David Headley drops another bomb on Congress led UPA
In revelations that put the erstwhile UPA Government further in the dock in the Ishrat Jahan case, incarcerated Pakistani-American terrorist David Coleman Headley said on Saturday that he had told the National Investigation Agency (NIA) that “a female member of LeT who had died in an encounter in India was Ishrat Jahan”, but he did not know why his statement did not figure in the statement recorded by the NIA in July 2010.
During his cross-examination conducted by Abdul Wahab Khan, the lawyer of key 26/11 conspirator Zaibuddin Ansari, alias Abu Jundal, before a special court here, Headley said that Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the chief of LeT operations, had told him about the Ishrat Jahan “operation” and he came to know more details about the operation through the media. Headley said he had “no personal knowledge” of Ishrat Jahan.
Headley’s latest revelation (with a reiteration of Ishrat’s LeT links in the process) about the NIA not recording his statement on her only lends credence to the NDA Government’s assertion that the UPA was out to malign Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was then the Gujarat Chief Minister, sources said.
It has once again brought the focus back on former Home Minister P Chidambaram, who is already under the scanner for revising the second affidavit filed by the UPA Government in the Ishrat Jahan case. The Rajnath Singh-headed Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is probing the missing documents relating to the encounter.
“Two letters from the then Home Secretary to the Attorney General in 2009 have gone missing. The then attorney general had vetted two affidavits regarding the case. Those are also not available,” Singh had told the Lok Sabha.
Headley’s revelation cast serious doubts about the manner in which the NIA had conducted itself in the Ishrat Jahan case under the erstwhile UPA regime. Headley said, “My statement was recorded (by the NIA). But not a single line was read out to me”.
Headley said that he did not ask for a copy of his statement from the NIA, which had met in the United States in 2010. Nor did the NIA give him a copy of his statement on its own. Replying a question, Headley replied in the affirmative when he was asked whether he was seeking his recorded statement for the first time.
He admitted that Lakhvi had told him about the Ishrat Jahan operation and he had mentioned this to the NIA when he was questioned by its officials in the US.
He recalled that he had told the NIA that the woman member of LeT who died was Ishrat Jahan but he said he did not know why his remark did not find a mention in his statement recorded by central investigating agency.
Asked specifically as to why the NIA had not recorded his statement vis-a-vis Ishrat Jahan, Headley said: “I don’t know”.
Queried specifically whether Lakhvi had told him that Ishrat Jahan was part of a botched-up operation headed by Muzammil Bhat, Headley said: “Not in these words…when he introduced Muzammil to me, he told me that he is on one of the top LeT operations and he has done operations like Akshardham temple and Ishrat Jahan…the rest were my thoughts…I came to know more about it from media. These were my thoughts as to why the Ishrat Jahan operations resulted in a failure”.
Headley replied in the affirmative when he was asked if he had told NIA that there was a women’s wing in the LeT and it was headed by Abu Aiman’s mother.
When the defence lawyers sought details about the LeT’s women wing, Headley said: “It looks after education, religious education, taking care of widows among other issues”.
Deposing before the anti-terror court of Additional Sessions Judge GA Sanap, Headley admitted that he had surveyed and videographed the entire road from the Indian Army headquarters to Vice-President’s House to the National Defence College in New Delhi.
Headley, the 26/11 conspirator who turned approver in Jundal’s trial in December last year after the Mumbai court pardoned him in the case, also revealed that the Maharashtra Legislature building at Nariman Point in Mumbai, the Tanna House, which is CBI’s Western Region headquarters and the Blue Synagogue in Mumbai were also under his surveillance.
Queried specifically whether in the aftermath of the 26/11 attacks i.e., in March 2009 he had surveyed the Vice-President’s House, he said, “I had surveyed the route, not specifically the Vice-President’s House.”
Headley told the court that LeT founder Hafeez Saeed wanted to teach a lesson to Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray. Queried if Saeed wanted the Sena chief to be taught a lesson, he said: “Yes…I said I can do it and asked for six months for my work in this regard”.
He said that as part of the exercise, he had videographed the Shiv Sena Bhavan and Thackerays’ residence “Matoshri” at Bandra in north-west Mumbai and had interacted with the guards engaged in “perimeter security”.
Meanwhile, Judge Sanap rejected the defence lawyer’s plea to defer the cross-examination on the ground that he had to meet the accused Abu Jundal in Mumbai Central Jail to seek instructions for further cross-examination of Headley. The rejection of his plea for postponement of the cross-examination by the court came after Jundal’s lawyer declined to accept the court’s offer to him that he could either meet his client for two hours in prison or communicate with the latter through video-link.
After Headley was discharged from cross-examination, the Judge allowed Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam moved an application for re-examination which was allowed by the court.
During the course of his re-examination, Headley said: “I had visited Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Mumbai on the recommendation of Major Iqbal (of Pakistan)”.
Earlier during his cross-examination by Jundal’s lawyer, Headley said it was not correct to say that LeT wanted to assassinate former Pakistan President Pervez Musharaff.
Headley denied having disclosed to NIA that he had hatched a plan to kill Musharaff along with his friends in LeT. He claimed that this had been incorrectly recorded in his statement given to NIA in July 2010.
Responding to a question from the defence lawyer, Headley said:” It is baseless to say that I am trying to suppress the role of my wife Shazia, brother Daniel and friend Saulat (Rana) in the 26/11 attacks in order to shield them”. He also denied having pleaded guilty in this case in US court to prevent arrest of his family members for their alleged role in the 26/11 attacks, forfeiture of property and imposition of fines.
To another query, Headley said he believed that India, Israel and the US were enemies of Islam. Before his cross-examination ended, Headley told the defence lawyer “Kaha Suna Maaf”.
-27 March 2016 | TN RAGHUNATHA | Mumbai