26/11 Mumbai Terror Attack: ISI Erasing Evidence of Pak’s Involvement

The Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai after the terrorist attack on 26/11/2008.
The Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai after the terrorist attack on 26/11/2008.

As the tenth anniversary of the horrendous Mumbai massacre that snuffed out 166 lives and left countless injured approaches, we will (just like we have been doing for the last nine years), express solidarity with the unfortunate victims by holding prayers and memorial services for their souls and denounce terrorism in the strongest of words. We will also wax eloquent on the indomitable ‘Mumbai spirit’ that helped the physically and mentally scarred Mumbaikars to quickly overcome their trauma and quickly move on as if nothing happened. But all this doesn’t hide the fact that we’ve failed the 26/11 victims because even after a decade the masterminds of this carnage haven’t been brought to book!

Though Islamabad has put the Mumbai terror attack accused on trial, this case has been dragging and the way things are going, it’d extremely unlikely that anyone will end up being convicted. Reason? Pakistan claims India has failed to provide evidence that could establish beyond all doubts the involvement of the accused in these attacks. But even though New Delhi has consistently maintained that it had provided irrefutable evidence, yet Islamabad doesn’t agree. Yousaf Raza Gilani, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan didn’t agree. In fact he told the Parliament that what India had provided was “some information” on Mumbai attacks, emphasising, “I say ‘information’ because these are not evidence.”

Since Islamabad insists it doesn’t have irrefutable evidence to proceed against the 26/11 accused, so let’s go over certain available details which are available in public domain that are not (to borrow Gilani’s words) “some information” but concrete evidence.

Even after it was conclusively proved by Geo TV through its report from ‘ground zero’ that Ajmal Kasab was a Pakistani national, Islamabad still refused to accept the same, prompting Nawaz Sharif whose party was giving outside support to the Zardari government to question as to why was Kasab’s house and village cordoned off by security agencies. Sharif rightly opined that rather than undertake the impossible task of hiding the truth, “…the people and media should be allowed to meet Iman’s (Kasab’s) parents so that the truth could come out in the open,” adding, “We need some kind of introspection.” But Islamabad didn’t budge and a month and a half later, when National Security Adviser Mehmood Ali Durrani told an Indian news channel that Kasab was a Pakistani national, he was summarily sacked by Gilani!

If the Pakistani establishment and deep state had nothing to do with the Mumbai carnage at all, then where was the requirement for Islamabad to be so paranoid as to go out of its way to conceal the fact that Kasab was a Pakistani national?

Even if we for a moment accept that what New Delhi gave Islamabad was merely “some information,” what about the irrefutable evidence that Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had collected? Why hasn’t the same been used as evidence? So instead of complaining about lack of evidence against the Mumbai attack masterminds and blaming India for the same, Islamabad would do well to open the FIA file on the Mumbai attacks prepared when Tariq Khosa was its Director General (DG).

That the FIA had done a thoroughly professional investigation in the 26/11 case would probably have never come to light if the 2014 APS Peshawar carnage hadn’t taken place. Shaken by this massacre of innocent school children by terrorists, the conscious stricken former DG FIA penned down an article that was published in Dawn (‘Mumbai Attack Trial’, August 3, 2015) in which he mentioned that “Pakistan has to deal with the Mumbai mayhem, planned and launched from its soil. This requires facing the truth and admitting mistakes. The entire state security apparatus must ensure that the perpetrators and masterminds of the ghastly terror attacks are brought to justice. The case has lingered on for far too long.” In his article, Khosa has confirmed that the FIA investigation had conclusively ascertained the following:

  • First, Ajmal Kasab was a Pakistani national, whose place of residence and initial schooling as well as his joining a banned militant organisation was established by the investigators.
  • Second, the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists were imparted training near Thatta, Sindh and launched by sea from there. The training camp was identified and secured by the investigators. The casings of the explosive devices used in Mumbai were recovered from this training camp and duly matched.
  • Third, the fishing trawler used by the terrorists for hijacking an Indian trawler in which they sailed to Mumbai, was brought back to harbour, then painted and concealed. It was recovered by the investigators and connected to the accused.
  • Fourth, the engine of the dinghy abandoned by the terrorists near Mumbai harbour contained a patent number through which the investigators traced its import from Japan to Lahore and then to a Karachi sports shop from where an LeT-linked militant purchased it along with the dinghy. The money trail was followed and linked to the accused who was arrested.
  • Fifth, the operations room in Karachi, from where the operation was directed, was also identified and secured by the investigators. The communications through Voice over Internet Protocol were unearthed.
  • Sixth, the alleged commander and his deputies were identified and arrested.
  • Seventh, a couple of foreign-based financiers and facilitators were arrested and brought to face trial.

Besides this incriminating FIA’s report, there are many other sources that provide details that can nail the accused.

Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani writes in his book (‘India vs Pakistan: Why Can’t We Just Be Friends?’) that while talking about the Mumbai attacks, Lt Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha, who was the ISI chief then, had confided that “Log hamaray theh, operation hamara nahin tha” (those involved in the operation (Mumbai attacks) were our men, but the operation wasn’t ours). Islamabad may dismiss this claim on the grounds that being an accused in ‘memo-gate’ scandal, Haqqani has an anti-Pakistan bias, but then he isn’t the only one to have made this claim!

In his book (‘Playing to the Edge’), former CIA Director Michael Hayden, also writes that “His (Lt Gen Pasha’s) investigation had revealed that some former ISI members were involved (in Mumbai attacks) with Lashkar-e-Taiba. Pasha admitted that these unspecified retirees may have engaged in some broad training of the attackers, but he was characteristically vague about any detailed direction the attackers had gotten during the attack via cell phone from Pakistan.”

Similarly, investigative journalist Bob Woodward, in his book ‘Obama’s Wars’ has also quoted Lt Gen Pasha telling the CIA chief that “There may have been people associated with my organization who were associated with this (Mumbai attacks). That’s different from authority, direction and control.” Woodward too has stated that “…the CIA later received reliable intelligence that the ISI was directly involved in the training for Mumbai (attacks).”

So, even if Haqqani’s account is prejudiced, but surely neither Hayden nor Woodward have any reasons to risk their well-established credibility by making false accusations!

In 2017, while speaking at the 19th Asian Security Conference being held at the Institute for Defence and Studies and Analyses (IDSA) in New Delhi, former Pakistan NSA Mahmood Ali Durrani told the audience that “26/11 Mumbai attack carried out by a terror group based in Pakistan is classic trans-border terrorist event.” A year later, Nawaz Sharif also admitted that Pakistan was involved in the Mumbai attacks when he told Dawn newspaper that “militant organisations are active. Call them non-state actors, (but) should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai?”

Therefore, if Islamabad is still complaining that all it has is “some information,” it’s only because though available in abundance, clinching evidence against those who were terrorist commanders, who masterminded the 26/11 carnage and who provided training, armament and logistic support to the attackers has conveniently been “disappeared” by the ISI!


It’s quite unlikely that Rawalpindi will ever allow the state to persecute its proxies who executed the ISI planned Mumbai attacks. But if Nawaz Sharif can express his anguish by asking Islamabad “Why can’t we complete the (Mumbai attacks) trial?” and terming this inordinate delay as something “absolutely unacceptable,” then rather than only holding prayers and memorial services, can’t we also focus more on demanding justice for 26/11 victims? 


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