Top MHA officials were enjoying Pak ‘hospitality’ during 26/11 attack

Over 7 years after the 26/11 attacks, it has come to light that a team of top MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) officials led by then Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta, who had gone to Pakistan on 24 November 2008 for talks, were asked to stay back for one extra day by their Pakistani hosts to ensure that Bharat’s MHA control room was empty on the night the Pak-sponsored 26/11 serial terror strikes hit Mumbai.

A report on Times Now channel said that then Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta and his team had arrived in Islamabad on November 24, 2008, for talks that were part of the eight-subject composite dialogue process. The team was to return home on November 26, but the Pakistani government extended their stay by a day. Bharat’s nine top Intel bosses were taken to Murree (a popular hill station around 60 km from Pakistan’s capital Islamabad) to a ‘no network zone’ to ensure that Bharat’s MHA control room was empty during the 26/11 attacks.

According to the channel, Bharat was tricked into extending talks by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), so that the ISI trained Pakistani LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) terrorists could carry out their attacks more easily in Mumbai.

This is what former Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta had to say when contacted on the above revelation –

We felt a little odd as well, why were they (Pakistan’s MHA officials) accommodating us in Murree? The 26/11 attacks in Mumbai clearly depicted duplicitous role of Pakistan and this is not for the first time that such incidents had happened”

Will we ever know the true facts about 26/11?

26/11 brutally exposed the unpreparedness of our internal security appartus – crucial hours were lost from the time the first attack occured at 9.30 pm on the night of 26/11 to the time NSG finally reached Mumbai at dawn the next day. The UPA Government at the centre and Congress Government in Maharashtra were paralyzed by the scale & ferocity of the assault – our initial bumbling response is epitomized by the way then Home Minister Shivraj Patil was more focused on changing his clothes frequently for television appearances, rather than mounting an effective response to the unfolding attack.

Mumbai Police command and control failed with Mumbai police chief Hassan Gafoor himself deviating from standard operating procedure (SOP). Even the high-level Pradhan committee appointed by the Maharashtra government to go into the Mumbai terror strikes found serious lapses on the part of Gafoor.

Wikileaks expose showed that the US felt that the removal of “spectacularly inept” Shivraj Patil as Home Minister was inevitable although he had been “protected” by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi despite being found “asleep on the watch” during earlier terror strikes in various cities. “In this environment, removal of the Home Minister was inevitable. He has over the last four years proved himself to be spectacularly inept,” a US diplomatic cable sent by then Ambassador David Mulford said.

It would be fair to say that the 26/11 terrorist attack on Mumbai has generated more post-mortems and analysis outside of Bharat, than within. We have definitely not seen any remediatory steps like were seen in US after 9/11 or in Paris after Islamist terror attacks there. Our media has been extremely loath to chain together the sequence of events and raise uncomfortable questions around the glaring intelligence and administrative lapses – in fact, media’s attitude has been one of covering up for UPA & even Pakistan. Some of the most informative documentaries & books on the 26/11 attacks have been authored by foreigners – Bharatiya media is yet to provide a comprehensive, investigative report on the 26/11 attack. 

Key Questions Unanswered

Till date, no mainstream media house has followed up into remarks made by NSG (National Security Guards) Director General JK Dutt, who directed the NSG team that neutralized terrorists in Taj, Oberoi Trident,  and Nariman House, during this interview

  • “On the basis of the operations conducted by me, I feel that there were more than ten terrorists. Looking at the mayhem and havoc that was created, I felt there were more than ten terrorists”
  • “I personally feel that an operation of this scale would not have been possible at all unless there was local support. One cannot rule out this aspect at all.”

Why did the Congress Government of Maharashtra reject the findings of the 2 member Pradhan Inquiry Commission that they themselves apppointed on December 30, 2008, to probe the response to the 2008 Mumbai attacks? And the most damning question that is still hanging was raised in this OpIndia article –

“An Article titled ´A Mole in Mumbai helped 26/11 attackers´ appeared in The Hindu on 27th Nov 2013. It was an interview with Mr Ram Pradhan, former Union Home Secretary who had led the two-man inquiry to probe the 26/11 attack. In the article it is mentioned that how Pradhan Committee had informed the then Home Minister Mr. Chidambaram about the possibility of a mole in Mumbai who had assisted in the terror attack, further adding that the central intelligence agencies didn’t cooperate with the committee.

The first question of the article talks about a book The Siege by 2 British journalists which made a claim that there was a local support to the attack in the form of a mole in the Indian security establishment, and the answer from Mr. Pradhan clearly shows that there was no doubt about the local support and that he had communicated it to the state government as well. Mr. Pradhan had clearly stated in the interview that the information they had could have helped in identifying the mole.”

Sadly, terror and internal security are peripheral issues in Bharatiya elections – thus, despite the abysmal handling of the 26/11 attacks and the dozens of terror attacks prior, UPA swept back to power with a bigger majority in 2009. While NDA-2 must be commended for preventing high-profile terror attack on civilian targets in the last 2 years, our inability to prevent riots & political murders in places like West Bengal, UP and Kerala, and halt the exodus of Hindus from places like Kairana, shows that we have a long-long way to travel with regards to improving our internal security apparatus.

Law & order is a state subject, but a focused & aggressive Home Ministry can ensure greater accountability from states – a name & shame campaign to regularly highlight the worst-performing states with regards to law & order can also be an effective tool. Home Minister Rajnath Singh has another 3 years to deliver results in this crucial area.