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Rediff News  All News  » News » Hafiz Saeed: So near, yet so far for Indian agencies

Hafiz Saeed: So near, yet so far for Indian agencies

December 03, 2012 12:38 IST

He was the mastermind of the deadly 26/11 terror strike and the United States administration has already declared a bounty of $10 million for him.

But the Pakistan government has, time and again, expressed its reluctance to prosecute Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief and Lashkar-e-Tayiba founder Hafiz Saeed.

The recent statement by Pakistan's Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar -- seeking more evidence to prosecute Saeed -- is another attempt by Islamabad to drag its feet on the issue.

India has already shared a considerable amount of information about Saeed with Pakistan. The confessions by terror operatives like Abu Jundal, Ajmal Kasab and David Headley have also indicated Saeed's connivance in the Mumbai terror attack. But a confessional statement made before the police is not taken too seriously by the law as it is considered to have been made under duress.

Though some of these statements have been made in a court, before a magistrate, Pakistan is unlikely to accept them on the pretext that the confessions seemed to have been 'stage managed'.

The evidence against terrorist Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi -- the chief of 26/11 related operations -- was irrefutable. The telephonic conversations between Lakhvi and the terrorists who stormed Mumbai on the night of November 26, 2008 clearly implicate him.

But Saeed did not have such a direct role in the 26/11 attack as he was the ideological guide of the operation. He never took part in the recruitment or training process. No telephonic or e-mail conversations can be traced back to him. India will find it hard to fish out the kind of concrete evidence that Pakistan is adamant on.

Ajmal Kasab, the only terrorist who survived the 26/11 strike and was later tried and hanged by India, claims to have met 'chacha' Hafiz Saeed only once. The fundamentalist's fiery speeches played a major role in brainwashing him.

Abu Jundal claims to have met Saeed in early 2008, when the latter asked him about terror targets in India that would yield a high casualty rate and attract global attention.  Saeed, says Jundal, was clear that the attack should be disruptive enough to shock both the United States and Israel.

Headley also claimed that he had met Saeed a few times and discussed details of the 26/11 attack plan.

Islamabad is aware of the fact that both the United States and India only have confessional statements as evidence against Saeed. There is no evidence to prove that  Saeed was guiding the attacks from the control room and attended the traning camps for terror operatives.

"Saeed, the ideological head of the LeT, would meet the recruits only at the beginning of their training. He would meet them again right before they were about to embark on their terror mission, to keep them motivated. The Pakistani establishment, which guards Saeed, ensures that he never leaves a trail behind. The LeT needs him," said an official of the Intelligence Bureau.

An official of the National Investigation Agency admitted that India's case against Saeed can move forward only if Pakistan decides to cooperate.

"We can do our bit by handing over the proof that we have. It is for Pakistan to investigate the matter further and give the case a closure. But we have no expectations that Pakistan would do so," the official said.

After the 26/11 attack, Pakistan was forced to detain Saeed, under immense international pressure to do so. The JuD chief was held for a few days and then released due to lack of evidence.

Islamabad was not only trying to prove a point by detaining Saeed, it also ensured that there would be no contact between the terror mastermind and the rest of the world for some time.

Saeed has now been surrounded with tight security and even urged to tone down his rhetoric against the United States.

India had welcomed the US's decision to announce a $10 million bounty on Saeed, but was left flummoxed when the administration in Washington stated that there was no prosecutable evidence against him.

While Indian agencies had assumed that the bounty was an acknowledgement by the US about Saeed's nefarious role in the 26/11 strike, US promptly clarified that the bounty was only to seek more information to prosecute him.

US State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said, "Just to clarify, the $10 million is for information about Saeed. Not about his location, but information that leads to an arrest or conviction. We are looking for information that can be usable to convict him".

Pakistan's security agencies would bend over backwards to keep both American and Indian investigators away from Saeed, as he holds crucial information on Islamabad's role in perpetuating terrorism and is crucial for the Lashkar's end-game in Kashmir.

Vicky Nanjappa