The link between the Pakistan army, its Inter Services Intelligence directorate and the Lashkar-e-Tayiba was strengthened after Lashkar operative Sabahuddin Ahmed confessed to the police that he had met several high-ranking Pakistan army officers including someone named Colonel Kayani.
Sabahuddin, a native of Bihar who was arrested for his role in the January 1, 2008 attack on the Central Reserve Police Force camp in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh, is currently being probed for the role he played in the Mumbai attacks.
He told his interrogators that he took to terrorism after the December 6, 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid and revealed that he had helped Fahim Ansari survey likely targets for the Mumbai attacks.
Sabahuddin repeatedly told his interrogators that he had met a senior Pakistani officer named Kayani. These statements find mention in his 40-page confession statement, which is in the possession of rediff.com
Investigators are unable to verify if the man Sabahuddin is referring to is General Parvez Ashfaq Kayani, Pakistan's army chief.
IB sources say they cannot rule out the possibility that he may be referring to the Pakistani army chief, who served as the ISI director before being elevated to his present position.
In his confession Sabahuddin said he met with Kayani in 2002. At that time, General Kayani was Pakistan's director general of military operations.
'I met him along with other ISI officers. I was told by the Lashkar that I would be working for the ISI in Pakistan, but would be touch with the Lashkar too. Kayani, along with other ISI officers, supervised my training programme in Pakistan. Kayani even gave me Rs 25,000 before I left Pakistan. He sent his man along with me to the airport and ensured that I got out safe from Pakistan,' Sabahuddin revealed in his statement.
He starts off his confession by disclosing that he had met with Zaki-ur-Rehman Laqvi, the Lashkar's main terror-planner, at the home of another Lashkar terrorist named Muzzamil.
Sabahuddin met with Laqvi after he had completed the Daur-e-Khas (specialised training)
'I was then introduced to a man by the name Abdulla Mujahid who is a coordinator between the Lashkar and the ISI. It was here that both Muzzamil and Laqvi asked me whether I would be interested in joining the ISI. I was then taken to the Markaz Tayiba, the Lashkar headquarters at Murdike, around 50 kilometres from Lahore.'
Sabahuddin says Markaz Tayiba is where the Lashkar's terror leadership, including Mohammad Sayeed, Abdur Rehman Maki and Abdus Salam Ghuti are based.
'From here I returned to Lahore where I was introduced to Colonel Kayani in the year 2002. Kayani was a top brass in the ISI at that time. Apart from this I was also introduced to other ISI officials, Abdul Majid and Subedar Babar. I was trained by these men in the gathering of intelligence, surveillance and also reconnaissance,' he notes in his confession.
'I took a flight out of Lahore to Doha and from there I flew to Kathmandu by Qatar Airways on March 17, 2003,' he adds.
'The ISI officials had told me that I needed to get back to India and they even arranged a passport in the name of Mohammad Shafiq. They mentioned a fake address mentioning my place of residence as Faisalbad, Punjab, Pakistan. I was taken to the Nepalese embassy in Islamabad personally by Subedar Javed, an ISI official. He ensured that I was able to get a visa under the guise of a carpet businessman from Pakistan,' says Sahabuddin
'Throughout my stint in Pakistan I was told that I would be working for the ISI but at the same time, I had to be in touch with the Lashkar,' he said.
Further, he reveals that once he reached Kathmandu he tore up the passport and flushed it down the toilet.
'I then took up a room at the Hotel Kamal and identified myself as a businessman from Delhi. On several occasions I tried to get into India, but failed. I then mailed a person in the Pakistan army by the name Captain Malik Zafar, expressing my inability to cross the border. Zafar responded to my mail and immediately sent across a youth by the name, Vinod. I was told that this person would help me cross the border,' Sabahuddin said.
Vinod, a resident of Nepal, Sabahuddin later realised, was an ISI agent and an associate of Lashkar's chief accountant, a man named Yakub. 'Vinod paid a Nepali youth Rs 65,000 to help me cross over. Finally, I managed to enter India.'