Why Abu Jundal may just be a big hoax played on us

Are we being sold a pup once again in the Abu Jundal affair? Something doesn't quite add up in this episode.

Rajeev Srinivasan July 04, 2012 17:22:32 IST
Why Abu Jundal may just be a big hoax played on us

On the face of it, the recent arrest of Abu Jundal, who is supposedly the ‘Indian voice’ among the Karachi handlers of the 26/11 terrorist attacks on Mumbai, is curious. It borders on the fantastic, and it may be too good to be true. It doesn’t quite compute. It is worth considering the motivations of the various actors to see if there are lessons to be learnt from it.

First, here are the facts as they have been presented in the media. Abu Jundal (nom de guerre for one Zabiuddin Ansari from Beed, Maharashtra) was arrested in Delhi airport when he landed on a flight from Saudi Arabia. It is said that he, allegedly an operative of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), had gone from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia to raise funds for, or perhaps to recruit people for, jihad.

Upon interrogation, Abu Jundal apparently confessed that he was indeed one of the Karachi handlers. He allegedly used common Hindi (as opposed to Urdu) terms in his instructions to the attackers in Mumbai. He also accused Hafiz Saeed, the shadowy chief of the LeT, of having been physically present in the ‘control room’ in Karachi from where the operation was monitored and directed.

Why Abu Jundal may just be a big hoax played on us

Jundal was sent from Saudi Arabia to India. PTI

If all this is accurate, then Abu Jundal is indeed a prize catch. Based on his testimony, there would be grounds to declare Hafiz Saeed a terrorist kingpin – something that he has escaped, despite an apparent attempt by the Americans to declare him a wanted terrorist. As far as is known, Hafiz Saeed is no longer under house arrest, and is free to come and go as he pleases; he continues to deliver fiery speeches against India, infidels, etc.

Saeed is actually quite a valuable asset for the Pakistani establishment. It is suspected that he, and his organisation (through its various name-changes to escape sanctions regimes) are supported clandestinely by the shadowy Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency and the Pakistani Army. Saeed gives them a splendid excuse, that of plausible deniability: he does their bidding, but they can always blame him.

Thus, it is hard to believe that the Pakistanis would do anything to jeopardise Hafiz Saeed or the LeT. In that case, why did the Pakistanis allow Abu Jindal to go to Saudi Arabia rather than to protect him in Pakistan itself? If the alleged confession is as damaging as it is made out to be, then the case for detaining Saeed and shutting down the LeT (or JUD, or whatever they call themselves today) will get stronger.

Therefore, I suspect that the Indian media is exaggerating the Abu Jundal ‘confession’. The alleged leaks from the intelligence establishment interrogating the fellow are likely to be figments of the fevered imaginations of the media. This has two dangers: on the one hand, there will be more ‘dossier-bombing’, that is, India will produce half-baked allegations that will not stand scrutiny.

On the other hand, the wild flights of fancy about Abu Jundal reminds me of the Billa-Ranga syndrome. Some years ago, two notorious murderers named Billa and Ranga were caught. And even at that time when the media was not so sensationalist as it is now, the papers were full of stories that blamed Billa and Ranga for every unsolved crime known to mankind. The reports about Abu Jundal make him out to be some Superman, the sole villain in every case of Pakistani-sponsored terrorism in India. That is equally unlikely to be the case.

In fact, the Pakistanis may well be quite right (despite their habit of lying) in claiming that there were 40 Indians complicit in the 26/11 attacks. A major operation of that magnitude would not have been difficult without considerable local support and logistics.

Incidentally, there has been an axiom piously trotted out by the Congress for some years (in fact, ever since 9/11) that there are no Indian terrorists, which, they seem to imply, is vindication of the UPA policies best articulated by Manmohan Singh (that the resources of the nation belong first to the ‘minorities’). This sanctimonious statement never was quite true. Abu Jundal has put paid to it emphatically.

Second, let us look at the motives of the various other entities involved. Why on earth would Saudi Arabia want to embarrass their friends in Pakistan? After all the latter are building the Islamic bomb funded by the former. And Pakistan has become the epicentre for the spreading of extreme Salafist Islam as per the interests of the Saudis. Pakistan is probably kept afloat by Saudi oil grants and cash transfers.

There are a couple of possibilities: one is that the Saudis – while they may not mind terrorism abroad – are scrupulous about nipping that in the bud at home. So if Abu Jundal were getting to be a liability in terms of his activities in Saudi Arabia, well, they would want him out; but why would they want to send him to India, and not back to Pakistan? So that does not make sense.

The other possibility is that the Americans leaned on the Saudis a little to arrange a little low-cost theatre. If so, then we can assume that Abu Jundal – despite all the excitement – is small fry. After all, the Americans have been willing to suspend their disbelief and accept periodic sacrificial lamb and small fry that the ISI produce out of their hat whenever the Americans really get upset. So why not try that same trick with the Indians, who are known to be gullible?

Why would the Americans want to appear to be doing things for India? After all, they were careful not to let their assets like David Headley be interrogated by Indian investigators – because he might have sung like a canary about CIA complicity in the ISI’s adventures. This strengthens my belief that Abu Jundal is far from being a significant catch.

And, let’s see – Abu Jundal just happened to land in Delhi from Saudi Arabia on a commercial flight? We are supposed to believe that? If he were important, he would not be sauntering into Indira Gandhi Airport bearing a Pakistani passport. He would have been hand-delivered by the Saudi security forces to Indian intelligence.

No, I think this whole thing is an elaborate hoax. The Americans are, as usual, trying to sell India some new snake oil: this time it is a) weapons, and b) the Afghan tar baby. The fact that American worthies are parading through Delhi regularly – Leon Panetta, Madeleine Albright – means they have ‘plans’ for India.

Those plans, like those of Tom Sawyer inducing his friends to paint the fence for him, or the concessions made by the UPA for the much-trumpeted ‘nuclear deal’ (say, why don’t we hear much about it these days?) are strictly for America’s benefit.

Of course, the Pakistanis went into overdrive with their Sarabjit Singh-Surjit Singh drama; the net result of this was that a) Sarabjit is still on death row, b) Surjit has ‘confessed’ (no doubt under duress) that he was a RAW agent. And the India-Pakistan-equal-equal crowd was joyous. In fact, the media fell over itself in its eagerness to explain why Abu Jundal had turned rogue.

The top few excuses: a) he was poor, b) he is falsely accused of terrorism, and c) it is all Narendra Modi’s fault anyway.

There is less than meets the eye in this Abu Jundal drama: it is a Shakespearean “sound and fury, signifying nothing”. The Pakistanis have learned well the art of diplomatic theatre from the masters, the Chinese.

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