While Pakistani handler Sajid Mir and ISI's Major Iqbal are both in the dock in the Chicago court where Tahawwur Rana is being tried for his role in the 26/11 terror attacks, Mir remains Pakistan's biggest worry. Vicky Nanjappa reports.
Sajid Mir and Major Iqbal are very familiar names today as far as the 26/11 attacks go. These names have cropped up over and over again during investigations and confessions of Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative David Headley. The duo is believed to be part of the Pakistani establishment, which masterminded the terror strike.
The Indian Intelligence Bureau and the National Investigating Agency have made several attempts to track down these men. While Indian agencies are aware that Mir and Iqbal are extremely crucial to the 26/11 trial, bringing them to justice before court is a tough ask and they will be convicted in absentia.
If one compares the roles played by these two men during 26/11, it's quite clear that for Paksitan, Mir is more important than Iqbal. Pakistan would leave no stone unturned to protect Mir since records with the Central Investigation Agency and IB confirm he boasts of a strong global network of terrorists and is considered a key person in planning and launching terror strikes.
Senior officials say that Pakistan will continue to deny Iqbal's existence. There are no records of him with international security agencies since he has always been operating within Pakistan. Even if his name appears in confessions, the police have not been able to build up a dossier on him. The information on Iqbal has been only obtained through Headley's testimony and intelligence gathering.
However, that is not the case with Mir. There is lots of information available on him, most of which is documented by the court.
At first, Pakistan claimed that he had been arrested and then they said they had the wrong man. Today, they claim that the only Mir they know of is a Muslim cleric.
The latest intelligence input on Mir suggests that he is back in Pakistan. He was in Saudi Arabia and then Dubai for most part of the past two years. Today, Mir is more wanted than before in connection to 26/11 and hence he has been ordered to return to Pakistan, say sources from the IB.
Mir has loads of information regarding the planning of the Mumbai attacks and also has access to the documents regarding Headley. Headley closely interacted with Mir during the 26/11 planning and this was done at the behest of the Inter-Services Intelligence, say sources.
During the planning stages of 26/11, Mir was given the charge to handle international terrorists. However, Headley was not the first Pakistani-American terrorist that Mir handled. There also reports of his undated arrest by the Dubai police for plotting a major terror attack and he was also convicted by a French court in absentia. Apart from this, Mir's voice samples are also procured by intelligence agencies.
On one hand there is lots of information gathered on Mir, and on the other Iqbal continues to remain a mystery figure since he is directly linked with the ISI. While there were claims that Mir was also ISI official, today it has become clear that he was a Lashkar operative controlled by the spy agency, say sources.
In his testimony, Headley has said that he met Mir several times and handed him the list of all the terror targets he scouted. Mir also visited India posing as a cricket fan a couple of years ago.
Even during his interrogation with the NIA, Headley has emphasised on how Mir lead the 26/11 attack from the front.