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Mumbai Bomb Blasts – Intelligence And Counter-Intelligence

By Sarah Saba

03 October, 2006

While addressing to a press conference on Saturday, Mumbai Police Commissioner A.N. Roy accused the ISI of masterminding the Mumbai train bomb explosions on 11th July this year resulted in killing 200 people. The commissioner provided the details of the plot with names, locations and whereabouts of the people involved in the attacks. He also provided information about the explosives which were kept as RDX packed in the pressure cookers.

The commissioner told the newsmen about the interrogation procedure ‘narco-analysis’, through which the suspects are questioned under the influence of drugs to get the correct answers. He said, ISI agents began planning the attacks in March, and later provided funding and training for the bombers in Bahawalpur to plan that professional, precise and well-planned operation. He added that police had found no evidence of the involvement of Al Qaeda in the attacks.

On the other hand Pakistan Foreign Office spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam completely rejected Indian claim by calling it baseless, irresponsible and (done) out of habit. In his statement Mr. Tariq Azim Khan, the Minister of State for Information said that India had always chosen the path of pointing fingers at Pakistan without evidence.

The allegation has appeared at a sensitive time to enhance the stress of President Musharraf who had already spent the previous days of a lengthy overseas trip persuading against Afghan and British implications that the members of his security apparatus were secretly supporting the Taleban revolt intensifying in the Southern Afghanistan. Moreover, it was only two weeks before when Musharraf managed to get India resuming a peace process, which had frozen after the Mumbai blasts.

In the era of a neo-globalisation with multiple actors on the stage to shaping up the future image of the global village, this becomes very important for the regional actors like India and Pakistan to immediately agree on an agenda of regional cooperation for progress, prosperity and better facilities for the people of the two nations. ISI which had been a much stronger power in the past is currently engaged in its revitalisation process with much of its energy being consumed in keeping the fine balance maintained between its modernist and conventional parts. In these difficult times it simply can’t afford the sooper adventures like this. If we compare the capabilities of the Regional Analysis Wing (RAW) and the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) both are complexly rooted in their targeted segments of the respective countries. If one agency has the advantage of entrenching profoundly into the socio-national structure of the targeted country, the other one has the advantage of being deeply ingrained into the religio-sectarian segment of the targeted country. In this complex situation there is always a chance of entry of a third international player to reshape the geo-political structure of the area into its own favour.
The story of making and remaking of the regional map starts from the late seventies when the CIA drafted a map of defeating the USSR in Afghanistan with the help of ISI. The then Pakistani President Gen Zia knew only about the half part of the plan while knowing nothing about the second half of the agenda. Only very few officers within ISI like Brig Irshad Tirmazi could notify the presence of strange phenomena within the Mujahideen’s camps in Afghanistan in form of Arab nexus. These were the operative groups mainly belonging to the Middle East, the European countries and the countries like Indonesia. The main features of the nexuses were; having massive ‘foreign currency’, their daily march towards Russia and the areas bordering China - with their passionate concentration in training of the religious elements for the sectarian (Shia-Sunni) violence.

During the Zia regime the tension between India and Pakistan remained alive especially on the issues of Kashmir and the Eastern Punjab. Well before successfully implementing his type of regional agenda, Gen Zia passed away in a mysterious plane crash and right after his death there started the second half of the international agenda for regional reshaping.

It was a time when the unseen hands brought India and Isreal closer for defense and intelligence cooperation after a no relationship history of more than 40 years. Although Israel provided India with the devastating artillery weapon, 160 mm mortars and modern ammunition during 1971 war against Pakistan yet the deal remained secret as a condition by Mossad. Even after the 71’s war the defense relations had not been adequately established between the two countries.

It was in 1992 when the formal diplomatic relations established between India and Israel with the visit of the Deputy Director of Israel Foreign Ministry Moshie Yaeger. Following the establishment of formal diplomatic relations in 1992, India and Israel had signed a number of agreements on economic, scientific, agricultural and cultural cooperation. In December 96 Israeli President Weizman visited India that became the first ever visit by any Israeli President to India with a 24-member business delegation.

Although the relations between India and Israel kept on developing after 1992 with strong ties on defense and economics yet 1998 can really be considered as the revolutionary year in the history of the Indian intelligence. In this year the Mossad transferred to India the most sophisticated intelligence techniques to penetrate deep into religious/ separatist groups. Before that point the ISI clearly superceded the RAW in terms of making networking within socio-political systems while after acquiring the newer techniques the RAW not only got the capability of breaking the networks but also to exert the counter-intelligence through religious grouping. During this year Indian Home Minister L. K. Advani visited Israel with his delegation comprising the heads of Indian intelligence agencies like RAW, IB, and central police organizations for their training on the latest intelligence techniques. Followed by these developments the Israeli intelligence agencies opened offices in New Delhi on the lines of United States FBI.

