First Person | Enemy Within

Zabiuddin Ansari’s arrest should be used to understand why he went the other side

Ghazala WahabGhazala Wahab 

Apparently, India’s top spook, director Intelligence Bureau, Nehchal Sandhu has personally interrogated Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal, who since his deportation has been singing like a canary. Not content with mere talking, Ansari has been using Google Maps to pin-point the location of various training camps and handing out lascivious nuggets to his interrogators about who all from the Pakistan Army and ISI visited the camps, how he personally met Hafiz Saeed and how Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi wielded the director’s strings before and during the attack. The details are vivid and remind me of another terrorist from another time telling Indian investigators how Musharraf Sahab himself came to the training camp once to exhort the Jihadis.

With another prized catch, after the miracle of getting Ajmal Kasab alive, in addition to David Headley, Indian home minister P. Chidambaram reiterated that 26/11 conspiracy had the support of some elements of the Pakistani state. Now India has all the information and evidence to nail Pakistan: Who masterminded the attack, how was it planned, who did the reconnaissance in Mumbai getting GPS readings of the sites, who trained the terrorists, who provided them with fake identifications, where were the terrorists trained, who and how the boat was arranged, who directed the terrorists as they went on a killing spree in Mumbai and who all were present in the control room. Now what?

If India knows who in Pakistani establishment was involved, it is very unlikely that Pakistan itself does not know. And it is equally unlikely that the US was waiting for these tomes of evidence to get convinced that indeed ISI or elements within Pakistani military were involved in 26/11. Remember, Hillary Clinton’s famous ‘snake in the backyard’ statement. Do we really expect Pakistan to see all this ‘evidence’ and admit ISI’s or military’s complicity? Do we really believe that if we present Pakistan with irrefutable evidence it is going to put Hafiz Saeed on trial, forget handing him over to us?

So why are we doing this? Sure, we have to arrest as many perpetrators of that terrible attack as we can and punish them according to the law of the land. But why this charade of collecting evidence to lay bare Pakistan’s sinister game? Who in the world needs convincing that Pakistan is not an innocent victim of terrorism? Not only has the US grudgingly accepted that Pakistan has perfected the art of concurrently fighting both the conventional and the un-conventional (read terrorism) war, it has chosen to ignore it as long as it is not directly affected.

Certainly, we cannot ignore it as we will always be directly affected. But having ruled out the option of military retaliation against Pakistan (don’t believe anyone who says that ‘all options are on the table’), we have willy-nilly conveyed not only to Pakistan but to the world that we have the capacity to absorb these attacks. So, this charade of trying to bring Pakistan to book is not only meaningless but laughable. All it does is convey to the domestic audience that we are not taking these attacks lying down. But I really wonder if even the domestic audience is taking all this seriously either.

Zabiuddin Ansari is a very important resource, perhaps the most important that we have come across in recent times. He is our man who went to the other side. While trying to nail Pakistan through him is all very well, what Sandhu should really do is try and understand Ansari and his world. As the top intelligence officer of the country, he must in all honesty and without prejudice lay bare the environment which produced and nurtured Ansari. From the media reports, it appears that Ansari is not a mercenary. He believed that he had a cause.

Several years ago, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh boasted to US President George Bush that not a single Indian Muslim has joined al Qaeda. Today, it seems to be such a long time ago. India’s biggest weakness against terrorism is not lack of timely intelligence, equipment or prosecution laws, it is the propensity or compulsion of our own people to join ranks with the enemy. Unless we address this very serious flaw, no amount of technology, bilateral or multilateral counter terrorism treaties and fool-proof laws can fortify us.

We must not let go of the opportunity thrown up by Ansari’s arrest. We must find out in detail how Ansari grew up, who were his friends, what did he study and why, what were his early influences and experiences, what made him feel like an outsider, did he feel a sense of injustice and so on. For some people, a single event can be life-altering, but for most people it is a series of experiences which shape their world view. So what shaped Ansari’s worldview?
Armed with this understanding we must make a very sincere, collective effort to plug the gaps in our nation-building through which some people continue to fall onto the other side. And in this, there should be no political opportunism or community profiling; it’ll only undo the good work.

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