Rajiv Gandhi’s killers have been hanging around on death row for such a long time that there is now a distinct possibility that they could die natural deaths and many of us are becoming sadly reconciled to that as well. Which is why I was slightly nonplussed as I watched television channels playing the story of Ajmal Kasab already being hanged, and in Pune. I still haven’t figured out why Kasab couldn’t have been hanged in Mumbai, which would have been more fitting in terms of locale, and his body tipped into the Arabian Sea, just like Osama bin Laden’s was. Otherwise it is a sheer waste of space even if his body happens to be rotting underground in the premises of a jail. Kasab came to Mumbai via the Arabian Sea and it is logical he should have been unceremoniously thrown back in there ultimately, and by the Coast Guard, in a spirit of belated atonement.
The funny thing was the story about the Pakistan Foreign Office refusing to accept the communication about Kasab’s hanging and the Indian High Commission in Islamabad having to fax it to them instead so they officially got the information one way or the other. Pakistan, if you recall, refused to accept the bodies of Kasab’s other comrades-in-arms after the Mumbai attack. Recall again how Mahmood Durrani, no less a personage than Pakistan’s national security adviser, was sacked soon after he admitted that Kasab was indeed a Pakistani. That cussedness continues, albeit with some nuances. Rehman Malik, their interior minister, who was dissuaded from coming to India just the other day, has taken a more reasonable line than the foreign office bureaucrats and has gone to the extent of saying that Pakistan was not going to link it with Sarabjit Singh, who has been in death row since 1991 for his alleged involvement in serial blasts in Lahore the previous year. Fellow politician Imran Khan, who is so smarmy on television programmes when he visits this side of the border, and sits in our studios pontificating endlessly, has no compunctions in calling for a “retaliatory hanging” for Sarabjit. So much for cricket bringing people together, but I digress.
I do not believe that the Pakistanis are going to mete out deserved justice to the handful of the Mumbai perpetrators they have managed to have in their custody. For years, that trail has not moved substantially. To keen watchers in India, it is going nowhere in a hurry. This is in some contrast to the double-quick time in which Sarabjit was proved guilty by the Pakistani system. The mountain of evidence against the Lashkars is, from the view of the receiving side, viz, India, both compelling and incontrovertible. Yet, the other side dithers, although that is not an apt way to describe it.
Instead of the Ministry of External Affairs putting out a vague spin, as it did on November 16, whining that Pakistan has done precious little on this front so the window of opportunity for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh giving Pakistan the satisfaction of a bilateral visit ahead of Pakistan’s elections due in spring was small to the point of being non-existent, we should have let the Malik visit go ahead and made it convenient for Kasab to be hanged while the Pakistan interior minister was on Indian soil. I am sure that message would have gone down better than the way it has right now.