The country mourns with you, the country stands by you and the country vows to never ever forget or forgive. The diabolical attacks five years ago were sixty hours that are imprinted in a generation’s mind. It changed forever the innocence of our countrymen who thought that they had gotten a grip over terrorism or that terror came in the form of a bomb, not men with guns shooting people in cafes, stations and hotels in the heart of the city. Mumbai learned that it is and will always be vulnerable.
Those 60 hours showed how unprepared we were for planned terror attacks. There was bungling at every level, not anticipating an attack of such a magnitude despite available information, not responding fast enough or with enough force, where every single government agency looked confused and inept. Brave policemen with little at their disposal tried hard and somehow tackled many of the well-trained and well-armed assailants. Rest was done by the brave National Security Guards in Operation Black Tornado.
26/11 remains the most ‘successful’ attack of the Lashkar-e-Taiba till date. The organisation still operates with impunity despite being formally banned in Pakistan. Its cadres are openly seen with politicians like Imran Khan who recently said in a TV interview, “If I, as a politician, share stage with a violent organisation, what’s wrong with that?” This is the shining star of Pakistani politics who promises to usher in Naya Pakistan. Not that he is any different from Pakistani Prime Minister who sat mute last month in the Oval Office when President Obama asked him why the trial of 26/11 suspects, including Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, had not begun yet.
Of course Sharif could have told him the truth: that the LeT is the ISI’s baby, that the ISI was part of the plotting planning and training — well, rogue elements of the ISI as per the former chief Shuja Pasha of the err essentially ‘roguish’ intel outfit — and that Hafiz Saeed is considered a senior statesman in Pakistan and a TV star; and Lakhvi is busy fathering kids in jail. So, you know, President Obama, there are many reasons why the 26/11 trial is just not happening. Moving on, can we talk about that aid pretty please?
November 26, 2008 might have become a thing of the past for some of our leaders and their pliant bureaucrats, who were taken in by advice from outside our shores to “move on” or “see the larger picture”, but there is public opinion which cannot be ignored. The ‘aam aadmi and aam aurat’ may not have the power to bring back David Headley or Hafiz Saeed or Tahawur Rana to India to stand trial here, but they certainly have had the power to coerce the government to put 26/11 on every document, every agenda whenever the Indian Prime Minister or Foreign Minister or Home Minister has interacted with the Americans or Pakistanis.
For the 166 people killed and 300 injured, for the bereaved families scarred forever, the Indian High Commissioner TCA Raghavan in Islamabad said recently, “Deeply concerned that people we believe are in some ways responsible (for the Mumbai attacks) had a very wide altitude of activity in Pakistan.”
He added. “We are deeply concerned about the lack of any progress in the Mumbai case. The Mumbai case must be recognised as very important in terms of Indian public sentiment.”
The 26/11 investigation and trial in Pakistan is a farce played out with insolence by a country that shielded the World’s Most Wanted terrorist: Osama bin Laden. It has no intention of ever prosecuting Hafeez Saeed or Lakhvi. Neither David Headley nor Tahawur Rana’s statements have been admitted into the procedure. They are the ones who visited Mumbai and provided all the coordinates for the terror strikes.
Pakistani national Ajmal Kasab was hanged at Yerwada Jail last November but that didn’t bring closure for Indians. There cannot be closure till all the accused are brought to justice. It isn’t as if Mumbai or India has not seen terror attacks after 26/11. But that was an act of war by a neighbour that was talking peace with us and simultaneously planning mass murder of innocent civilians. India reacted with restraint and only exerted diplomatic pressure.
And that pressure will always be on till justice is delivered, and seen to be delivered. Let no Indian who gets elected to office in the general elections of 2014 ever forget that.
A fellow Indian
Smita Prakash is Editor, News at Asian News International. You can follow her on Twitter @smitaprakash