Use Yasin Bhatkal’s arrest to pressure Pakistan
With the arrest of top Indian Mujahideen operative Muhammad Ahmad Zarar Siddibapa alias Yasin Bhatkal, Indian security and intelligence agencies have hit pay dirt. However, this tremendous tactical gain will contribute towards India's fight against terror when the political establishment acts upon the insight and information that Bhatkal is expected to provide. Bhatkal's arrest comes only weeks after the authorities got Syed Abdul Karim ‘Tunda', an equally prized catch. The high-ranking Lashkar-e-Tayyeba bomber has since been singing like a canary, much to the delight of his interrogators, and if Bhatkal follows in his footsteps, he too will be adding weight and credence to the available evidence against terror perpetrators in India and more importantly their patrons in Pakistan. In fact, the evidence indicting Pakistani state actors in particular has been growing since 26/11 handler Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal was extradited from Saudi Arabia last year. But New Delhi is yet to take up the matter in any seriousness with Islamabad. Sure, dossiers have sent over and more will probably make their way across the border now. But given that they don't even collect dust on the table and are instead relegated to the wastepaper bin — think of how Pakistan trashed the evidence against 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed — clearly, it is time to look at alternative methods to confront the Pakistani establishment and hold it responsible for the anti-India activities flourishing on Pakistani soil.
Now, before the amanwallahs jump in and cry themselves hoarse over yet another India-Pakistan ‘confrontation’, let us be clear that it is no one's case that New Delhi declare war because that will not solve the problem of Pakistan-sponsored jihadi terror. Instead, New Delhi must use testimonials from the likes of Bhatkal, Tunda and Jundal to put diplomatic pressure on Islamabad. For instance, the evidence can be employed to marshal international opinion against Pakistan, gain ‘concessions' at the negotiating table such as the elusive Most Favoured Nation status, and also to avoid high-level talks that serve no purpose apart from papering over the Pakistani establishment's complicity in terror attacks against India.
Apart from the Pakistani angle, the arrest of high-profile operatives like Bhatkal and Tunda is important also because it reinforces the message that terrorists cannot escape the long arm of the law. The manhunt for Bhatkal, for example, has been on for years now. Wanted in a number of terror cases including the blasts in Hyderabad's Dilsukhnagar in February this year, the three co-ordinated bombings in Mumbai in 2011, the attack on Pune's German Bakery in 2010, the blasts in Bangalore that same year, and the deadly serial bombing of Mumbai's local trains in 2006, Bhatkal’s arrest on Wednesday was the result of a carefully-planned counter-terror operation. Security agencies believe that Bhatkal took over the reins of the Indian Mujahideen after his co-conspirators, Iqbal and Riyaz Bhatkal, left for Pakistan in 2008. Together, they had the laid the foundation of what is often described as India's first home-grown jihadi terror group. Today, it is a front for the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyeba.