NIA Inspector-General Sanjeev Kumar Singh is planning to seek the court's permission to subject Naved to narco-analysis.
The National Investigation Agency prosecutor who approached the special judge hearing the case of Naved, the terrorist who was caught alive in Udhampur, had a strange request. He wanted the judge to begin the court's session early in the morning and dispose of the NIA's request for a 14-day custody of Naved. The amused judge obliged. The reason behind the NIA's strange request was linked to Naved's security. The agency wanted to transport its prisoner before the rush hour began so as to avoid any possible threat.
Naved is indeed a prize catch for India. He has admitted to have come from Pakistan, although Pakistan is yet to confirm his nationality. "We expect the Indian authorities to share information with us," said Pakistan foreign office spokesperson Syed Qazi Khalilullah. "We have said many times that making immediate accusations on Pakistan is not correct. These things should be based on facts."
Interestingly, the Pakistan high commission sources in Delhi have circulated only media reports from Pakistan. "The National Database and Registration Authority record shows that Indian claims of an arrested person, Usman Khan (Muhammed Naved Yakub), originating from Pakistan, are totally baseless,” said an official, citing media reports. However, there has been no official corroboration of such reports.
This has created a suspicion in the minds of Indian officials whether certain forces in Pakistan are trying to deliberately leave the evidence of a terror trail to their country, aimed at forcing India to call off the peace process. As agreed by prime ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif, their national security advisers are scheduled to meet on August 23 and 24, but the Pakistan army and the Inter-Services Intelligence are said to be unenthusiastic about the initiative. The timing of the Udhampur ambush and the earlier Gurdaspur attack and the clues that have been left behind add to the suspicion that the army or the ISI is deliberately trying to scuttle the talks.
Firing from across the border, too, has intensified and it is a usual tactic employed by the Pakistan army to vitiate the atmosphere. The government of Pakistan has added to the problems by refusing to invite the speaker of the Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly to a Commonwealth conference of legislature presiding officers, which will be held in Islamabad from September 30 to October 8. Speakers of all other Indian state assemblies have been invited to the meeting and with the J&K speaker being kept out, India has demanded a change in the venue.
All these have raised doubts in India whether the talks will ultimately take place. "I don't know what is going on in the mind of the Pakistani establishment," said Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. “Certainly, the government of India's position is very clear, that the NSA-level talks would continue.”
Indian investigative agencies, meanwhile, continue to treat Naved as a live evidence against Pakistan. During the preliminary joint interrogation, which was conducted by the J&K Police, Intelligence Bureau, NIA and the Army, Naved is learnt to have revealed the details of his training, joining the Lashkar-e-Taiba, coming to India and the local help he received from sleeper cells in the valley. He is also learnt to have told the interrogators that his slain accomplice, identified as Noman, had claimed that he had once been part of the personal security detail of the 26/11 mastermind and Lashkar patron Hafiz Saeed.
Naved, a school dropout from Faisalabad, joined the LeT as a teenager in 2011. He received extensive arms training at Shavai Nallah in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, the same place from where Pakistani troops arrested the 26/11 mastermind Zakiur Rahman Lakhvi. He was given the task of the Jammu and Kashmir attack in March. Naved slipped into Indian territory through the Gulmarg sector on June 2, accompanied by three others whom he knew by their code names Uqasha, Muhammad Bhai and Noman. A truck driver called Showkat took them to Awantipore on June 9 where they stayed at the house of brothers Fayaz Ahmed Wani and Javid Ahmed Wani. The brothers, who worked as carpenters at the local air force station, have been arrested.
Naved was then met by Abu Qasim, the LeT chief in Jammu and Kashmir, and operatives Abu Dujana and Talha. He was with Dujana when he received Rs5 lakh from a businessman in Srinagar. On August 4, Naved and Noman were dropped at Samruli by a truck driver from Kulgam. "He took them to Patnitop, a hill station along the Srinagar-Jammu highway, and after a night halt at Tamatar Mode, between Patnitop and Kud, they travelled to Samruli the next morning. The truck driver dropped the two at Narsu Nallah and returned to the Valley," said an officer. They also had tea at a roadside dhaba before launching the attack, sources said.
An intelligence officer said the plan for the attack with local support was perfect, but it was a failure, operationally. ''Had Noman not been quickly felled, he would have committed a carnage.'' He said Naved did not qualify as a hardcore LeT militant. “Instead of putting up a fight after Noman was killed, he fled from the spot.”
However, some investigators disagreed with this. They said Naved had undergone two modules of training with the LeT and was a hardened militant, who was trying to confuse the interrogators. He could be trying to buy time for his accomplices to slip away to safety. NIA Inspector-General Sanjeev Kumar Singh is planning to seek the court's permission to subject Naved to narco-analysis. "We are contemplating the move, as the captured terrorist continues to change his statements," said an NIA officer. "He has given four different accounts of the route he and his accomplices took to infiltrate into India."
NIA chief Sharad Kumar was in Jammu to interrogate Naved personally. "It is a very important case for us and the entire probe is being done in a scientific manner," he said, but refused to give any further details. Kumar is learnt to have asked his officers to prepare a draft to seek the court's permission to send a letters rogatory (legal request) to Pakistan to corroborate the information provided by Naved. "We are working on the draft, which will be first sent to the home ministry to verify if information sought are in conformity with the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty," said an NIA officer. "Once cleared by the home ministry, the draft will be put before the designated court, and once approved, it will be sent to Pakistan through the ministry of external affairs."
WITH R. PRASANNAN AND TARIQ BHAT