Supreme Court ruling on Kasab brings partial closure
Author : C.Uday Bhaskar
The Mumbai attacks of Nov 26, 2008 (often
referred to as India's 26/11) reached partial closure on Wednesday with
the decision by the Supreme Court to uphold the conviction and death
sentence awarded to the lone surviving gunman, Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, in
May 2010 for his role in the carnage that took 166 lives. Apart from
Indian citizens who bore the brunt of the attack, there were as many as
25 other nations whose citizens were either killed or injured. Jews were
The enormity of 26/11 and the manner in which Kasab and his team killed
scores of civilians was captured live on TV footage and the telephone
communication with the ‘handlers' in Pakistan gave the entire event a
macabre quality where the real and reel telescoped into each other. At
that time in late 2008, emotions ran high in India and angry, collective
revenge had to be kept at bay so that justice could be rendered to the
victims and their families who suffered grievous loss.
India sets considerable import to what is called the ‘due process of the
law' and despite the enormous trial court backlog, the Kasab case moved
fairly swiftly by Indian standards and the case reached the Supreme
Court. To that extent it may be inferred, that at a purely individual
level, some degree of justice has been rendered with the decision of the
Supreme Court, which has opined that the accused was accorded a fair
trial and the gravity of the crime -- "participated in waging war
against the country" -- warranted the death penalty.
However, Kasab is unlikely to go to the gallows in a hurry for in all
likelihood, the August 29 decision will be sent for appeal and a review
and if rejected, the case could finally be referred to the President of
India for mercy. What is germane is that one of the surviving
perpetrators of a major terror attack could be prosecuted through the
law of the land and that ‘due process' was respected. The degree of
solace that this kind of justice will provide to the families of the
victims is moot and some foreign nationals may still seek different
forms of redress and compensation through their own legal provisions.
The larger and more complex issue of 26/11 is the linkage with the
Pakistani security apex, for as an individual; Kasab was a mere foot
soldier -- albeit lethal in killing unarmed innocents. The Supreme Court
judgement noted inter alia: "The most clinching evidence regarding
conspiracy comes from the recordings of intercepted telephone calls
between the terrorists and their co-conspirators and collaborators
sitting in a foreign land that, in light of the overall facts and
circumstances of the case, can only be Pakistan". The linkage between
the perpetrators of 26/11 with the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the support that
this group has traditionally received from the Rawalpindi GHQ is part of
a well-known narrative about the patterns of cross-border terror in the
region. This has now been reiterated by the highest court in India.
It may be recalled that in the immediate aftermath of 26/11, the first
reaction of the Pakistani security establishment was to deny Kasab's
nationality as a Pakistani and it took an intrepid Pakistani journalist
to expose the truth. In the intervening years, there has been more
innovative opacity than sincere intent on the part of the Pakistani
security establishment to prosecute the high-level handlers of the Kasab
team -- and this is predictable.
The 26/11 carnage and the reluctance of the Pakistan government to
enable speedy prosecution on their side will come up for discussion in
the Tehran meeting between Indian PM Manmohan Singh and the Pakistani
President Asif Ali Zardari, where they are expected to meet on the
sidelines of the NAM Summit.
But the reality is that the Pakistani security establishment had
deliberately invested in terror groups as part of the ‘strategic depth'
doctrine more than 20 years ago and this policy has neither been
reviewed nor altered. Lest this assertion be seen as partisan, it may be
recalled that soon after the terror attack (Aug 16) on the Kamra
airbase near Islamabad, a noted Pakistani security analyst made an
insightful and courageous observation.
Ayesha Siddiqa averred that despite General Kayani asserting that the
war on terror is Pakistan's own war -- there was no policy shift towards
groups espousing the ideology of terror. She added: "Groups such as the
Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad, Sipah-e-Sahaba and
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which have safe havens in the country (Pakistan),
continue to thrive."
In a non-linear manner, the Kasab-Kayani eco-system continues to be
nurtured in Pakistan even as it is denied to Islamabad's external
interlocutors, which is why 26/11 will only have partial closure.
*C. Uday Bhaskar is the former Director of the New Delhi-based National
Maritime Foundation. The views expressed are those of the author and do
not reflect the official policy or position of the Indian Navy or
National Maritime Foundation. This article first appeared in the Reuters
on August 29, 2012.