Tuesday, July 20, 2010



On December 21,1988,Pan Am Flight 103 flying from London to New York was destroyed by a bomb, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew members. Eleven residents of Lockerbie in southern Scotland were also killed as large sections of the plane fell in and around the town.

2.Joint investigation by the Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary of Scotland and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation( FBI) established after three years that the bombing was carried out by two officers of the Libyan Intelligence, who were identified as Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, who was the security chief of the Libyan Arab Airlines (LAA), and Lamin Khalifah Fhimah, a Libyan intelligence officer working under cover as the station manager of LAA in the Malta airport. The US demanded in the UN Security Council that the two Libyan intelligence officers should be handed over to the Scottish authorities for trial in a neutral venue. On Libya's refusal, the UN Security Council, at the instance of the US, imposed sanctions against Libya. Under sustained international pressure, the Libyan Government handed over the two Libyan intelligence officers to the Scottish Police on April 5,1999. They were tried by a neutral court in Netherlands.

3.On January 31, 2001, Megrahi was convicted of murder by a panel of three Scottish judges and sentenced to 27 years in prison, but Fhimah was acquitted. Megrahi's appeal against his conviction was rejected on March 14, 2002, and his application to the European Court of Human Rights was declared inadmissible in July 2003. On September 23, 2003, he petitioned to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) for his conviction to be reviewed. On June 28, 2007 the SCCRC referred the case to the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh after it found he "may have suffered a miscarriage of justice". He was released from prison on compassionate grounds on August 20, 2009 . It was stated that he was suffering from an incurable ailment He was allowed to return to Libya.

4.On August 15, 2003, Libya's UN Ambassador, Mr. Ahmed Own, informed the UN Security Council that Libya formally accepted "responsibility for the actions of its officials" in relation to the Lockerbie bombing. The Libyan Government paid a compensation of US$8 million to each family which had suffered because of the death of its member or members in the bombing. A sum of US$2.5 million per family was deducted from the compensation payment to reimburse to the Governments concerned the expenditure incurred by them on the investigation and prosecution of the case. The UN and US sanctions against Libya were removed.

5. This is the first instance in the history of counter-terrorism of a State-sponsor of terrorism being held legally accountable for the involvement of its intelligence officers in an act of terrorism abroad targeting innocent civilians. The successful prosecution and the payment of compensation had a salutary effect on the Libyan Government and it stopped sponsoring acts of terrorism through its intelligence agencies to achieve its strategic objectives.

6. The successful and exemplary denouement of the case was made possible by the sustained pressure by the US bilaterally as well as through the UN Security Council, public support for the families of the victims, vigorous activism by the families which did not allow Libya to get away with its criminal act, international support for the US and thorough investigation by the Scottish Police and the FBI.

7.Between November 26 and 29,2008, ten terrorists of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), a Pakistani terrorist organisation, organised a sea-borne raid on two five-star hotels, a restaurant, a Jewish cultural centre, a railway station and a hospital, among other places, in Mumbai. They brutally mowed down many passengers in the railway station, held the inmates of the hotel hostages for three days, killed innocent customers in the restaurant and brutally tortured and killed the inmates of the Jewish centre, including a pregnant Jewish woman.

8. By the time they were neutralised by the Indian security forces after three days, they had killed 166 persons--- 123 Indian civilians, 25 foreign civilians and 18 members of the security forces. Of the 25 foreign civilians, six were Israelis, three each were Americans and Germans, two each were Canadians and Australians, and one each were British, Belgian, Italian, French, Mauritian, Malaysian, Singaporean, Thai and Japanese.

9. The investigation by the Indian investigators revealed the involvement of officers of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence and Army in helping the LET in mounting the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Independently,the FBI had arrested in the first week of October, 2009, David Coleman Headley, a US citizen of Pakistani origin, because intercepts of his telephone conversations and E-mails with persons in Pakistan showed that he was in touch with the LET and Ilyas Kashmiri of the 313 Brigade, both associates of Al Qaeda, and was trying to help them in planning and executing a terrorist strike on a Danish newspaper, which had in 2005 published some cartoons of Prophet Mohammad.

