A recent news report quoted the National Crime Records Bureau as stating that the murder rate nationwide had come down. Various statistics were cited but the ordinary reader may have had his doubts, given the known tendency among the police not to report or record crimes or even underreport them. There’s also the lack of professionalism among the police, evident in the manner in which cases collapse in court.
Clearly, these were among the many factors that led then home minister P Chidambaram to direct the setting up of the National Investigations Agency (NIA) to tackle terrorist cases. If there’s one thing no government, Central or State, can afford it is terrorists getting away because of lousy police work.
NIA MAKES IT CASE
In the case of the Pakistani terrorist Naved, captured after he and an accomplice fired upon a BSF bus transporting jawans in Jammu in July, the decision to bring in the NIA was automatic. The NIA has transformed the terror investigation paradigm. It has eschewed old-fashioned police methods of torturing suspects to extract confessions, in favour of sophisticated and credible interrogation techniques and painstaking investigation.
“It is a very important case for us and the entire probe is being done in a scientific manner,” NIA Chief Sharad Kumar said.
Proof of the pudding lies in the eating: unlike “extracted” confessions that swiftly collapse in courts, none of the NIA’s charge sheets have so far failed to meet judicial benchmarks. The agency has managed to build watertight cases, which is also expected in the case of Naved, where there is a case of a conspiracy being hatched beyond India’s borders.
The NIA has transformed the terror investigation paradigm. It has eschewed old-fashioned police methods of torturing suspects to extract confessions, in favour of sophisticated and credible interrogation techniques and painstaking investigation
In fact Sharad Kumar has directed his team to seek the court’s permission for sending letters rogatory (legal request) to Pakistan to corroborate the information provided by Naved. “We are working on the draft, which will be first sent to the home ministry to verify if information sought are in conformity with the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty,” said an NIA officer. “Once cleared by the home ministry, the draft will be put before the designated court, and when approved, will be sent to Pakistan through the ministry of external affairs.”
Other interesting revelations have emerged. Since he has constantly changed statements to confuse investigators, the agency went for a lie detector test. Sources in the NIA said Naved is a hardened criminal and “he tried to confuse us to ensure that his handlers get ample time to escape from Indian territory”.
He is learnt to have revealed details of his training, coming to India and the local help he received from sleeper cells in the valley. He is also learnt to have told interrogators that his slain accomplice, identified as Noman, had claimed that he had once been part of the personal security detail of the 26/11 mastermind and Lashkar patron Hafiz Saeed.
THE KASHMIR ANGLE
Naved is a school dropout from Faisalabad, joined the Lashkar-e-Taiyyaba (LeT) as a teenager in 2011 and received extensive arms training at Shavai Nallah in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (26/11 mastermind Zaki-ur- Rehman Lakhvi was picked up from the same place). He received detailed instructions in March and infiltrated through the Gulmarg sector on June 2, accompanied by three others code named Uqasha, Muhammad Bhai and Noman. A truck driver Showkat took them to Awantipore on June 9 where they stayed in the house of Fayaz Ahmed Wani and his brother Javid, both of whom were carpenters at the local air force station. They are under arrest.
He was then met by Abu Qasim, the LeT chief in Jammu and Kashmir and operatives Abu Dujana and Talha. He was with Dujana when he received Rs. 5 lakh from a businessman in Srinagar. On August 4, Naved and Noman boarded a truck from Kulgam.
“He took them to Patni Top, a hill station along the Srinagar-Jammu highway, and after a night halt at Tamatar Mode, between Patni Top and Kud, they travelled to Samruli the next morning. They were dropped off at Narsu Nallah and returned to the Valley,” said an NIA officer. They had tea at a roadside dhaba before launching the attack, he added.
An intelligence officer admitted that the plan for the attack with local support was perfect, but operationally it was a failure. “Had Noman not been quickly felled, he would have committed carnage, he pointed out. As for Naved, he said he did not qualify as a hardcore LeT militant. “Instead of putting up a fight after Noman was killed, he fled the spot.”
