November 26, 2021, marks 13 years since the series of dreadful terror attacks in Mumbai when 10 members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a jihadist outfit based in Pakistan, carried out 12 coordinated attacks lasting as many as four days across major locations.
As many as 166 people from 15 countries were killed in the attacks at the iconic Taj Mahal Palace hotel, the Nariman House, the Metro Cinema, and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, among other places.
The November 2008 Mumbai attacks, also referred to as 26/11 attacks, perhaps for the first time drew widespread global condemnation at a scale hitherto unseen and prompted the central government to critically heighten its counter-terrorism operations and re-examine several aspects of its already straining ties with Pakistan.
Ajmal Kasab, who was the sole surviving attacker captured by the security forces, later confirmed the assault was planned, coordinated, and conducted by the LeT and other Pakistan-based terror modules. In testimonies acquired by the intelligence agencies in the country, Kasab was quoted as saying all the attackers came from Pakistan and their controllers, too, were all operating from that country.
Ten years after the attack, former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif – in a series of sensational revelations – also indicated that Islamabad played a role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Current evidence suggests that Pakistan’s state-sponsored terrorism in the 26/11 attacks has been proved during the interrogation accounts of three men terrorists – Ajmal Kasab, David Headley, and Zabiuddin Ansari.
Despite its own public acknowledgment as well as the availability of all necessary evidence, including those shared by India, Pakistan is yet to show sincerity in delivering justice to the families of victims even on the 13th anniversary of the 26/11 attacks.
On November 7, a Pakistani court freed six terrorists, including those involved with the dreadful attacks, mentored by Hafiz Saeed – the United Nations designated terrorist who is the founder of the LeT outfit and its charity wing, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD).
Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, LeT commander and ringleader of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, had also been on bail since 2015 after he was arrested, on terror-financing charges by the counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) of the country’s Punjab province.
Lakhvi, also another UN-designated international terrorist, was arrested once again in Pakistan earlier this year in January, but counter-terror watchers indicate that political interference in the country often gets in the way of justice.
Terror outfits in Pakistan also keep changing their names in order to escape scrutiny and contest claims, as the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Organisation has amplified its watch.
Earlier, in April this year, a New York-based Artificial Intelligence start-up revealed that Pakistan has silently removed the names of almost 4,000 terrorists from its terror watch list. The removed names include LeT leader and Mumbai attack mastermind Zakir ur Rehman Lakhvi and many others.
According to International Forum for Rights and Security, in terms of international terrorism, the Mumbai attack underscores the threat posed by a few well-armed and well-trained individuals who could carry out an unconventional attack on unarmed civilians and soft target civilian population.