10. His interrogation after his arrest by FBI officers for eight months also revealed that he had helped the LET in mounting the sea-borne terrorist raid on Mumbai. For this purpose, he had visited India a number of times for taking video photography of suitable targets, for studying those targets, for selecting suitable landing points for the LET boat and for storing data on the glibal positioning system subsequently used by the LET. It also came out that in addition to Ilyas Kashmiri, who is a retired officer of the US-trained Special Services Group (SSG) of the Pakistan Army, which is a special force unit, Headley was in touch with other serving and retired officers of the Pakistan Army.

11. In June,2010, the FBI allowed a team of investigators of India's National Investigation Agency (NIA) to interrogate Headley in US custody in the presence of his lawyer and FBI officers. According to the NIA investigators, Headley confessed during his interrogation that the ISI and the Pakistan Navy had played an active role in helping the LET in getting its terrorists trained and in mounting the attack.

12. Thus, the Indian investigators have two types of evidence of the involvement of the ISI and the Pakistani Army----

* Evidence collected by Indian investigators in India on their own. Pakistan and the US can dismiss this evidence as not credible and as probably obtained through questionable methods such as torture of the witnesses and suspects.
* Evidence collected by the NIA team during their interrogation of Headley in the US. It has a very high value and cannot be dismissed as not credible. He was questioned in US and not Indian custody. Hence, the question of using improper methods does not arise. He was questioned in the presence of his lawyer and FBI officers. Hence, any question of the NIA team fabricating the confession does not arise.

13. If US claims of co-operating with India in counter-terrorism are correct and if its protestations of its determination to fight against terrorism wherever it takes place and whoever is involved are to be believed, one would have expected the US to initiate against the Pakistani officers involved and the Pakisani State the same action as it initiated against the Libyan intelligence officers and the State of Libya. It fought against Libya legally and in the UN Security Council for 13 years in order to have the Libyan intelligence officers convicted and to force Libya to pay compensation to the families of the victims. It imposed its own sanctions against Libya and had other sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council.

14. In a typical example of US double standards in counter-terrorism, the US, which was in the forefront of the international campaign to hold Libya accountable for the actions of its intelligence officers, has pushed the evidence against the ISI and its officers under the carpet as it had repeatedly done in the past and has been trying to see that no harm comes to Pakistan.Libya was punished----politically and economically--- for sponsoring terrorism against the US. Pakistan has been repeatedly rewarded---politically and economically despite evidence of the role of its ISI and Army in the sponsorship of terrorism against India.

15. Pakistan is able to get away with its criminal acts and the US is able to get away with its double standards, because we have a Government, which hesitates to raise vigorously such issues to protect our nationals and to maintain our national honour. Inactions by the US are shocking. Inactions by our own Government are equally shocking:

* Did we take up the case before the UN Security Council? No.
* Did we bring the evidence collected by us to the notice of the anti-terrorism committee of the UN Security Council and demand a debate and follow-up action? No.
* Did we bring the confession of Headley to the notice of the UN Security Council? No.
* Did we register an offence against the ISI and other Pakistani Army officers named by Headley and take up our own investigation? No.
* Did we convene a conference of the officials of the countries whose nationals were killed by the LET, share the evidence against the ISI with them and request them that they too should raise this matter in appropriate fora? No.
* Did we help the familes of the victims in mounting a campaign for the payment of compensation by Pakistan? No.

16. I have been saying and writing for many years that we should follow a two-pronged policy towards Pakistan---"Talk, talk, hit, hit" . Talk, if useful. Hit, if necessary. We have a Government which only wants to talk and does not want to hit.

17. The role of our opposition parties has been equally dismal. They were only interested in exploiting the terrorist strikes during the election campaign last year and for embarrassing the Congress party now. Beyond that, they have hardly done anything to see that justice was done. (21-7-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )