Skip to content

Frontline’s “The Perfect Terrorist” and how Pakistan’s ISI uses Zaid Hamid

zaid hamid.jpg

I watched the Frontline program on PBS done by Propublica on David Headley, the central figure in the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai.  It was eye opening in many ways.  There were many aspects to the horrendous plan and the attack, but one aspect that came out was indeed mind-boggling.  Before we go there, let us take ourselves back to the time of 26/11 coverage in Pakistan.  Because you find incredible information from what is discussed and who is involved in those discussions.  I am specifically interested in a man called Zaid Hamid and his analysis of those days.

Within just a day or so after the attack, when it was absolutely clear that Pakistani forces – state and non-state actors – had worked in collusion with each other to do this thing.  However, the Pakistani analysts and media went on a campaign fighting back at the very utterance that the Mumbai attacks had anything to do with Pakistan.

One of the things, which seemed like an “expert opinion” of an analyst at that time to the Pakistanis was when Zaid Hamid alleged that there was a saffron band on the hands of the terrorists and that they had documents with Hindu names.  Here he is insisting that Ajmal Kasab is actually Amar Singh – a Sikh, little realizing that Amar Singh would probably more like a Rajput or a Bihari than a Sikh!  And, also insisted this was further confirmed when one saw the red / saffron band on his wrist.

Now, it seems like a great revelation and an amazing correlation.  However, after the program by Sebastian Rotella (Mumbai Terror Attacks: Pakistan’s Terror Connections), few things came out thanks to the investigative journalism of Rotella:

  • David Headley worked with both, ISI and Lashkar.  Although they first appeared to be working separately, but after the attacks, both the handlers came to him together to push him for the next assignment.  Attach in Denmark on the Danish newspapaer – Jyllands-Posten.  So, it is clear that both – Lashkar-e-Toiba and ISI were working in consort.
  • David Headley on his last visit had procured the red bands which had to be tied on the wrists of the terrorists to make them appear as Hindus.  They were also given documents which bore Hindu names.  The aim was to imply that it was an internally orchestrated mission.
  • David Headley had been on back to back visits to India and Pakistan many times before the attacks.  And despite information from his wife, US agencies couldn’t put together the story of the attacks.  And when they did warn the Indians, the Indians dropped the ball!

Now, interestingly the line of Zaid Hamid that “Dalits, Shudras and Christians in the Indian establishment” gave him the secret information about the “Hindu” identity of the terrorists, he sounds juvenile.  This kind of stunt works in Pakistan before the gullible public brought up on hatred towards Hindus and Indians and with almost no knowledge of anything on India and its working, but to an Indian this is pure nonsense.

In fact, what seems more plausible now is that Zaid Hamid was fed this fantastic story by the Pakistani Intelligence!  Because, if anyone knew of this – the red band and the documents – then it was either the people who had done it (specially at that early in the days of the attack) or those who had caught them and later pieced together the entire information (Indian Intelligence and investigative journalists like Sebestian Rotella – but that would be months later!).

Given how soon Hamid came up with this “picture” of Hindu terrorist, it points more to his links with ISI and the ability of the Pakistani Intelligence to use him as their spokesman in many ways.