In just a few weeks, a court in Chicago will decide the fate of Tahawwur Rana — the first of the men who guided Muhammad Ajmal Kasab and nine other Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists to Mumbai on November 26, 2008. The trial has provided dramatic new insights into just how those men came to kill 164 children, women, and men. Based on the testimony of the Pakistani-American jihadist David Headley, and a mass of evidence, prosecutors have charged that serving officers of Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence Directorate financed and directed the attack on Mumbai. In days to come, we will hear Mr. Rana's version of the story; his lawyers are expected to argue that he acted in good faith to help a childhood friend. The problem, however, is that Mr. Rana was at worst a bit-part actor in the Mumbai conspiracy. The men he is alleged to have answered to — commanders in the Lashkar, and their ISI mentors — are not in court, and there are no signs so far that Pakistan intends to bring them to justice.
The consequences the verdict will have for Mr. Rana's life, therefore, are likely to be dwarfed by those it will have for Pakistan's increasingly fraught relationship with India and the world. Pakistani investigators had conducted a separate investigation and claimed to have arrested key conspirators. Their account of events, however, made no mention of the intelligence officers who helped the Lashkar to strike. Nor did it indict key Lashkar figures. E-mail correspondence and testimony presented by the prosecution in Chicago shows that Sajid Mir, the Lashkar's commander for transnational operations, guided Mr. Headley through each stage of the operation. He figures nowhere in the charge sheet presented before a Rawalpindi court by Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). Muzammil Bhat, the Lashkar's chief military tactician and the man who trained the assault team, is also conspicuous by his absence. Pakistani investigators do not seem to have made any great effort, either, to pursue the 20 low-level fugitives wanted for their role in the attack, mainly crew members of the boats used to sail to Mumbai. The sole Lashkar fugitive to figure in the FIA's most-wanted list is Muhammad Amjad Khan, a Karachi-based operative who played a somewhat nebulous logistical role in putting together the operation. The trial in Rawalpindi itself has been deadlocked over procedural issues; there is no word on when, or even if, Pakistan will send a judicial commission to record evidence in India. Pakistan has long said it is committed to eradicating terrorism from its soil. Its conduct of the Mumbai prosecution shows just how little these promises are worth. The trial in Chicago marks one step forward in securing justice for the victims of the Mumbai attacks. But the path that must still be travelled will be long and hard.