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Why disclosure of the ‘perfect terrorist’ doesn’t matter?

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By Sarwar Kashani

Political brouhahas about David Coleman Headley notwithstanding, the recent admission of the Pakistan-American terrorist about his already known terror links actually means little to India’s Mumbai attack investigations, not least in New Delhi’s attempt to nail Islamabad’s complicity in the meticulously planned operation.

Headley has off and on been hogging the headlines since his arrest from a Chicago airport in 2009 for his terror odysseys that included surveying targets unsuspectingly in several Indian cities and meeting with senior terrorist operatives of Al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan.

And the master plotter did that for years under the nose of intelligence and security agencies without raising the index of suspicion in the countries, including Denmark, where he scouted freely. He managed to do so without being noticed partly because of his deceptive American looks with hetero-chromatic eyes and partly because of his “no-guts-no-glory” attitude.

When he was arrested more than six years ago, Indian authorities had hoped that the big terror catch by the Americans will help nail Pakistan and its terror lies. But that was not to be.

This was revealed by none less than G.K. Pillai, the then home secretary, in an interview with IANS in 2010 when he told me that whatever Headley speaks in the United States, it won’t make the Indian case against the Pakistanis any stronger.

“I don’t think we will get much cooperation from Pakistan. That is not really hoped. We can shout and scream (but) we will have to tackle Pakistan separately,” Pillai told me when an Indian team of investigators visited the US to interrogate Headley in a Chicago prison.

Pillai was unequivocal in saying that any questioning of Headley was not to nail Pakistan, which he said “is a separate issue” and needed a different strategy than getting evidences from the terror mastermind.

That holds good even now, despite the fact that India’s Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju was expecting that Headley’a stating the obvious will end all ambiguity between state and non-state actors involved in the Islamist terrorism that sprouts from Pakistan.

Rijiju, in fact, himself admitted that “it is known that who all were involved” but still the government, he said, believes that “Headley’s statement will lead to a logical conclusion. It will help us.”

The inferences from Headley’s statement and the minister’s reaction are even more obvious. Are we yet to understand that there are no differences between state and non-state actors when it comes to Pakistan’s known support for extremism as an instrument of its foreign policy?

Moreover, Headley has revealed nothing that was not already known. The names of perpetrators, including from the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Pakistan Army have already come up in the terror dossiers — one has lost count of them — India has handed over to Pakistan. The dossiers include DNA samples of the Mumbai attackers, photographs, voice records and detailed operational information of the carnage that was being carried out in India in 2008 and overseen in Pakistan.

In fact, all these so-called “revelations” have already been recorded judicially in a US court. All these statements, including the names of the terror masterminds — Hafiz Saeed, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi — have been recorded by the investigators who interrogated Headley in 2010.

An argument is being made that India did not know all that judicially before Headley spoke to an Indian judge through video conferencing from the US jail. Will it really help to make a case against Pakistan is a question that begs an answer.

Doesn’t look like that is possible. Because the Pakistani court which is hearing the Mumbai attack case against the five accused has rejected as “inadmissible” even what looked like plausible findings of two judicial commissions from that country which visited India for evidence and testimonies. Are we to believe that the Pakistani court will take into account an Indian court’s findings out of Headley’s testimony?

Nothing will change in that country till its security, political and judicial establishments look within and realize in true sense the Frankenstein monster has outgrown everything else there. No Headley’s medley of information, known and unknown, is going to change that. Least of all, the terror policy to destabilize India.

If Headley’s judicially valid statement should change anything, it must be India’s alertness of its intelligence and swiftness of its security agencies to thwart and prevent attacks like at Mumbai, which was planned long before by Lashkar and ISI operatives who had employed the “perfect terrorist” to map the city unnoticed for two years and develop a blueprint for the mayhem that killed 166 Indians and foreigners. (IANS)(Pic Courtesy: www.indiatrendingnow.com)

 

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Pakistan Reacts Sharply To U.S. Religious Freedom Charges

China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan are also included in the U.S. list of countries accused

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Pakistan
A Pakistani nun holds a candle during a vigil for victims of a deadly suicide bombing in a park, March 28, 2016, in Lahore. VOA

Pakistan is denouncing a U.S. decision to place it on a list of countries Washington says are the worst offenders of religious freedom.

