Headley's testimony will ultimately not help India 'nail' Pakistan

Countless 'dossiers' and lists of 'most-wanted' terrorists have been provided by New Delhi, only to be added to garbage in Islamabad.

 |  4-minute read |   10-02-2016
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Another media storm has been orchestrated over nothing, as New Delhi presents the most recent of its succession of false triumphs against Pakistan-backed terrorism to the nation - the testimony of David Coleman Headley before a Mumbai court by video link from an "undisclosed destination".

This momentous event, we are told by no less that Kiren Rijiju, minister of state for home, will end all ambiguity between state and non-state actors involved in Pakistan-backed Islamist terrorism: "The difference between the state and non-state actors will come to an end after this (Headley's) statement," he informed the media, adding, somewhat incoherently (perhaps we can blame the media for this) , "It is known that who all were involved. Headley's statement will lead to a logical conclusion. It will help us."

It is astonishing that after over 30 years of Pakistan-backed terrorism in India, high officials of the Indian state still believe that the "difference between the state and non-state actors" persists. Further, if it is already know "who all were involved", what additional light does Headley throw on events?

Also read: Headley's testimony will help us fully understand Pakistan's conspiracy

Though the minister fails to clarify these issues, while celebrating the triumph of Headley's deposition, others have offered a range of arguments. One of the most sophisticated among these - and the most specious - is that, with Headley's testimony, the facts of the conspiracy behind 26/11, would now be "judicially known".

This would, of course, be important if there was in fact any accused in Indian custody facing trial in this case - and there are none. Others have argued that such judicially validated testimony would "strengthen India's case" in the Pakistani trials against the accused present there, including Hafiz Mohammad Saeed - who has not, in fact, been charged in the case in those processes.

The truth is, nothing is going to strengthen India's case in Pakistan as long as Pakistan's duplicity and desire to protect the perpetrators and the wider infrastructure of terrorism on its soil endure. And if Pakistan changes its orientation and actually seeks to end India-directed terrorism from its soil, the quantum of evidence against perpetrating groups is overwhelming.

Indeed, everything Headley (and his co-conspirator Tahawwur Rana, who has also been sentenced in USA on charges of supporting terrorism, though he was acquitted of involvement in the 26/11 case) has to say is already "judicially known" in an American court, and any serious prosecution in Pakistan could call for the US court record.

Instead, what we have seen is a farcical process in the Islamabad court trying the 26/11 case. Two Pakistani judicial commissions have visited India to gather evidence and testimonies in the case, to add to the volumes of evidence provided by Indian authorities, including DNA samples, photographs, voice records and detailed operational information.

But the court has rejected even the evidence of the Pakistani judicial commissions as "inadmissible". The charade of Headley's testimony in India is hardly going to turn the Pakistani political, security and judicial system on its head, provoking a sentimental mea culpa and self-inflicted flagellation by the national security establishment that has orchestrated campaigns of terrorism in India for decades.

All it can do is provide an opportunity for a little grandstanding by a few politicians, investigators and lawyers. After each major terrorist attack from Pakistan, India talks about "new evidence" that would "nail Pakistan's lies", even as Headley's "new" testimony is supposed to. Numberless "dossiers" and ever-expanding lists of India's "most-wanted" terrorists have been provided to Pakistan, apparently to be quickly added to the garbage in Islamabad.

Evidence has significance only where an independent adjudicatory mechanism exists. It is futile and stupid to provide the perpetrators of terrorism evidence of their malfeasance; Pakistan knows very well what it is and has been doing, and is unlikely to punish itself for its numberless crimes.

Successive governments in New Delhi have been allowed to deceive India's public for too long with false claims that are nothing more than a cover for the complete strategic and policy vacuum that characterises state responses to Pakistan-backed terrorism. Indeed, it is now time to nail India's lie about nailing Pakistan's lies.

Writer

Ajai Sahni Ajai Sahni @satpicm

Executive Director, Institute for Conflict Management

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