Efforts to bring Pakistan’s former spy masters before a New York court to face charges filed by relatives of American victims in the Mumbai terror attacks are getting nowhere with the US Government taking the stand that the notorious Inter-Services Intelligence and its top brass enjoy immunity under the US Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.
In response to a civil case filed on behalf of the American victims, a top official of the Department of Justice said the United States strongly condemns the 26/11 attacks and believes that Pakistan “must take steps to to dismantle Lashkar-e-Taiba and to support India’s efforts to counter this terrorist threat”.
But the ISI and its former chiefs Shuja Pasha and Nadeem Raj cannot be proceeded against in a US court because of immunity conferred under the American law, Principal Deputy Attorney General Stuart Delery informed the New York court.
In a 12-page affidavit, the official said the State Department has determined that Pasha and Taj are immune because the allegations by the plaintiffs relate to actions taken by them in their official capacities as directors of ISI, which is a fundamental part of the Government of Pakistan.
Six Americans were among the 166 people killed in the Mumbai attacks in 2008. Some, such as Linda Ragsdale of Tennessee, survived the attack. Ragsdale, who had been shot in her back at the Oberoi Trident Hotel, had filed a case in a New York court. Another lawsuit had been filed by the relatives of Rabbi Gavriel Noah Holtzberg and his pregnant wife Rivka.
Following the lawsuit, a US court did issue summons to Pasha, the ISI chief at the time and Lashkar’s top guns including founder Hafiz Saeed. But Pak moved to block the lawsuit by roping in top-notch US lawyers, who sought quashing the case on the grounds that the US had no jurisdiction in the matter. They argued that any US assertion of jurisdiction over Pakistani officials would be “an intrusion on its sovereignty, in violation of international law”.
Ragsdale, in her civil complaint, sought a compensation of a minimum of $75,000 from the ISI. The US Government’s affidavit in the case, filed on Monday, sought to emphasise that while making the immunity determination, it was not expressing any view on the merits of the claims put forth by the plaintiffs.
Besides the former ISI chiefs and Saeed, the case filed in the US court has also named other top Lashkar operatives involved in the Mumbai operation: Zaki-ur-Rahman, Sajid Mir and Azam Cheema.
Thursday, 20 December 2012 13:44 S Rajagopalan | Washington
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