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September 14, 1998


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Pune police crack suspected ISI operation

Michael Gonsalves in Pune

In a sensational breakthrough, the Pune crime branch sleuths has arrested two suspected agents of Pakistan's Inter Service Intelligence, one of them posing as an Indian army major posted as the aide-de-camp to the President of India.

The Pune police top brass believe that the fake major, Irshadur Rehman, 25, who hails from a well-to-do family in Bhagalpur, Bihar, and a Nagpada, Bombay-based Mohammed Yusuf Yakub Sipra, 36, who posed as his personal assistant, are part of an international espionage ring.

Both were arrested on Friday following a tip-off to Pune Police Commissioner K K Kashyap, a week ago.

"The meticulously perfect operation in impersonating and forging various certificates and civil and military seals, point to the duo being part of an international espionage conspiracy," Deputy Commissioner of Police (crime), Ramrao Pawar, heading the investigation, said.

He said the crime branch had ascertained with the chief security officer of the President of India and the intelligence wing of the armed forces that Major Rehman was an ingenious conman before nabbing him.

Pawar revealed that though Rehman tried to bluff his way out of the situation, he finally confessed to being an impostor after intense interrogation.

"But it is a cover-up. His alleged contacts in defence and government departments reveal more than his confession. We are probing the duo's link with the ISI," Pawar said, adding that the assistance of the military intelligence wing was also being sought.

The police were puzzled that an impostor could possess forged documents, attestations, several government and military seals and rubber stamps bearing the stamp of commanding officer, National Security Guards, defence ministry, New Delhi, commandant, Armed Forces Medical College, Pune, attache to the governor's house, Panaji, Goa, vice- chancellor, Bhagalpur University, Bihar. "These documents and seals lead to the suspicious that the duo may be part of a larger international espionage, supported by the ISI," Pawar added.

The police also recovered a .32 calibre revolver with 10 live cartridges, four empty shells, three air pistols, meticulously starched fake olive green military uniforms, forged documents, identity cards, first class and second class laminated AC railway passes and certificates from Rehman's posh residence in Thane, Maharashtra.

The police were shocked to discover that these documents and certificates were as good as the originals and in the exact format used by the military authorities.

Pawar said preliminary investigations showed Rehman had been impersonating as an ADC to the President of India for the last six months. He had also issued reference letters for recruiting some persons in the army and attested their photographs on enrolment forms.

The smartly dressed and clean shaven man, masquerading as a commando, aide-de-camp and army major at different times and different places, gave himself up due to his very boyish appearance.

"During the interrogation we told him that no army major can be as young as 26," senior Inspector Vilas Ghag, vigilance crime branch, who is investigating the case, said.

He said last week, Pune-based official military tailor Mukundrao and label maker Mokate, tipped off Kashyap about 'Major' Rehman, who had approached them with orders to stitch special uniforms worn by ADCs to the President.

Knowing that such uniforms are officially manufactured at New Delhi and the labels are directly sanctioned to special designated officers, the duo smelt a rat and informed the police.

Following this, Pawar and Ghag, along with their teams, kept a vigil at the tailor's shop. Last Friday when Sipra came to collect Rehman's uniforms, he was taken into custody. He showed the police the special ID card of Rehman which showed that he was an ADC to the President of India.

Interestingly, Rehman, who comes from a well to do doctor's family in Bhagalpur, Bihar, scored 78 per cent at the Higher Secondary Certificate examination, and had joined the Pune-based Armed Forces Medical College as a medical student in 1995.

But six months later he was forced to leave the medical course after the medical board detected that he was suffering from frequent migraine attack and declared him medically unfit to continue his studies.

Taunted and harassed by his family members for being a good-for-nothing, Rehman confessed that he wanted to prove that he could do something to gain their respect. He claimed he even moved about in his hometown wearing a major's uniform.

Pawar said Rehman's impersonation was so meticulous that a Bombay -based doctor, Dr Wahida Sheikh, fell prey to his charms and married him on April 18, 1998.

A search of Rehman's apartment in Thane led to the recovery of fake seals and rubber stamps, job application forms and forged certificates from the Armed Forces Medical Services of India, commanding officer of the National Security Guards, vice-chancellor, Bhagalpur University, defence ministry, ministry of railways, officer on special duty, Rail Bhavan, New Delhi, chairman, Railway Board, and a special certificate from the Governments of Israel and India on completing a joint military operation on behalf of both the countries.

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