Nearly four years after the horrific Mumbai attacks that left more than 160 dead, including six Americans, India put to death the lone surviving gunman, Pakistani citizen Ajmal Kasab.
The Indian government conducted the execution quietly at a facility in Pune—a city in Western India about 90 miles from Mumbai. A senior commander of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the group which directed the attacks from Pakistan, called Kasab a hero who would inspire more attacks.
The 10 perpetrators of the attacks had traveled from Pakistan by sea and were armed with AK-56 automatic assault rifles, hand grenades, GPS devices, and cell phones. For nearly three days, the attackers terrorized Mumbai, gunning down innocent civilians at a train station, hospital, two five-star hotels, a Jewish center, and a restaurant frequented by Westerners.
The attackers were in constant contact with their controllers in Pakistan via cell phone. The controllers in Pakistan provided the gunmen detailed instructions on where to go and whom to murder. In June, India arrested one of the individuals who had issued instructions from the control room, Sayed Zabiuddin Ansari, after he was deported to New Delhi by the Saudi government. Ansari claims that Pakistani intelligence officials were present in the control room.
Islamabad, in order to demonstrate it is committed to fighting terrorism and to shore up Indo-Pakistani peace talks, must take steps to bring to justice the remainder of those involved in the Mumbai attacks.
Pakistan has been dragging its feet for more than three years on the cases of seven detained LeT members. Instead of punishing these individuals, the ringleader of the Mumbai attacks, Zarar Lakhvi, seems to enjoy “protective custody” in Pakistan. He has reportedly been able to make cell phone calls to LeT comrades and even direct LeT operations from inside his detention cell in Pakistan.
Moreover, LeT founder Hafiz Muhammad Saeed was released from detention in June 2009, when the Lahore High Court determined there was insufficient evidence to continue his detainment, and has taken an increasingly public role in Pakistan. He frequently speaks at political rallies, where he calls for jihad against India.
The fact that the founder of a banned terrorist organization is allowed to portray himself as a legitimate political leader demonstrates the growing disconnect between Pakistan and the rest of the world on the terrorism issue.
In a welcome step that demonstrates U.S. officials are taking the LeT threat more seriously, the State Department earlier this year issued a $10 million reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Saeed.
For too long, U.S. officials viewed the LeT only through the Indo–Pakistani prism, rather than as part of an international terrorist syndicate. By choosing to view the activities of al-Qaeda and other Pakistan-based terrorists groups through a separate lens, U.S. officials failed over the years to hold Pakistan accountable for dealing effectively with terrorists located on its territory.
Part of what makes the LeT so dangerous is its increasingly sophisticated methods of propagating its views, even in the United States. Hafiz Muhammad Saeed’s son, Talha Saeed, who is in charge of LeT media operations, reportedly pays journalists to write stories favorable to the LeT in Pakistan. Moreover, he has also been in touch with people living in the U.S. to propagate LeT’s message here. A Pakistani immigrant living in Northern Virginia, Jubair Ahmed, pleaded guilty this past April to materially supporting the LeT and working with Saeed to prepare LeT propaganda videos.
Pakistan can no longer treat the LeT with kid gloves or hide behind the excuse that it is incapable of reining in the group. The more the world sees Hafiz Muhammad Saeed cavorting around the country delivering speeches calling for jihad, as well as the failure of the Pakistani courts to prosecute LeT terrorists, the more it will doubt Pakistan’s commitment to fighting terrorism.