Will Headley nail Pakistan to save himself?


Himani Kumar Sanagaram

Seven years after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, plotter Daood Sayed Gilani aka David Coleman Headley’s position as an approver for the case has put him again in crucial yet sensitive position. Headley agreed to do this in a bid to save himself and shed some crucial intelligence information.

After the trial in Chicago where Headley testified in Jan 2013, he was sentenced to 35 years in American prison. He is willing to take a chance for an early release. The evidence that Headley gives in the trial TADA Indian court on Feb 2016 will help corroborate information disclosed made by co-accused Abu Jundal regarding the role of LeT masterminds and Pakistani state actors in India’s 9/11.

But can Indian government believe whatever he tells them, given that he has had a history of repeating offenses? He breaks the law, cooperates with police and then breaks the law again. After all, he was a double agent for US Drug Enforcement Administration. He was once caught in 1984 on drug-related charges. When he was accused of smuggling heroin from Pakistan to the United States, he cooperated with the American government to provide them information.

The 26/11 accused Hafiz Sayed and Rahman Lakhvi sit free in Pakistan and with no evidence. The speed at which Pakistani courts will try and give a fair trial will only benefit the accused.

It is not only Headley but the United States has its own interests to protect and they will give protection to Headley because he pled guilty and disclosed them his plans for the Denmark bombing. Furthermore, Headley earned the sympathy of the US government when he pled guilty by blaming his biracial intercultural history and past for his actions and doings.

India is a  secular country, and Muslims get special treatment. There are allowances for Imams of mosques but not for priests of temples.

While Bangladeshi Muslims in India get voter’s card, Pakistani Hindus remained deprived. While pensions are allotted for Pakistani terrorists, the Indian army remains bankrupt.

Rs 50,000 for Muslim girls’ marriages but not for poor Hindu girls, subsidy for Haj pilgrims but tax on Amaranth Yatra, ban on DJs in Navratri but loudspeakers allowed for Namaz, subsidy for cow slaughterhouse but tax on Gaushala, free electricity to mosques and funds for madrasas but tax on temples.

According to US laws, for Headley, it is a case of Double Jeopardy as he cannot be tried again on the same charges once he has been convicted here. His friend and accomplice Tahawwur Rana who is also in jail had appealed for another trial in United States. However, he was once convicted in 2013 but due to double jeopardy, he was not tried again.

According to Former Home Secretary of India, GK Pillai, Headley might expect a lighter sentence in America if he helps the Indian government. Headley is scared in his pants. He was as cool as a cucumber in the trial in Chicago. Headley will do anything to grind is axe.

Headley was given a sentence with no parole and no time off for good behavior and it was a break in sentence compared to a life sentence or death penalty because he provided substantial cooperation and sharing of information and an enticement or encouragement for other individuals (terrorists) in the future, who might be thinking whether to cooperate and they might get some benefits for it.

Headley has to cooperate with the US government for the future, according to the plea agreement. If he does not abide by the plea agreement, the US government will have the right to go into court and vacate the sentencing and will be back at square one.

Terror attacks are spreading in Europe and Australia. Recently, Saudi Arabia executed 47 terrorists ,thus taking a hardline stance on the jihadi war on terror. “Fitna” or commotion  that causes discord or controversy within the Muslim community with the division of Shia and Sunni Muslims in Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia has lately been seen.

In Attacks in Paris in last November, ISIS jihadists killed 130 people in a series of gun attacks. On Jan 2, 2016 attacks were carried out at the Pathankot base attack in Punjab. The anti-India Kashmiri militant alliance unit, the United Jihad Council (UJC), has supposedly carried out the attacks. According to the BBC, most of the group’s leaders including UJC chief Syed Salahuddin are believed to be living in Pakistan. UJC has been described to be an asset of the Pakistani military. If action is taken against UJC, it will be in line with  Sharif’s policy. Maybe something can be done after all to mend the Pakistani Army or ISI, which has been a training ground for terrorists.


Himani Kumar Sanagaram is freelance journalist based in Chicago. She covered Headley’s trial from Chicago from 2010-2012. She is also a former foreign correspondent with Press Trust of India.