From ‘LeT operative’ to irrelevant: How NIA changed stand over Headley’s statements on Ishrat Jahan
New Delhi: Former Home Minister P Chidambaram, already battling allegations of having tweaked the second affidavit in the case of the Ishrat Jahan encounter, thus dropping her name from the list of LeT operatives, could be in for more trouble.
Fresh set of documents accessed by IndiaTV reveal how the National Investigation Agency (NIA) changed its stance regarding the statement of key accused in the 26/11 trial David Coleman Headley regarding Ishrat Jahan, an alleged LeT operative, in a short span of two months.
The documents relate to two letters that the NIA wrote to the Special Investigation Team (set up by the Gujarat High Court to investigate the matter) over Headley’s admissions regarding Ishrat. The NIA had travelled to the US to record Headley's statement where he was placed under imprisonment. The team travelled to the US after its request to extradite Headley for the 26/11 trail was denied.
The first letter by the NIA, dated March 11, 2011, quotes David Headley as follows:
“...I state that in late 2005 Zaki us Rehman Lakhvi introduced Muzzammil to me. Having introduced Muzzammil, Zaki talked about the accomplishments of Muzzammil as a Lashkar commander. Zaki also sarcastically mentioned that Muzzzammil was a top commander whose every big 'project' had ended in a failure.
“Zaki added that Ishrat Jahaan module was also one of the Muzzammil's botched up operations,” it read.
The letter signifies NIA’s clear stand at the time with regard to David Headley’s statements made to team that visited him in the US prison.
However, in a dramatic turn of events, another letter by the NIA on the same matter to the SIT dismisses Headley’s statements to the NIA as inadmissible as evidence. The letter, dated May 9, 2011, barely two months since its first communique to the SIT, states:
“The relevant portion of the statement made by David Coleman Headley with reference to Ishrat Jahaan is in the nature of hearsay and will not be admissible as evidence.
“Therefore, sharing of this portion of the statement may not serve the purpose of investigation,” the letter, addressed to Karnal Singh, the SIT chairman by IG, Investigations, NIA, Sanjeev Kumar Singh reads.
The two statements lend credence to claims that there was a clear attempt to misinform the SIT investigating the Ishrat Jahaan case over Headley’s statements, which was purportedly done due to political considerations.
It is pertinent to note that the NIA, which falls under the domain of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, was helmed by P Chidambaram in the erstwhile UPA dispensation during the period in question.
In the first affidavit filed on August 6, 2009, the government put forth that Ishrat Jahan was an LeT operative. However, 45 days later, on September 30, the second affidavit signed by Chidambaram dropped this point.
The BJP has repeatedly questioned Chidambaram behind the motive to mark such a drastic reversal in the government’s stand. The BJP alleges that the Congress government at the time could not tolerate Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, which explains its frequent change in stand.
Mumbai college girl Ishrat Jahan and her three alleged associates Pranesh Gopinath Pilai, Amjad Ali and Jishan Johar were killed by Gujarat Police in an allegedly staged shootout near Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004.
Gujarat Police had described the four as Pakistani-controlled terrorists who came from Jammu and Kashmir to assassinate Modi, who was then the chief minister of Gujarat.
In February this year, LeT operative David Headley told a Mumbai court that Ishrat Jahan was a member of the Pakistan-based terror group.