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VII: Another viewpoint
VIII: The ambassador speaks
Josy Joseph in Kathmandu
Smuggling is a flourishing cottage industry in Nepal. And the ISI knows it so well.
The Pakistani intelligence agency has traditionally relied on the criminal communities in Bombay, Delhi and other parts of the country when planning subversive activities in India.
Dawood Ibrahim, a key link in ISI's anti-India operations, was called to assist the directorate in Nepal sometime in the late eighties. This was a welcome invitation for Ibrahim. He knew the large influx of tourists, rampant smuggling, the corrupt administration and the fluid political set-up would render his task easier.
By the early 1990s, Ibrahim had put in place a large network of low-level operatives, dealing in material ranging from gold to narcotics. The goods passed through Kathmandu on their way to other countries, including India. As the operation became larger, Ibrahim began looking for someone to man the operations, and finally settled on a local Nepali Muslim, Mirza Dilshad Beg.
Beg rose swiftly in Ibrahim's gang and in Nepali politics. In 1998, when the Chota Rajan gang shot him dead, he was an MP with extensive contacts across the Nepali political firmament.
Now that Beg is gone, Ibrahim and the ISI are hunting for another man with similar clout and resources. If reports from Indian intelligence agencies are to be believed, they have already found their man.
Member of a Kashmiri family settled in Nepal, this businessman's family is widely networked and affluent. His entry into the ISI's web of intrigue has a faintly filmi touch to it. In the 1980s, he was arrested in Karachi when coming in from Dubai, allegedly with a consignment of drugs. He was reportedly sentenced to a term in prison and a lashing. His family appealed to the Pakistan embassy in Kathmandu, and secured his release. Since his return to Nepal, he is alleged to have got closer to the ISI, and, later, to Dawood.
After the serial blasts in Bombay in May 1993, Ibrahim allegedly contacted the businessman's uncle several times. Later, Sunil Sawant, Sushil Thakur and other members of Ibrahim's gang stayed at the home of a close relative of the said businessman.
In late 1998, the businessman, along with Ibrahim and a Pakistani national named Mohammed Baria, drew up plans to dispatch narcotics to Montreal and Africa, intelligence sources claim. The businessman and the Pakistani apparently flew to South Africa in November 1998 in this regard. In July 1999, the Nepali businessman flew to Bangkok under a pseudonym and from there to Dubai to renew his contacts with Ibrahim.
The ISI does not limit itself to propping up local Muslim leaders; in the last several years Pakistani intelligence agencies have been working hard at gaining the support of, and forming a network in, the local Muslim community, which has been growing at an amazing rate.
On June 26, 1994, Khan Zaheer Parwaiz, a Pakistani diplomat (passport number D 004080), arrived in Kathmandu from Karachi by LH 764, and left for Bangkok on July 4. During his stay in Nepal he undertook several trips to the Muslim-dominated areas of Nepalganj, Banke and Bhairahwa in a private vehicle arranged by the embassy.
He was accompanied by an ex-member of the Rashtra Panchayat. In Kathmandu he also met several prominent Muslim leaders. According to an intelligence report, he had come to Kathmandu on a 'sensitive mission to meet members of the Muslim community and select some young Nepalese Muslims to be sent to Pakistan for special training to serve Pakistan's interests from Nepal.'
Merchant Mustaq Ismail, a Pakistani national, (passport number AB 988063), arrived in Kathmandu from Lhasa by SZ 408 on June 14, 1994 and returned to Lhasa by SZ 407 on June 15. He made many such short visits to Nepal. He told Nepali authorities that they were made in connection with his leather business.
But Indian intelligence agencies claim his trips were intended to collect arms, including AK-47s and AK-56s, smuggled into Lhasa. He is believed to be closely linked with several Nepali Muslim leaders.
There are several other undercover ISI operators with an extensive network among the local Muslim community. Now that they have a foothold in the local Muslim community, the ISI is widening its focus to encompass the heartlands of Nepal, where from the brave Gurkhas come.
Over 100,000 Gurkhas serve the Indian army at present. The Gurkhas of the area were upset that many of their numbers died during the Kargil crisis. And in their disgruntlement, the ISI hopes to find fertile soil for rebellion.
Design: Dominic Xavier
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