Pakistan’s use of religion-inspired militants as a tool of foreign policy dates back to the very first skirmish with India, that is, the Kashmir conflict in 1948. Militant groups founded on a religious ideology have been active in and outside Pakistan for the last seven decades and represent a negative and ugly face for the country. These militant groups attracted the attention of the world media during the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan and later on some of them became a thorn in the side of the country, forming organisations such as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Jaish-e-Mohammed, Tehrik-e-Labbayk Pakistan (TLP) and many more of the same ilk.
Perhaps the most lethal and well organised militant group ensconced in Pakistan is the Lashkar-e-Taiba, led by the world famous jihadi Hafiz Saeed. Under international pressure, this group was banned by the Pakistani government in 2002 and later on emerged under a new name called Jamat-ud-Dawa. This militant group was responsible for planning and executing the most daring and bloody attack on the city of Mumbai on the 26th of November 2008. This daring raid by the LeT militants on numerous targets in Mumbai lasted for 60 hours and resulted in the death of 172 people – and it received full coverage in the Indian and the international media.
Trained and fanatic militants of the LeT left the shores of Karachi in a small boat and then shifted to a larger vessel called Al-Husseini on the high seas. On 22 November they hijacked an Indian fishing trawler, murdered the entire crew and continued their journey to Mumbai. Near the shore of Mumbai, they jumped into two small inflatable boats and landed at two different spots in the southern part of Mumbai. Each militant was armed to the teeth and carried an AK-56 assault rifle with lots of bullets. The also had 9mm pistols and hand grenades. In addition, they held mobile phones and IEDs.
After reaching shore, they split up into four attack squadrons: one with four men and three with two men each. One two-man team was comprised of the lone survivor Mohammed Ajmal Amir (aka Qasab, alias Abu Mujahid from Okara) and his partner Ismail Khan (alias Abu Ismail from Dera Ismail Khan). Ajmal was sentenced to death in an Indian court in early May 2010.
Amir and Khan took a taxi to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), Mumbai’s main train station. Considerable detail is now known about this attack team because Amir was arrested and in late July 2009 he made a lengthy confession about the team. According to assembled accounts, once they reached CST station, they began firing on commuters.
The team next moved to the Cama and Albless Hospital, where they fired on crowds and deployed their grenades. They then escaped in a police car that they had captured, until they were recognised. They next hijacked another vehicle and proceeded to towards the Metro cinema hall, from there to Nariman Point and finally to Chowpatty where Khan was shot dead and Amir was injured and captured. This team accounted for nearly one third of the civilian casualties.
Amir, in his confession, claimed that they had been instructed to take hostages and escape to nearby buildings where they were supposed to contact their operational commander, Zaki-ur Rahman Lakhvi. Lakhvi was supposed to provide media contact numbers to place their demands. However, this seems to have been a ploy to garner more media attention, as the ultimate objective, according to Amir’s testimony, was to blow up the target buildings.
A second team – consisting of Nasir, alias Abu Umar from Faisalabad and Babar Imran, alias Abu Akasha from Multan – proceeded to Nariman House, a centre run by the international Jewish Chabad-Lubavitch movement. This site is often referred to as “Chabad House” in Indian media. Their team threw grenades at a nearby gas station, opened fire upon the building and entered the complex while firing. They took thirteen hostages as they prepared for the siege. Five hostages were killed in addition to the terrorists, following an airdropping of National Security Guard commandos.
A third two-man team – Abdul Rahman, alias Abdul Rahman Chhota, from Multan and Fahadullah, alias Abu Fahad, from Okara – travelled from the landing site to the Trident-Oberoi Hotel where they, too, began killing indiscriminately. The siege at this hotel lasted for some 17 hours before the attackers were killed, by which time they had killed 30 people.
The fourth team was the largest and was comprised of Hafeez Arshad (alias Bada Abdul Rahman from Multan); Javed (alias Abu Ali from Okara); Shoaib (alias Abu Soheb from Sialkot); and Nazeer (alias Abu Umer from Faisalabad). The team briefly entered the Leopold Café, a popular sidewalk restaurant, where they killed ten people with automatic weapons. The team next moved to the rear entrance of the nearby Taj Hotel. They cut a lethal swathe through the ground floor of the hotel to the upper floors, where they set fires and moved constantly to confuse security forces.
Due in part to the delayed arrival of the National Security Guards’ Commandos, the siege at the Taj ended some 60 hours later, when all of the attackers were at last killed by the Indian commandos.
The repercussions of their actions, especially for Pakistan, continue to this day.