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IC-814 hijack accused a double agent or IB stooge?

Last updated on: September 17, 2012 14:54 IST

The arrest of Mehrajuddin Wani from Kashmir was considered to be a big breakthrough in the 1999 Kandahar hijack case. However, the question is whether the police picked up an informer of the Intelligence Bureau, who many allege is a double agent, reports Vicky Nanjappa.

The charge against Mehrajuddin Wani is that he was one of the planners of the IC 814 hijack and had been in touch with various persons involved in incident. As a result of this hijack, India had to give up Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Maulana Masood Azhar in exchange for the hostages.

The question now is whether the police have a strong case? While Wani's involvement is still being looked into, the fact is that his name was never part of the investigation since day one and neither was there any mention of the same in the chargesheet. It could have surfaced later, but then again this is yet to be ascertained.

Wani, a dealer in pashmina, has worked extensively in Nepal. He was regularly in touch with various operatives and also Arshad Cheema, the head of Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence in Nepal, whose name had surfaced as one of the brains behind the hijack.

Sources point out that Wani was in touch with Cheema and was also parting with information to the Indian agencies. The fact that is to be ascertained is whether he was in touch with Cheema in order to elicit information for the Indian agencies or was he acting as a double agent.

The fact that he operated out of Nepal is something that has given the police more ammunition against him.

The original investigation into the hijack case reveals that the entire dry run for the operation took place in Nepal. There were many operatives over there who helped to create the fake identification cards which facilitated the men to board and later hijack the plane.

There is a great deal of confusion now regarding Wani's role in this case. He has been feeding valuable information to the Indian agencies for nearly six years now. This would give an indication that his role in the hijack was minimal as a result of which none found it important to place him high on the radar.

Wani could have used this deal with the Indian agencies as an alibi to escape from the local authorities. He apart from being a dealer in pashmina was also into small time smuggling and often crossed the border on work.

He could have also been feeding information to Cheema in a bid to elicit more out of him and share it with the Indian agencies. Apart from Cheema, he also had sources in the Pakistan embassy in Kathmandu.

Wani has played a vital role for the Indian agencies from time to time. He is quick to give information on the persons who cross the border into India from Nepal. Moreover, he has also given some information on the ISI operations in Nepal apart from the manner in which the fake currency circulation was taking place.

Sources, however, point out that he had stopped working with the Indian agencies for sometime now. During his questioning, Wani claimed that he was working for the Indian agencies and the material that is leading up to him was not part of a crime but part of his job to elicit information.

The biggest link however is the dealings he had with Cheema. The intercepts which were picked up by the police show a lot of dealing with Cheema. However, Wani has claimed that he was trying to get information from Cheema on the hijack case.

Officials say that it is the part of the job of the intelligence to plant such moles. Very often small crimes are not dealt with as the information that is being generated is valuable in bigger cases. There is no written law which states that such persons should get protection.

Such persons have, however, readily agreed to undertake such a job as it helps them further their business and also once they are caught they would use this as an alibi.

This is the second time in the recent past that such an incident has taken place. The Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad had arrested one Naqqi Ahmed in connection with the 13/7 blasts case. This was a big set back for the Intelligence Bureau as he turned out to be one of their informers.

Officials say that this is a major tussle that is on between the intelligence agencies and the police. The police are under pressure to show results and hence they end up picking up all and sundry. The IB on the other hand is left in the lurch since they tend to lose face in the informer community. They build the confidence with a great deal of difficulty and due to lack of proper coordination, they lose such informers to the police.

It is tough for the IB when such incidents take place since the next time they try and groom an informer there is a tendency of them backing out due to such incidents.

In the case of Wani and Naqqi it was found that these persons were in constant touch with operatives and the information they were getting was being passed on to the IB. However, for the police, who would not know about this, such interactions make it look as though they are the accused.

The problem is that of coordination and unless both the police and the IB do not inform each other of such operations, it could lead to major set backs.

Vicky Nanjappa