Pakistan was and remains the hotbed of terror

Remembering 26/11:


Mumbai: Eleven years ago, on this day, India suffered its most horrendous terrorist attack. 26/11 provided the best illustration of how Pakistan sponsored terrorists, belonging to the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) planned and executed a military style attack on India’s financial capital, Mumbai. While all but one of the ten attackers, namely Ajmal Kasab survived, the master planners, namely Hafiz Saeed and Zakir Lakhvi are still roaming the streets in Pakistan.

The one lesson that the world learned from this multiple target attack was that Pakistan and its deep state could go to any length to harm India. The other lesson is that for all its talk, Pakistan has been unable to bring any of the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack to trial, demonstrating the inability of the State and Judicial system to do anything to the terrorist individuals and entities, who conduct acts of terror.

The most important thing to recall is that the entire attack was planned, and curated by Pakistani state actors, i.e. the ISI in conjunction with the LeT. There is a whole body of evidence to show how the attack was planned & controlled from Pakistan even as the attack was underway. There is also information on how Pakistan ISI officers controlled the operation right from the beginning.

The ISI chose the LeT to execute this operation because it knew that the LeT had the resources and global reach to make things work, from getting passports to weapons. The initial batch of LeT’s men were trained at a camp in Muzaffarabad in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. Some part of the training took place on the Mangla Dam reservoir. This was because of the need to infiltrate by sea to Mumbai. The recruits who volunteered for the mission were around 25 and each one underwent psychological checks, basic combat training and subsequently, advanced training at a camp near Manshera. The LeT’s basic combat training course is Daura Aam and advanced training is Daura Khas. The latter includes advanced weapons and explosives training supervised by personnel of the Pakistan Army.

Once the selected candidates had gone through the basics, a select few of them were finally chosen to undergo specialised commando training and in marine navigation, mainly for the Fidayeen unit which was to target Mumbai. At the end of the day, ten people were picked up for the final attack. Based on interrogation of LeT reconnaissance and field operative David Headley and other reports, US intelligence found out that former Pakistani Army Officers and ISI officers (mainly from the S Wing) actively assisted and continuously monitored the progress in training.

The counter-terror operations launched by India on 26 November 2008 lasted for nearly 60 hours, during which the terrorists constantly received instructions from their handlers based in Pakistan. Inputs suggest that over 200 calls were made to the phones carried by the LeT operatives. These were made on VOIP and through satellite phones. Intercepts reveal the clear trail of these attackers back to Pakistan. In some cases, the handlers in Pakistan instructed the terrorists to mislead the police if captured, by identifying themselves as “Hyderabad Mujahideen”.

Ajmal Kasab independently confirmed on interrogation that he was a Pakistani citizen and a member of LeT. He confirmed that the attack was directed in real-time from Karachi via mobile and internet telephony. This digital trail connecting the gunmen in Mumbai with controllers in Karachi was another major clue to its Pakistani origins.

A lot of the pre-attack detailing was done by David Headley, who was paid by the ISI to do the reconnaissance of the targets. Most of the funds for this came from one “Major Iqbal” of the ISI. Headley’s confessions also revealed that the ten men finally chosen for the attack on Mumbai had been trained by former Pakistan Army Special Services Group soldiers. So clearly, the trail went all the way back to the Pakistan Army and ISI.

There is another terrorist, an Indian by the name of Zabiuddin Ansari, who during the Mumbai attacks, was intercepted talking to the gunmen from Karachi from where the ISI controlled the operation. One of the intercepts recorded during the attack reveals a handler speaking with a Mumbai accent and telling gunmen at Chabad House that: “The government must know that this is just a trailer. The real movie is still left to come.” This was later identified as Ansari.

There could not have been a better example of how liberally the Pakistani state dealt with many of the plotters of Mumbai, chief amongst them being Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi.
Former Pakistani National Security Advisor, Mahmud Ali Durrani, speaking in New Delhi (2017) blamed his own country for the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack. Durrani, an intelligence official, is not a favourite with the Pakistani establishment added that Pakistani terrorist Hafiz Saeed, should be severely punished as he had "no utility" and Pakistan "should act against him."

Headley in his confessional statement stated of being used for reconnaissance purposes and Ansari scouted for recruits in Saudi Arabia. As Stephen Tankel, an expert on the LeT states that LeT has never executed a major terrorist attack — Mumbai included — without sanction from its handlers.

On the anniversary of 26/11 what needs recalling is the cold-blooded fashion in which Pakistan’s deep state plotted the attack with the help of their proxies like LeT so that it could claim deniability. The details of the planning and execution of this operation should be remembered every time when it claims a victim of terrorism.