“Pakistan does not need counsel by any individual country how to protect the rights of its minorities… there are serious questions on the credentials and impartiality of the self proclaimed jury involved in this unwarranted exercise,” the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday in a strongly-worded statement.

The reaction comes a day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced his designation of “countries of particular concern” that allegedly have engaged in or tolerated ”systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.”

Freedom Violations

The countries on the blacklist are exposed to punitive sanctions, but Pompeo waived them for Pakistan, citing U.S. national interests.

Pakistan had until now been on a U.S. watch list for governments that have “engaged in or tolerated” severe violations of religious freedom.

Pakistan
Pakistani volunteers collect debris from an Ahmadi mosque demolished by an angry mob, in the eastern city of Sialkot. VOA

While rebuking Tuesday’s U.S. pronouncement as “unilateral and politically motivated,” the Pakistani Foreign Ministry noted Pakistan is “a multi-religious and pluralistic society” of more than 200 million people, mostly Muslims.

“Around four percent of our total population comprises citizens belonging to Christian, Hindu, Buddhists and Sikh faiths. Ensuring equal treatment of minorities and their enjoyment of human rights without any discrimination is the cardinal principle of the Constitution of Pakistan,” it said.

Ahmadis most persecuted community

The statement did not mention the Ahmadi sect, which critics say is the most persecuted minority in Pakistan. The constitution bars the community from “posing as Muslims” and from calling their worship places “mosques.”

U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback while defending downgrading of Pakistan reiterated Tuesday the challenges facing the Ahmadi community.

USA, Pakistan
Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, speaks to reporters at the State Department in Washington. VOA

“The Pakistani government criminalizes the identification of Ahmadis as Muslims, and then also — and this one has really been difficult and troubling for a lot of people — the government often fails to hold accountable perpetrators of killings and violence against members of religious minorities targeted on account of their religious beliefs or affiliations,” said Brownback.

Blasphemy laws

He cited, among other things, Pakistan’s blasphemy laws as a cause for the downgrade of the country’s religious freedom ranking. The laws prescribe the death penalty for those found guilty.

Rights groups have long complained Islamist groups misuse the law to intimidate minorities in the country.

Insulting Islam or its prophet is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan where mere allegations have led to mob lynchings. A former provincial governor, a federal minister, judges and lawyers are among those assassinated in Pakistan by extremists merely for calling for reform of the blasphemy laws to prevent their misuse or for hearing cases and defending alleged blasphemers.

Asia Bibi

In a historic judgement this past October, Pakistan’s Supreme Court acquitted a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who had been on death row for eight years after being convicted of insulting the Prophet Mohammad. The women denied the charges from the outset as an outcome of a local feud and the country’s highest court cited lack of evidence in overturning her conviction by a lower court.

Pakistan
Radical Islamists rally to condemn a Supreme Court decision that acquitted Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, who spent eight years on death row accused of blasphemy, in Karachi, Pakistan. VOA

Bibi and her family have been in hiding since her release. Her lawyer fled Pakistan shortly after the landmark court ruling announced on October 31, saying his life was in danger.

Bibi is awaiting a rehearing of her case by the Supreme Court and is residing in a safe place under government protection, say Pakistani officials.

Pakistan also arrested hundreds of Islamist activists and their leaders last month for staging days of mass violent protests to denounce the court for freeing Bibi.

Also Read: Muslims in Malaysia Rally In Kuala Lumpur To Keep Status

The government has charged the detainees with treason and terrorism and officials have vowed to put them on trial in special courts.

“It’s our hope that they will, the new leadership in Pakistan, will work to improve the situation. There was some encouraging signs seen recently on how they’ve handled some of the recent protesting against the blasphemy laws, and we continue to watch very carefully what’s happening to Asia Bibi,” said Brownback.

China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan are also included in the U.S. list of countries accused of committing severe violations of religious freedom. (VOA)