In a pointed indictment of Pakistan's military establishment in the November 26, 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam, in his opening argument, on Tuesday termed the incident “a classic case of sponsored terrorism” perpetuated by “State actors involved in the security apparatus of Pakistan.”

When the Special Sessions Court trying the case began hearing the arguments from the prosecution's side, Mr. Nikam said he was consciously using the term “sponsored terrorism.” He dwelt on the role of an unidentified Major General, and the intention of the attackers and their handlers to zealously conceal their Pakistani identity.

“The November 26 attack was not an ordinary attack by 10 indoctrinated terrorists. It was well orchestrated, meticulously planned and [reflected] a deep-seated hatred for our country. It was a classic case of sponsored terrorism. Evidence by the prosecution has successfully established that the attack was sponsored by Pakistan. Irrefutable inference [can be drawn] that it was sponsored by State actors involved in the security apparatus of Pakistan,” Mr. Nikam contended.

He said the Major General's name was not revealed to the attackers “undoubtedly because he was from the Pakistan Army.” “He is an entity separate from the Lashkar-e-Taiba [LeT]; he must have been the supreme authority running the training camp.”

Citing excerpts from the judicial confession statement of lone surviving terrorist Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab, recorded on February 20, 2009, Mr. Nikam said the Major General visited the training camps when military and intelligence training was being imparted to the attackers. He had enquired whether the trainees had any complaints and was keen that they completed the mission given by the LeT.

The query about complaints “postulates that he was supervising the training,” Mr. Nikam argued. He said Kasab's statement mentioned the Major General also provided trainers for the camps and personally tested the firing skills of the trainees once.

Mr. Nikam pointed to an instance in the confession statement when the Major General arrived for a training session led by Lashkar handlers Hafiz Saeed and Zaki-Ur-Rehaman Lakhvi. “They saluted him; so he must have enjoyed a position in the Pakistan Army. He also instructed Abu Kahfa to impart sea training to the attackers. The Major General has a suspicious role. The manner he in which he gave instructions shows that he was from the Pakistan Army,” Mr. Nikam said.

Hiding Pakistani identity

Referring to the fake identity cards the attackers had, Mr. Nikam said: “usually any terrorist group takes pride in its operations and claims responsibility, including the LeT. However, in the case of 26/11, the authority that hatched the conspiracy along with the LeT did not want its identity to be revealed. So the attackers were given bogus cards, named and addresses.”

That subterfuge was a crucial aspect of the operation also came through in the telephonic conversations, Mr. Nikam stressed. When one of the assailants, Imran Babar, called a television channel, he claimed to be from Hyderabad. The conversations between the Taj Hotel attackers and their handlers showed that the handlers were anxious to know the location of the boat (Kuber). Moreover, it was only after the Pakistani channel, Geo TV, traced Kasab's address to Faridkot and his parents that Pakistan admitted to his nationality, Mr. Nikam said.

“Till today Pakistan has not claimed the bodies of the nine [deceased] terrorists. What do they fear? That the parents of the [deceased terrorists] will give something out?” Mr. Nikam said.

Presenting a case for criminal conspiracy under Section 120 of the Indian Penal Code, he said the existence of an earlier plan of a similar nature could not be ruled out. “The manner in which the incident took place and the nature of the atrocities committed shows there must have been an earlier plan. Coming events cast a shadow before them,” he said. The other accused, Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin Ahmed, were equally liable under the charge.

Kasab a liar

On Kasab's flip-flops over his statements, Mr. Nikam held that he was “not inclined to attach any importance to Kasab's statement [recorded under section 313 of the Criminal Procedure Code in which Kasab has denied his role].” Calling the gunman “a 100 per cent liar and criminal,” the Prosecutor pointed to the instructions in “lesson 18 of the al-Qaeda manual” on pleading guilty and retracting statements.

“He [Kasab] is totally following the al-Qaeda manual. He is nothing but a hardcore terrorist; a lying, conniving and depraved murderer with moral turpitude [enough] to make a mockery of the Indian judicial system. This trial does not just seek justice for the [victims], but for the millions of Indians whose sensibilities were assaulted on November 26.”

The court on Tuesday rejected Sabahuddin lawyer Ejaz Naqvi's .application pertaining to clubbing of cases for being “frivolous and misconceived” and coming at a “belated” stage.

Maharashtra Home Minister R.R. Patil, Minister of State for Home Ramesh Bagwe, and the top brass of Mumbai's Criminal Investigation Department were present.