Other investigators disagreed, noting that Naved had undergone two modules of training with the LeT, and that there could be no doubt he was a hardened militant.
Naved’s capture took place after the Modi-Nawaz Sharif meeting in Ufa, Russia, when they were there for the SCO summit. That the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment was not happy with the announcement of talks at the NSA level on terrorism, was obvious in the steady escalation of firing across the Line of Control and then the dispatch of armed militants to attack targets in India
The NIA prosecutor first approached the special judge, hearing the Naved case, seeking 14-days custody and then a remand to take him to Delhi. This was to ensure his safety as the NIA was concerned he could be killed by his handlers across the border. Naved was not supposed to return alive from his mission and in that sense, is a prize catch for India.
A DELICATE QUESTION
But was Naved’s capture deliberate? Was it something the Pakistanis wanted? Note that Naved’s capture took place after the Modi-Nawaz Sharif meeting in Ufa, Russia, when they were there for the SCO summit. That the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment was not happy with the announcement of talks at the NSA level on terrorism, was obvious in the steady escalation of firing across the Line of Control and then the dispatch of armed militants to attack targets in India.
It is a very important case for us and the entire probe is being done in a scientific manner
- Sharad Kumar
Would the Pakistanis have deliberately left evidence of a terror trail in the expectation that India would call off the talks? He has already admitted being a Pakistani and infiltrating from there.
Curiously, Pakistan is not officially denying it and officials in Islamabad preferred to quote local media reports one of which went like this: “The National Database and Registration Authority record shows that Indian claims of an arrested person, Usman Khan (Muhammed Naved Yakub), originating from Pakistan, are totally baseless.”
The foreign office spokesman in Islamabad was also coy: “We expect the Indian authorities to share information with us,” said spokesperson Syed Qazi Khalilullah. “We have said many times that making immediate accusations against Pakistan is not correct. These things should be based on facts.”
The Indian security establishment is looking forward to the results of Naved’s interrogation. “We are confident that the interrogation will reveal their modus operandi, including details of their infiltration from across the border and their targets,” Union home minister Rajnath Singh told Parliament.
Sources in the Defence Ministry said, “The arrest of a Pakistani terrorist alive will help us prepare a watertight case against Pakistan, (regarding the) use of non-state actors in propagating terrorism in India.”
Not all are that optimistic. As Lt. Gen. Rameshwar Roy, a former army commander in Kashmir noted: “What happened when we had Kasab? All his statements and confessions could not convince Pakistan to punish Lakhvi or arrest Hafiz Saeed.”
We could not catch them alive, as till their last breaththey continued firing on us
- Ishwar Chander
I G, Punjab Police
CATCHING THEM ALIVE
Capturing a terrorist is always easier said than done
Ajmal Kasab and Mohammad Naved are “chance detainees”. Security personnel familiar with the kind of encounters in which the two were nabbed, say capturing a terrorist is always easier said than done.Punjab Police Inspector General (Border Range) Ishwar Chander, says proving a terrorist’s Pakistani is also not easy. “A person can be arrested only if he/she wants to live,” said Chander. “But, most of the terrorists come to kill and, in the process, are killed. They don’t care, as they are mostly fidayeen. Because of this psychology, it has always been difficult to catch them alive. One of the Udhampur attackers could be nabbed alive only because he fled the scene like any other criminal.”
Senior officials in the Punjab home ministry on the day of the encounter in Udhampur, said instructions had been passed on to the officer in charge of the operations to take at least one of the three terrorists alive. They were holed up in an abandoned building in the police station complex.
“We could not catch them alive, as till their last breath they continued firing on us. Then we also need to keep in mind the need to ensure minimal casualties on our side. We cannot make mindless attempts to catch them alive losing our own soldiers,” said Ishwar Chander.
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