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Kasab hanging: A victory for India's justice system
T.V. Rajeswar
11 December 2012

THE Lashkar-e-Toiba’s (LeT) founder Hafiz Saeed has said that Kasab, the only terrorist caught during the 26/11 Mumbai mayhem and now hanged, will not fade away. The LeT described Kasab as a hero whose memory, it said, will now be turned into an asset. Saeed is reportedly planning to raise more funds and recruit more youngsters for his destructive project.

Pakistan has taken some steps ostensibly to show that they are keen to bring to justice all those who were involved in the Mumbai attack. Zakir-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, a LeT commander, is one of those who are said to be under trial in Pakistan for their role in the Mumbai killings. The LeT and its subsidiary, JuD, are still active in Punjab province in Pakistan under the patronage of the ISI. They are said to be now concentrating more on Balochistan, recruiting jihadist volunteers. Saeed and his team continue to be active in the training centre in Muridke and there is nothing to show that their activities are being restrained.

That Pakistan is not really serious about prosecuting the main architect of the LeT, Hafiz Saeed, has been demonstrated by the latest statement by Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, who said that evidence against Saeed could not hold in a court of law and that Pakistan would be happy to look at any evidence against him that would stand legal scrutiny. If the evidence thrown up by the interrogation of Lakhvi, a LeT commander, and others is not enough to hold Saeed guilty of the role he played in the Mumbai attack, it is more or less a confirmation that Pakistan is only enacting a charade and it is not really serious about prosecuting those involved in 26/11.

David Headley, a Pakistani American, was able to visit Mumbai several times for carrying out reconnaissance for various places in Mumbai as the prime target for LeT attacks. Among the places visited by Headley were Taj Hotel, the late Shiv Sena president’s residence ’Matoshree’ and Siddhivinayak temple.

The manner in which Headley was able to do reconnaissance of important sensitive places in Mumbai during his many visits is a sad commentary on the security system as well as the visa procedures in India.

He also visited New Delhi in 2005 on the pretext of watching India-Pakistan cricket matches. In the contest of forthcoming India-Pakistan matches, it is necessary for all those dealing with issues of visas to Pakistani visitors to ensure that strict vigilance is exercised before issuing visas to them.

The America-born LeT terrorist, Headley, and his accomplice Tahawwur Rana, who had carried out reconnaissance of Mumbai repeatedly, have been charged with conspiracy for the attacks in Mumbai. They were also charged with abetment of murder of US citizens in 2008. Both Rana and Headley are due to be sentenced by the US court on January 17, 2013. With the sentencing of Headley and Rana, all the accused in the Mumbai attack case would have been sentenced. Kasab’s hanging was a final act of dispensation of justice in this case. With India continuously pressing for their extradition, they have to face the Indian judiciary and get punishment for their role in 26/11.

Commenting on the hanging of Ajmal Kasab, Salman Khurshid, Minister for External Affairs, expressed the hope that the "rule of law" would prevail in Pakistan.

The Taliban group vowed to attack Indian targets "anywhere" to avenge the execution of Kasab. Two leading English dailies in Pakistan, including Dawn, demanded that the 26/11 brains should be brought to justice to root out terror in the region. The Express Tribune wrote, "We must show the world that as a country, we are committed to fight terrorism," and called for speedy trial of the 26/11 accused in Pakistan. Dawn said that Kasab’s execution "revived the memory of a senseless and well-planned act of mass murder" and questioned how its planning went unnoticed in Pakistan.

Kasab’s hanging was published in the correct perspective by the Urdu press in the country as well. As a commentator put it, "Ajmal Kasab’s hanging has been received with a sense of relief, almost elation by Urdu dailies across the country. The Hyderabad daily, "Munsif", came out with an editorial, stating that the matter handled by the authorities from Kasab’s capture till his hanging was fully transparent and all aspects of law were observed to ensure justice. Another Urdu paper came out with an editorial describing Kasab’s execution as good riddance as he was a great evil.

However, there were voices of dissent from human rights activists who said that the hanging of Kasab marked a disturbing end to the country’s moratorium on capital punishment. Justice Krishna Iyer, a retired Supreme Court judge, expectedly came out with a statement deploring the hanging of Kasab.

If this is the attitude of the rulers of Pakistan as well as the common people of Pakistan, one wonders why people like Zardari and others who are in power are not able to prevent Saeed and his supporters from recruiting people and then training them for jihadi activities against India. If it is all concentrated in the hands of the Pakistan army chief and the army-operated ISI, is it impossible for them to stop their activities and bring about an atmosphere of lasting peace between the two countries?

The sad fact is the Pakistani rulers are unable to prevent Taliban activists from targeting their own people, the Shias, whose processions have been periodically attacked in Rawalpindi and Karachi. It is high time Pakistani rulers realised the fact that terrorism would consume their own people even before it targeted others in India.

In Maharashtra, the execution of Kasab evoked widespread support for Mumbai police officers, who were responsible for arresting Ajmal Kasab on the fateful night of November 26, 2008. People asked why it took four years to hang Kasab. The special prosecutor, Ujjwal Nikam, who tried Kasab in a special court in Mumbai, termed Kasab’s hanging as a victory for India’s impartial judicial system. Nikam went on to say that the Kasab case was the most crucial case in his career and he had never seen a criminal as shrewd as him. Nikam added that Kasab was given a fair trial. But the truth prevailed at the end and he was hanged only after the proper judicial process was followed. It was a victory for India’s impartial judicial system.

(The writer is a former Governor of Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. Currently, he is an advisor to ORF)

Courtesy: The Tribune