The spy who bit the hand that fed him, well almost

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PLOT TO KILL MUSHARRAF

By Rajesh Ahuja

Grilled Headley disclosed the plot to Indian interrogators in June
Grilled Headley disclosed the plot to Indian interrogators in June Photo: CNN

DAVID COLEMAN Headley had planned to assassinate General Pervez Musharraf when he was still the ruler of Pakistan. It could have been a classic case of biting the hand that feeds as the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) had used Headley in planning the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

Headley was arrested in the US in October 2009 on charges of aiding the Mumbai attackers. At the time of arrest, Headley was planning an attack on the Copenhagen and Aarhus offices of Danish daily Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten after it published cartoons of Prophet Mohammad. The US allowed Indian investigators access to Headley in June this year. During his interrogation, Headley recounted how he, along with a Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) faction, had conspired to kill Musharraf in early 2007.

According to the interrogation details accessed by TEHELKA, Headley and three LeT men — Abdul Rehman alias Pasha, Abu Dujana and Major Haroon — hatched the plan. However, Abu Dujana spilled the bea-ns to the LeT, whose commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi warned against it.

Ajay Sahni, executive director of the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi, says Pakistan is aware of the risks. “Pakistani rulers knew from the beginning that the terror monster they have created might kill them as well,” he says. “But they are taking a calculated risk. They know the US can be forced to flee from the region with the help of this monster. Afterwards, they can claim the whole region. They are willing to pay the price even with their lives.”

Headley told his interrogators that it was during this time that former Pakistan Army Majors Pasha and Haroon parted ways with the LeT and aligned themselves with the Al Qaeda. According to sources, the siege of the Lal Masjid, in the heart of Islamabad, was the flashpoint when the terror monster turned against the Frankenstein, which in this case was the Pakistani military. Lal Masjid had become the sanctuary for mujahideen fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Musharraf government was left with no option but to flush out the fighters from the masjid. The army action angered the mujahideen. It was in this context that the plan to kill Musharraf was hatched.

Later, Pasha and Haroon were arrested in Pakistan. Headley told the interrogators that Lakhvi was close to the ISI leadership. Lakhvi and the ISI were trying hard to keep the LeT flock together as the mujahideen were more interested in fighting in Afghanistan than in Kashmir. But, the LeT was an outfit focussed on Kashmir and the ISI wanted to keep it that way.

HEADLEY HAS also disclosed how Pasha and another LeT operative, Sajid Majid alias Wasi, had visited India in 2005 on the pretext of watching cricket matches. Sajid is also in the custody of Pakistani authorities. According to Headley, Pasha and Sajid had crossed over into India through the Wagah border. They had spent time in Delhi and Pasha did a recce of the National Defence College (NDC) during that period.

The assassination plot was hatched by Headley and friends. But LeT commander Lakhvi foiled it

After the 26/11 attacks, the LeT was under pressure from the ISI to lie low. Headley said it was during this period that Pasha instructed him to go to India and make surveillance videos of the NDC. Pasha also took him to meet Al Qaeda senior Ilyas Kashmiri, who told Headley that he could help them in their plan to attack the Jyllands-Posten offices. According to US officials, Headley had prepared 13 videos of the offices. But before he could hand them over to Kashmiri, he was arrested in the US.

rajesh.ahuja@tehelka.com

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