Tahawwur Rana extradition to India: Senior advocate Ujjwal Nikam speaks to NewsX

18 May, 2023 | Anupam Shrivastav

Tahawwur Rana National

Tahawwur Rana, one of the associates of David Coleman Headly responsible for terrorist attack on Mumbai was approved for extradition by US court. NewsX spoke with Senior Advocate Ujjwal Nikam.

One of the key conspirators of the dastardly 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, Tahawwur Rana has been approved for extradition to India by a US court. Tahawwur is a Canadian businessman of Pakistani origin who was responsible for collaborating with another accused David Coleman Headly alias ‘Daood Gilani’ who is currently held in Chicago and was responsible for carrying out reconnaissance in Mumbai for the attacks on the behest of Lashkar-e-Toiba.

Rana had earlier rejected all charges by Indian government while challenging India’s request for extradition that was also supported by US government, however, the court on Monday accepted the request by the Indian side which referred to the extradition treaty between US and India. Tahawwur, for the time being, will stay in the US custody before the Secretary of State to India takes a final call on his extradition.

As per the investigation by Indian agencies, David Coleman Headly was a childhood friend of Tahawwur Rana and had testified against Rana in 2011 before getting a 35-year sentence by a Chicago court. Rana was also accused of planning an attack against a Danish newspaper as well. Rana permitted Headley to set up a Mumbai branch of his Chicago-based immigration services business, which he later used as cover to scout potential attack sites in 2008.

NewsX spoke to the special prosecutor in 26/11 case, senior advocate Ujjwal Nikam to know if India has reached a step closer to justice in the attacks that took the life of 166 innocent people.

Conversation with special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam on Tahawwur Rana’s extradition to India

Vineet Malhotra: How big a court victory is the extradition order of Tahawwur Rana for India?

Ujjwal Nikam: Indeed its a big success for India because the order of extradition was long awaited. Tahawwur Rana is one of the key conspirators behind the terror attack of 26 November in Mumbai. His close associate David Headly has been already convicted by the Chicago court for 35 year on a plea bargain agreement. David Headly had given sensitive revelation in Mumbai court where I examined him. He had disclosed his close association with Lashkar-e-Toiba operatives as well as the Army official of Pakistan government and he had furnished all the mobile numbers of LeT operatives and some officers of Pakistan Army. David Headly had used the office of Tahawwur Rana. I think it’s a great achievement for India because he’s likely to face legal trial in India and therefore Indian Investigating agency will get valuable evidence from him disclosing the magnitude and enormity of the criminal conspiracy.

Vineet Malhotra: In your assessment sir, what happens next in this case? Are there more appeals that Rana can make?

Ujjwal Nikam: According to me it is very clear that David Headly had taken the photographs before the terror attacks of 26 November. He got permission from Tahawwur Rana to open the immigration branch in Mumbai. He had taken photographs of all the targeted places where the 10 terrorists had attacked the night of 26 November. Tahawwur Rana and David Headly are both Pakistan nationals later on they accepted the citizenship of USA. Tahawwur Rana was serving as a doctor and according to my information, he was in Pakistan army for some time. So I think the investigating agency will get further clues about the deep-rooted criminal conspiracy which was hatched on Pakistani soil before the terror attack of 26 November.

Vineet Malhotra: What can you tell our viewers about the role of Tahawwur Rana in the 26/11 terror attacks?

Ujjwal Nikam: Tahawwur Rana basically is a conspirator in the entire criminal conspiracy and before the attack, Tahawwur Rana had visited Mumbai. There was a conversation between Tahawwur and David Headly, which we don’t have the evidence for it but Tahawwur Rana’s arrest will help us as to how Tahawwur Rana has a close association with Pakistani officials.

Vineet Malhotra: How important is Tahawwur Rana’s extradition in this case for India?

Ujjwal Nikam: Tahawwur Rana’s extradition order is very important for India and I’m very optimistic that he’ll be brought to India very soon. His extradition will reveal internationally his close association with Pakistan since he’s a Pakistani national who accepted US citizenship, and his direct permission to David Headly for opening his immigration office in Mumbai which was a secret cover. David Headly had visited all the places where 10 terrorists had attacked in Mumbai and therefore I personally feel that he’ll be required to face trial in India and his arrest would reveal so many things which are behind the carpet.

Vineet Malhotra: Please also help us understand how big a blow is this for Pakistan, who is still wanting evidence of one of the worst terror attacks in history? What does this mean for them?

Ujjwal Nikam: David Headly had already disclosed in his evidence in Mumbai on oath that he had a close association with the ISI officers of Pakistan intelligence agency. He had further disclosed that he met with Hafiz Saeed, and he had further disclosed that he had shared the information which he had collected with Lashkar operatives. He had also worked with Al-Qaeda for some time so Rana’s close association with David Headly may reveal many things.

Vineet Malhotra: It’s been 15 years since the attacks sir, what more is needed for the world to indict Pakistan and why haven’t they done it yet?

Ujjwal Nikam: Unfortunately, Pakistan has not been taking any action against the real perpetrators behind the terror attack. Me and three high officials of Indian government had visited Islamabad after the execution of Ajmal Kasab we asked the same question that we raise to Pakistani authorities, as to why you are not prosecuting whose names have been disclosed by Ajmal Amir Kasab in his judicial confession, Instead, they asked us to give them evidence. In fact, the criminal conspiracy was hatched on their soil, we had furnished that tangible evidence to Pakistan but still they did not act upon it. Tahawwur Rana’s extradition may also reveal certain other things that Pakistan can’t deny and therefore I think his extradition is important internationally for India but for the globe to combat terrorism.

10 terrorists including Ajmal Amir Kasab had attacked a Jewish centre, hotels, cafes, and train stations while shooting and planting bombs at prominent places on the night of 26 November.

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