It was the time when the international plan was simply ready to be implemented to shape up the new world diagram.

Maulvi Masood Azhar a 30- year old Sunni cleric from Bahawalpur was in BSF custody at 'Papa II' interrogation center in India. Here he meets Omar Sheikh with a history of being infiltrated into India and participated in some acts of terrorism. He was arrested and jailed by the Indian authorities to meet Maulvi Maood Azhar and to plan the drama of hijacking the Indian plane. Omar Sheikh belonged to the Arab-European Nexus of 200 UK Muslim citizens with natively linking to Pakistan, hired by some agency in the UK and sent to Pakistan to get training in the camps of Harkat Ul Ansaar (HUA) and joined the HUA's contingent in Bosnia with full complicity of the British and American intelligence agencies. These intelligence agencies had masterminded the Arab Nexus, a large corps of jihadi personal of Arab origin to mix up with Afghan Mujahideen in their war against the Soviet troops.

Maulvi Masood Azhar met there a number of ‘jehadi’ persons some belonging to Jamiat Ulma E Hind (JUH) and some to Arab Nexus where they planned the Hijack of Indian plane and made their future agenda to be implemented in Pakistan. On 24th December 1999, an Indian aircraft flight IC 814 carrying 174 passengers and 18 crew (Kathmandu-Delhi) was hijacked on its way to New Delhi at about 1730 Hours IST. It landed at Amritsar and was refused fuel and ultimately landed at the Kabul airport. Three arrested jehadi persons Masood Azhar, Omar Sheikh and Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar had been handed over to the Taliban militia at Kandahar. The five hijackers had left the aircraft and had been taken to an undisclosed location by the Taliban.

On 11th September 2001, the tragic incidence of the World Trade Center took place followed by the announcement of President Bush to start a long-term global war against terror to bring the perpetrators to justice. It was the time for India to inform the US about the involvement of Pakistan in the attack. It is said that Prime Minister Vajpai personally presented a copy of the cheque to President Bush which was given by the then ISI chief Gen Mehmud to one of the terrorists of the 9/11 attack. In this way, India played a key role in providing the US authorities the HOT information about Pakistan as the funding source for the September 11 attacks. The Times of India first reported on October 10, 2001 that India told the US that some $100,000 had been wired to the leader of the hijackers, Mahmud Atta, by British-born terrorist Omar Sheikh.

John S Pistole, deputy assistant director of the FBI’s counter-terrorism division confirmed about the information, however, did not specify how those accounts in Pakistan were funded, how those found their way to Omar Sheikh and how the copy of the cheque reached to the Indian Prime Minister. Nobody knows about the secrets behind that deal but everybody knows about the immediate acceptance by the Pakistani government of the 7 point US agenda to role back Islamism, Talibanism and terrorism from Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Indian authorities also told the US that the trail led back from Omar Sheikh to the then Chief of ISI, Lt Gen Mahmud Ahmad who was subsequently forced to retire by Pakistan resident Pervez Musharraf. The Indian authorities provided the FBI with the details, including Omar Sheikh’s mobile numbers.

Later the same Omer Sheikh was found guilty in the murder of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. The case was highlighted around the globe and once again became the cause of embarrassment for Pakistan around the globe. Maulvi Masood Azhar established Jaish E Mohammad (JEM) and remained involved in the activities of sectarian and religious terrorism. Another example of ‘international intelligence cooperation’ is the information of the suicidal attack against Gen Pervez Musharraf. Very recently, the former Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes has said that India was aware of an assassination attempt on Pakistani President three years ago. He said that he had warned Islamabad two days before the attack in December 2003. The above-mentioned examples simply highlight the capabilities of the Indian intelligence agencies in masterminding intelligence and counter intelligence operations.

We are living in the post cold war era when the super power has nothing to do with the Pakistani abilities of running or winning a war. Knowingly or unknowingly, Pakistan can be pushed back to the post 9/11position by the ‘international cooperation of intelligence’. It is for the broader interests of the 2 countries in specific and the South Asian Region in general to establish the long-term socio-economical relations and peace treaties between the regional players to ensure better living conditions, better education and medical facilities for the inhabitants of the region. Otherwise the intelligence and the counter intelligence adventures between the two countries will give the international players the opportunities to implement their global agenda which is nothing but the ‘Bandar Bant’.

But to achieve this development objective, the military establishment in Pakistan would have to accept its role in the barracks and the major cut downs in the heaviest defense budget to make the civilians’ lives easier. Magar billi ke gale mein ghanti kon bandhe ga?

Sarah Saba lives in Karachi - Pakistan and can be contacted at:

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