3 years since 26/11: No closure

Nov 07, 2011, 08:24 IST | Smita Prakash
It's that time of the year again. Women in Khadi accessorising their Gandhi-chic clothing with outsized sunglasses from Italy and men in their crisp white kurtas with the top half gleaming in those ubiquitous Burberry prints will be making their annual trip to Gateway of India  or India Gate to show solidarity with the victims of those horrid attacks. "We want justice," they will scream, the government will nod in agreement, and that's that. Three years have gone by and there is no "satisfactory closure" to quote the External Affairs Ministry.  Ajmal Qasab, who killed Indians with impunity in India is languishing in jail. He has been sentenced to death but between you, dear reader, and I, it's not happening. Only two hangings have been carried out in the last two decades in India, though several have been sentenced.

On the backburner: In spite of yearly protests to mark its anniversary,
it is obvious that other matters of diplomatic interest has upstaged the
26/11 Mumbai attack

India has expressed disappointment several times over the "glacial pace" of the Mumbai trial in Pakistan, which informed India on Friday that its Judicial Commission would like to visit India to interview "important persons" connected with the 26/11 probe. No dates have been set. This was supposed to have taken place in May. Pakistan High Commissioner Shahid Malik on Friday said, "The Government of India has been informed. I have informed the Home Minister that we will be sending a Commission. Now it is up to the Indian government to give us certain details.''

A few weeks from now when the media in India wakes up to the 26/11 anniversary story and asks Pakistan why it hasn't moved faster on the trial, Pakistan's reaction will likely be "the ball is in India's court." And we are all back to square one. More dossiers will be exchanged; more mess-ups, more bureaucratic and diplomatic nonsense and justice will not be delivered. Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind behind the 26/11 attacks is a free man in Pakistan. He makes fiery anti-India speeches, urging people to wage jihad against India. Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi the main accused in the Mumbai terror attacks has been communicating with LeT cadres from his prison cell in Islamabad, according to Western intelligence agencies.

India did not react to the reports. Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik, quibbling on the absurd trial process said,  "There are no delays on our (Pakistan's) part (in 26/11 probe). There are certain complications." On November 5, a Pakistan terror court that has been moved into a jail where Lakhvi is lodged due to fear of the LeT, recorded the statements of four prosecution witnesses for the next hearing, which is on November 19.  Lawyers and judges keep excusing themselves off with alarming yet predictable alacrity.

As Sunny Deol said in the film Damini: "Tarikh pe tarikh pe tarikh pe tarikh pe tarikh � aur phir milta hai sirf tarikh." There has been no crackdown on the dreaded Lashkar-e-Taiba either. International pressure on the Pakistani government has had no effect. Just last month US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a Congressional panel, "Every time we meet with the Pakistanis, we press them on LeT, about the continuing failure -- in our view -- to fulfil all of the requirements necessary for prosecution related to the Mumbai attacks."

The Headley-Rana duo who bankrolled and conspired the 26/11 attack are well aware that they will never be extradited to India. The FBI has not even released bank details of who funded Headley's visits to India. That could lead straight to America that could be awkward for all three countries involved. One WikiLeaks telegram even quotes former National Security Advisor MK Narayanan saying that India's demand for Headley was mere posturing.

Clearly, when it comes to dealing with Pakistan, the Mumbai attack is on the backburner. When Dr Manmohan Singh meets with his Pakistani counterpart in Maldives this week at the 17th SAARC summit, it is unlikely that this issue will come up. The two sides are keener on MFN (Most Favoured Nation), CBMs (Confidence Building Measures) and other doables. Dismantling the terror infrastructure in Pakistan is not a doable. India is treading the route of pragmatic reality not idealistic national interest.

Smita Prakash is Editor (News) at Asian News International. Follow her on Twitter@smitaprakash

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