned approver and pleaded guilty, while leading to his conviction by a US court, also meant that under the US laws he can no longer be extradited to India, or to Pakistan in the unlikely event of Islamabad acting on India’s advice and seeking his prosecution.
Not being extradited to India, Pakistan or Denmark was one of the conditions on which the rogue US intelligence agent had turned approver.
In his plea bargain, Headley had agreed though that, when directed by the US attorney’s office, he would “fully and truthfully” testify in any foreign judicial proceedings held in the United States by way of deposition, videoconferencing or letters rogatory. This opens the door for Pakistan to implead Headley.
At a time it remains worried about the fate of the inordinately delayed trial in Pakistan of the other 26/11 accused, including LeT commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, India is keen that the links of ISI and other military officers with the attacks are foregrounded again in he form of a virtual Headley testimony. The need for Pakistan to bring the Mumbai attacks accused to justice is again likely to figure in the 2+2 ministerial dialogue with the US Tuesday. India has also continued to emphasise that Pakistan hasn’t yet stopped promoting cross-border terrorism.
After he was made an accused in the Mumbai attacks, Headley testified virtually before a Mumbai special court and named one Major Ali and another Major Iqbal, both from ISI, as his handlers in Pakistan.
Headley had revealed that his reconnaissance missions to India were ordered by Major Iqbal and that, before his September 2006 visit to India, he had received $ 25,000 from Iqbal. He had also said that he got 40,000 in Pakistani currency from LeT operative Sajid Mir between April and June 2008.
Admitting that he worked for ISI and LeT, Headley had identified ISI official Brigadier Riyaz as Lakhvi, the Mumbai attacks mastermind. He also named 3 other ISI officials – Colonel Shah, Lt Colonel Hamza and Major Samir Ali – who, he said, were working with LeT and Al Qaeda.
India had in August this year again offered to host a judicial commission from Pakistan after Islamabad sent a list of 27 witnesses the anti-terror court hearing the case wants to examine. The government though has rejected the demand that the witnesses visit Pakistan, saying that Pakistan could also consider examining them through a video conference.
The Mumbai trial was initiated after Pakistan in 2009 arrested seven men directly involved in the terror attack. Apart from Lakhvi, Abdul Wajid, Mazhar Iqbal, Hamad Amin Sadiq, Shahid Jameel Riaz, Jamil Ahmed and Younis Anjum are facing charges of abetment to murder, attempted murder, planning and executing the 2008 attacks. India has remained sceptical about the outcome though, not least because of Pakistan’s refusal to act against JuD chief Hafiz Saeed, who is also accused of masterminding the Mumbai attacks.