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'Headley has nothing to lose, but will only gain'

By Syed Firdaus Ashraf
December 11, 2015 17:13 IST
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The 26/11 attacks


'In the long run because of international pressure Headley's testimony will become credible in Pakistan also. And if Pakistan decides to examine him as a witness in their trial, then I think there is a chance of conviction against Hafiz Saeed and Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi.'

Y P Singh, image, left, was one of Mumbai's finest and outspoken police officers.

While still in service he wrote a controversial novel, Carnage by Angels, which exposed corruption in the system. Following the furore, he quit the Indian Police Service.

Now a columnist, author, filmmaker and security expert based out of Mumbai, Singh spoke with Syed Firdaus Ashraf/ about 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks accused David Headley turning approver and what it means for the case.

What are your views on David Headley turning approver in the 26/11 case?

I think this is a positive step because he is already facing 35 years imprisonment in the United States where he has admitted to his guilt. The sentence in the US does not get undermined or affected because of his turning approver here and getting a pardon.

But how will it help India in the 26/11 case?

This is a case of criminal conspiracy in Pakistan and therefore there is no evidence of credible nature to that effect.

The investigation being conducted by the Pakistan police simultaneously does not invoke much confidence or lend credence because it is a biased investigation.

Even otherwise, it is very difficult to prove a case of conspiracy unless one of the conspirators comes forward and testifies. That is why under the CRPc (the Criminal Procedure Code) in India the court grants pardon to a person who wants to turn an approver so that various links of criminal conspiracy can be exposed.

To that extent, I feel his testimony will go a long way in proving the conspiracy part against many accused persons whom we may not know about.

Lashkar-e-Tayiba chief Hafiz Saeed and Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi were the main conspirators in the 26/11 case. Will Headley's confession help India in nabbing them?

It may not help in the short run. Pakistan is committed to saving those two. It is widely believed that 26/11 happened because of the covert blessings of the Pakistani intelligence agency, the ISI (the Inter Services Intelligence). Therefore, Hafiz Saeed and Zaki-ur Rehman will not get convicted because of this testimony.

In the long run, however, because of international pressure, Headley's testimony will become credible in Pakistan also. And if Pakistan decides to examine him as a witness in their trial, then I think there is a chance of conviction against those two people.

Do you think if Headley becomes an approver in Pakistani courts too, only then can Saeed and Lakhvi be nailed?

Yes, once Headley turns approver in India and spills the beans, there is no reason why Pakistan also should not use Headley's testimony in their case. But Pakistan is a sovereign country. And their judiciary should also be inclined to take this input.

This will be possible only if the prosecution of Pakistan on behalf of the Pakistani government decides to bring on Headley as an approver.

There could be something going f,orward but at the moment this possibility does not seem to be very imminent, because if Pakistan does that, a lot of things about the ISI would get revealed.

Do you feel after Headley's testimony in an Indian court, the Pakistan government will have to act against Saeed and Lakhvi?

Initially, Pakistan will show its reluctance. They will try and discard Headley's testimony. Of course, if international pressure increases and Headley's testimony can be corroborated by other evidence, then sooner or later they may have to incorporate it.

In the long run this will certainly have a bearing on the case in Pakistan.

Do you feel that pardoning Headley, one of the conspirators in the case, is an insult to the victims of 26/11?

I don't think that would be the case. In a case of criminal conspiracy, as I said, one of the conspirators has to spill the beans.

If one conspirator, who even otherwise is serving a 35-year jail term, is pardoned, it is not such a big thing. In return he will throw light on dozens of other people who live in Pakistan and who were the prime conspirators in 26/11.

Has diplomatic pressure from India worked because, one wonders, what was the reason for Headley to agree to turn approver?

I think Headley is looking at his long-term prospects of a release from US jail on parole because in the US a person can be prematurely released on parole even though the sentence continues.

If he becomes a positive element in the trial in India and his conduct is good in the US jail, it will be appreciated in the long run. He may be set free much sooner than 35 years.

Headley has nothing to lose but only to gain by giving specific details of the conspiracy.

What about Abu Jundal, the other arrested accused in the 26/11 case? Where does all this leave him?

I don't think Abu Jundal qualifies to be an approver. He was part of the conspiracy which took place in Pakistan. There is, of course, independent evidence to prove the case.

But if Headley testifies against Jundal, that he was in Pakistan during the 26/11 conspiracy and attacks, I think Jundal's conviction would turn into certainty.

Do you see any chance of Saeed or Lakhvi being extradited to India due to Headley's testimony?

I don't think there is any possibility, because generally a sovereign country does not extradite its citizens to another country although Pakistan did so earlier with the US in connection with Ramzi Yusuf, the bomber of the first attack on the World Trade Centre in 1993.

Also, Pakistan's relations with India are different.

They will say that they have themselves launched an investigation in this case. They are prosecuting because under their penal code if their citizen commits an offence in a foreign country, there are two jurisdictions.

Firstly the foreign country, where the offence took place, and secondly, where the accused is a citizen. So in this case, a Pakistani committed an offence in India and so India has jurisdiction, but Pakistan also has jurisdiction in the penal code.

Since Pakistan has already started its judicial process, they would certainly say that the primacy would lie on the prosecution that is happening in Pakistan and not in India. So I don't think there is any chance of any extradition in this case because the judicial process in Pakistan is going on.

IMAGE: The Taj Mahal Hotel burns during the 26/11 attacks.

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Syed Firdaus Ashraf / in Mumbai
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