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Will Rana's trial spill the beans on ISI's role in 26/11?

By Vicky Nanjappa
April 12, 2011 16:08 IST
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The trial of Pakistani-Canadian Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative Tahawwur Rana, co-accused with David Headley in the 26/11 case, is set to begin in Chicago on May 16. If insiders are to be believed, Rana is likely to implicate Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence in the Mumbai terror attacks, reports Vicky Nanjappa.

Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative David Headley and his co-accused in the 26/11 case Tahawwur Rana's admission to their role in the terror attacks may spell more trouble for Pakistan government and the Inter-Services Intelligence.

The trial of the Pakistani-Canadian Rana, which was postponed in February at the behest of his lawyer, will now commence on May 16 at a court in Chicago. If insiders are to be believed, Rana is likely to confess to his role in the terror attacks in order to bargain for a lesser sentence. According to investigation agencies, Rana helped Headley conduct a recce of the terror targets in Mumbai and with paper work related to his travel to India.

India's National Investigating Agency, which is probing the case, is keeping a close watch on the trial, especially that of Rana's. It's being keenly followed by the Indian and the Pakistani governments as well. 

Rana is expected to underline and describe in detail the manner in which the ISI was behind this attack. Sources in the NIA say that the trial would largely also revolve around the role and the confession of Headley. The prosecution will look to ascertain the association between Headley and Rana. And the statements made by Rana will help both Indian as well Pakistani agencies proceed with their investigation in the case, say sources.

However, the bigger worry for Pakistan is that Headley and Rana's confessions will throw light on perpetrators of the 26/11 attacks, who continue to be a part of the establishment. During his confessional statement, which was made as part of a plea bargain, Headley mentioned the names of Sajid Mir, the chief plotter of the 26/11 attacks, a colonel and a major from the Pakistan army. Following this confession, an NIA team left for the United States to interrogate Headley. However, the investigators failed to achieve any breakthrough in the case.

While a lot of the information was documented and would form part of the chargesheet there are still some missing links, which Indian agencies have not been able to connect. The role of Sajid Mir and the other members of the Pakistani establishment is what the Indian investigators are struggling to get clarity on. With Headley refusing to part with any more information, they have pinned all their hopes on Rana.

Pakistan on the other hand is on tenterhooks as Rana's trial date is fast approaching. Sources say that he is expected to confess that he was working for the ISI. It may be recalled that Rana had earlier said that he was a Pakistani patriot who believed that the ISI wanted his help. He is expected to reiterate that statement before the court.

If Rana sticks to his confession about links with the ISI, India is bound to pressure Pakistan to reveal the names of those who were part of the establishment when the Mumbai terror attacks were planned. But getting access to Rana will be no cakewalk.        

As far as the Indian investigation agencies are concerned, they will have to wait for a while before they get an opportunity to interrogate Rana. While a copy of Rana's statement before the court will be made available to them, they will have to seek permission to quiz the accused only once the trial concludes. After corroborating Rana's statements with that of Headley's the NIA will file a chargesheet in the case, inform sources. 

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Vicky Nanjappa