Did the ISI choose the Rajasthan border to smuggle narcotics after striking deals with Indian smugglers in Punjab who would send the money for the heroin to terrorist groups in Kashmir?
Prakash Bhandari reports.
The recent haul of 54 kilos of heroin from the India-Pakistan border in Bikaner, Rajasthan, has baffled both the Border Security Force and the Narcotics Control Bureau.
Security and intelligence personnel are examining the role of the Pakistan Rangers without whom the job of transporting the narcotics would not have been possible.
The drug smugglers used 56 PVC pipes to pack the heroin in, which were then pushed through a fence on the border that comes under the Bundli post near Khajuwala in the Bikaner sector. PVC pipes were used as PVC is a non-conductor of electricity. The 56 PVC pipes were bound with cloth and pushed under the sand to the Indian side to be collected by Indian smugglers.
But a vigilant BSF patrol party, which spotted vehicles plying near the Pakistani observation tower, became suspicious. BSF troopers fired at the smugglers, who fled using the narrow lane along the fence. The BSF seized the heroin-packed pipes left behind by the smugglers.
The BSF called a flag meeting with the Pakistani Rangers and protested about the smuggling, but were unsatisfied with their response.
BSF Deputy Inspector General Pushpendra Singh feels the operation was supported by senior Pakistan Rangers officials.
A preliminary analysis revealed that, without the help of the Pakistani Rangers, the smugglers could not have reached the border fence and laid the PVC pipes packed with heroin.
Gyaneshwar Singh, deputy director general, Narcotics Control Bureau, said the initial investigation could reveal the nexus between Pakistani and Indian smugglers. Once the links and the process of money transfer are authoritatively established, the second line of the probe would begin.
BSF officials advanced two theories about this operation -- either the Pakistani Rangers in the area, which comes under the Bahawalpur sector on the Pakistan side, were offered a huge amount of money by the smugglers or they helped the operation on the orders of the Inter Services Intellgence agency, ISI.
It is speculated that the ISI chose the Rajasthan border to smuggle the narcotics after striking a deal with Indian smugglers in Punjab, who would send the money for the heroin to terrorist groups in Kashmir.
Due to strict vigilance on the Punjab border, the smugglers active there find it difficult to smuggle the drugs into India. Hence, the Bikaner sector was chosen as it was close to Punjab and the goods could be easily transported.
NCB agents, the police and army intelligence jointly interrogated the five youth who were arrested on suspicion of involvement with the smugglers.
Two of the youth were arrested by the Bikaner police who had been alerted by the BSF. The youth, who were arrested in Jamsar village near Khajuwala, were allegedly assigned to take delivery of the heroin.
During interrogation, they said they were told to throw stones on the other side of the border to signal that they had reached. Once the Pakistani smugglers ascertained that their Indian counterparts were waiting, they pushed the heroin-laden PVC pipes under the sand.
Two other arrested youth are from Ferozpur in Punjab. During interrogation, it was found that they worked for Punjab smuggler Baldev Singh, durrently a prisoner in Punjab's Faridkot jail from where he continues to operate his narcotics network.
The nexus between the Kashmiri terrorists and the drug smugglers came to light following the arrests of Hizbul Mujahideen operatives in Punjab and Kashmir. Following the information gathered from them in May, Amritsar drug lord, Ranjeet Rana Cheeta, and his brother, Gagandeep Bhola, were arrested by the Punjab police from Begu village in Haryana's Sirsa district. They were on the wanted list after the 532 kg heroin haul case in 2019.
The Punjab police then arrested Baljinder Singh, a gangster who allegedly had links with the now reportedly deceased Pakistan-based Khalistan Liberation Force chief Harmeet Singh Happy, as well as Germany-based Gurmeet Singh Bagga of the Khalistan Zindabad Force.
Another notorious gangster, Sukhjinder, and five other members of the gang have also been arrested, along with a large consignment of sophisticated weapons smuggled in from Pakistan, as well as drug money reportedly smuggled from across the border through several modes, including drones.
"Maximum smuggling takes place in Punjab near the international border. Prior to the haul in the Bikaner sector, there was a case where eight kilos were discovered with a smuggler in the Rajasthan sector," says Gyaneshwar Singh.
"It seems that the operation across the Rajasthan border has increased because of the strict vigil along the Punjab border," he added.
The Punjab side of the border is considered logistically better by the drug smugglers as heroin is consumed on a large scale in Punjab. The drugs are also transported to Delhi, from where it is sent to Mumbai and other places.
Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com