Most wanted at large

Joginder Singh
Former Director – CBI

Given India’s archaic laws and ageing leadership, it is unlikely that even if we can extradite terrorists from Pakistan, we will be able to convict them in a court of law.

Given below is a list of India’s 10 most-wanted criminals, all of whom are living in Pakistan, alongwith a description of the crimes they have committed.

Maulana Azhar Masood: Leader of Jaish-i-Mohammad, he is held responsible for the 2001 attack on Parliament. He is also wanted for an attack on the Jammu & Kashmir legislature that was carried out on October 1, 2001, in which 38 people were killed.

Hafiz Mohammad Saeed: Co-founder of Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, he is also wanted for his role in the 2001 Parliament attack. Currently, he operates from Muridke town, near Lahore.

Dawood Ibrahim: An underworld don, he is accused of planning and financing 13 explosions in Mumbai in 1993 in which almost 300 people died. He is also wanted in several other cases relating to illegal arms supply, counterfeiting, drug trade, funding alleged criminals, smuggling and murder. He lives in Karachi.

Chhota Shakeel: A key associate of Dawood Ibrahim, he is wanted for murder, extortion, abduction and for blackmailing top businessmen and film stars. He is believed to a spy for the ISI. He now lives in Karachi.

“Tiger” Ibrahim Memon: Along with Dawood Ibrahim, he is the other prime accused in the 1993 Mumbai blasts. He is also wanted for murder, extortion, kidnapping, terrorism and smuggling arms and explosives. He lives in Karachi and travels frequently to Dubai.

Ayub Memon: Brother of Ibrahim Memon, he is also an accused in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case. He alleged helped Ibrahim Memon carry out the blasts. He is wanted in cases of terrorism and smuggling. He also lives in Karachi.

Abdul Razzak: Accused of involvement in the Mumbai blasts. He is wanted in cases of terrorism and arms smuggling. He lives in Karachi.

Syed Salahuddin: Head of Hizbul Mujahideen, he has claimed responsibility for dozens of attacks on Indian forces in Kashmir. He lives in Muzaffarabad.

Ibrahim Athar: An associate of Maulana Azhar Masood, he was one of those who hijacked the Indian Airlines flight IC-814 in 1999. He lives in Bahawalpur.

Zahoor Ibrahim Mistri: A member of Harkat-ul-Ansar, which later became Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, he is also wanted in connection with the hijacking of IC-814. He lives in Karachi.

Now, the big question is can India bring these terrorists across the border so that they may be tried under Indian laws? Pakistan is clearly following a policy wherein its neighbour’s enemy is its friend. How else can one explain the free reign enjoyed by so many of these terrorists in that country?

India may cry itself hoarse demanding that the aforementioned fugitives be handed over to the Government, but as we well know Pakistan’s standard response will either be that the wanted individual is not a Pakistani citizen or that he/she does not live in Pakistan. Indeed, this was exactly their stand when Ajmal Kasab was arrested after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

Pakistan’s perverse policies towards India notwithstanding, it is also important to ensure that our own case files on these terror suspects remain up to date. Without impeccable records and strong, creditworthy evidence we will never be able to bring these terrorists to justice. The fact that India’s criminal laws themselves are outdated, only
makes matters worse. Proof of that lies in the multiple acquittals of several suspects who were charged for their roles in the 1998 Mumbai blasts as well as the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. Our laws were framed around 1863 when terrorism, as we know it today, did not exist. Using archaic laws to try modern day crimes is like pitting a bullock cart against an automobile.

Apart from an outdated criminal justice system, the other factor that plays against us as in the fight against terrorism, is our pseudo commitment to human rights, in the name of which the Indian judiciary has acquitted some more terrorists. I am certain that even if India manages to extradite some of the terrorists from Pakistan, they will possibly not be convicted as we attempt to make a show of human rights in the country.

Yet, in every other country national security trumps human rights concerns everyday. Take the US for example: The Guantánamo, Bay detention centre is still very much functioning despite a huge hue and cry from human rights defenders and other rights groups who have claimed that those held in that centre have been subject to human rights violations.

Located inside the US Naval Base on Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, the detention centre was was established in 2002 by former US President George W Bush to hold detainees from the war in Afghanistan and later Iraq. The detainment areas consist of three camps: Camp Delta (which includes Camp Echo), Camp Iguana, and Camp X-Ray, the last of which has been closed. Despite widespread condemnation for perpetrating human rights abuses, the detention camp currently holds at least 172 detainees. Even President Barack Obama who had promised to shut down the facility during his 2008 election campaign has since changed his mind.

India, however, continues to be a state that is perennially soft on terror. There is no point bringing the wanted fugitives back from Pakistan if we cannot have expedited trials for them. Take the Batla House incident for example: The ‘encounter’ happened in 2008 but it was not until this year that we were able to frame charges. Similarly, it took 13 years for the trial of the1993 Mumbai blasts case to be completed. Unfortunately, our Government remains incapable of taking strong preemptive action to prevent terror attacks. We only indulge in big talk and our leaders including those from the military like to make grandiose statements but rarely to do they care to follow up.

It does not require great analytical skills to understand that our western neighbour is a rogue state. Official US documents from the Guantánamo bay detention centre, published by WikiLeaks, have revealed that US anti-terror experts were aware that Pakistani officials gave orders to terror operatives in India while at least one Lashkar-e-Tayyeba militant detained at Guantánamo was a direct ISI agent.

Yet, India has done nothing about any of this. This is because we are governed by ancient worthies, many of whom are in their seventies and eighties with literally one foot in the grave. Not a whole lot can be expected from them in terms of initiative or youthful motivation.

Little wonder then that countries with younger leaders, such as the US, the UK and France have taken greater political strides. Even in India, when we had younger leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi, bold decisions were taken and implemented. This is no longer the case. Even if Pakistan does hand over the terrorists, do we have a clear policy of how to deal with them? Apart from condemning them or calling them cowards, our leaders must do a lot more to ensure that the terrorists are brought to justice. That is their job and they have to get it done.