The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) wants to take a look at the role played by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the Ishrat Jahan cover-up case, as it gets ready to examine the encounter files as part of an internal investigation.
The MHA will investigate the NIA’s alleged role in hiding Ishrat’s LeT links following the interrogation of 26/11 Mumbai attack co-conspirator David Headley in June 2010 in the United States. The accused had told the NIA that he was aware that Ishrat Jahan was a part of the Lashkar module. However, this part of the information was omitted from the investigation report prepared by the NIA. This fact came to public knowledge when this newspaper revealed the same in June 2013 (NIA note claimed Ishrat was with LeT, 22 June, 2013).
Subsequently, the NIA defended itself on the ground that the statement given by Headley regarding Ishrat Jahan did not have any evidential value and it was based on “hearsay”. When NIA asked Headley about Ishrat, he had said: “I (Headley) state that in late 2005 Zaki ur 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 Muzzammil was a top commander whose every big ‘project’ had ended in a failure. Zaki added that Ishrat Jahan module was also one of Muzzammil’s botched up operations.”
Certain former and serving officers in the NIA, who were aware of Headley’s statement on Ishrat but who first hid it and then dismissed it, are likely to be questioned by the MHA, sources in the ministry said.
In May 2011, the NIA, while responding to the Special Investigation Team’s (SIT’s) request to share Headley’s statement on Ishrat, had stated, “The relevant portions of the statement made by David Coleman Headley with reference to Ishrat Jahan is in the nature of hearsay and will not be admissible as evidence. Therefore sharing of the portion of the statement may not serve the purpose of the investigation.”
The SIT, which was investigating the encounter of Ishrat, was headed by Karnal Singh at the time. He gave up his SIT chairmanship and moved out, apparently because he was not willing to toe the political line, which was meddling with the investigation. Later, the chairmanship of the SIT was given to another official, who allegedly due to a personal vulnerability, was forced to follow the orders of the then political leadership of the country.
According to officials, if the SIT had recorded the fact that Ishrat was a part of the Lashkar module, then it would have become very difficult for the Central government to make a case against BJP leaders Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.
Emails and SMSes sent to Minister of State for Home, Kiren Rijuju went unanswered.