Saturday, April 15, 2017

Kulbhushan Jadhav: A Case of Pakistani Subterfuge

Pakistan is a rogue state which will stoop to any level and take recourse to any form of deception in order to achieve its “unholy objectives”

An Indian naval officer arrested last year and charged with espionage and sabotage was sentenced to death Monday, the Pakistani military said, a decision that is likely to further strain relations between the two nations.

The condemned naval officer, Kulbhushan Jadhav, was arrested in March 2016 in Baluchistan, the restive province in South-West Pakistan, where a separatist insurgency has simmered for decades. While Jadhav was believed to be in Iran, running a cargo business or business to service dhows and ships from the port town of Chabahar, Pakistan claimed to have arrested him from the border town of Chaman in its province of Balochistan, bordering Afghanistan. Pakistani military officials described the capture of Mr. Jadhav as a major counterintelligence victory. He was accused of running a clandestine terror network within the province and of participating in various activities meant to destabilize the country.

Pakistan has claimed that Jadhav had infiltrated into Pakistan for “espionage and terror activities” and was in touch with Baloch separatists. They also claimed that Jadhav was travelling on a false passport, which identified him as Hussain Mubarak Patel, a resident of Powai in Mumbai. Mr. Jadhav is also known to spell his surname Yadav.

The Pakistani military said Mr. Jadhav was a “spy” who “was tried through Field General Court-Martial,” referring to a court-martial trial of heinous crimes, dedicated to cases involving foreign agents and spies.

The Pakistani military also asserted that Mr. Jadhav confessed before a magistrate that he was assigned by India’s spy agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, or RAW, “to plan and organize espionage and sabotage activities” in Baluchistan Province and Karachi, the southern port city that is the country’s commercial hub.

India disputes Pakistan’s accusations, which has often been the case in the testy relations between the two estranged, nuclear-armed neighbors. India gave a starkly different version of Mr. Jadhav’s arrest and profession.

Indian officials accused Pakistan of kidnapping Mr. Jadhav, whom they described as a former Navy officer, and said that repeated efforts for access to Mr. Jadhav were denied.

According to certain media reports, Kulbhushan Jadhav had reportedly approached Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) a number of times but his offers were turned down by the agency. According to The Indian Express report, between 2010 and 2012, Jadhav repeatedly had wanted to offer his service as a freelance intelligence operative but the organisation rejected the offer citing it will be ‘too much of a risk’.

In 2010, he had given proposal to R&AW, that his dhow, the Kaminda, can be used as a tool to gather intelligence on Pakistan’s port project at Gwadar. But “R&AW had little interest in Jadhav’s intelligence-gathering proposals,” the report said. However Anand Arni, the long-serving head of R&AW’s Pakistan Desk, who had retired in 2012, said “I will only repeat what I said on Monday which is that Jadhav was not an asset of the agency. Retired officers are never made assets, and we would certainly never send anyone on a clandestine mission with an Indian passport. You are free to believe or disbelieve me,” the report said.
In a videotape released by Pakistan’s military last year, Jadhav says he was recruited by R&AW in 2013, 10 years after setting up his base in Chabahar. However, there is no officer, past or present, bearing the name he cites as his handler — Joint Secretary Anil Kumar Gupta. In the videotape, Jadhav also claims he had contact with National Security Advisor Ajit Kumar Doval, who served as Director of the Intelligence Bureau in 2004-2005, before taking up his current assignment in 2014. There is no evidence, though of such contact, and intelligence insiders said it was profoundly unlikely an intelligence service’s asset would be granted an audience with the NSA.

It is extremely difficult to say with certainty whether the former naval officer was working for the Indian intelligence. It is plausible that Jadhav was conducting a legitimate business in Chabahar and was abducted from the Iran-Pak border by an extremist outfit called Jaishul Adil linked to Al Qaeda and thereafter sold to the ISI. Barring Pakistan’s assertion that he was involved in espionage, there is little evidence to show that he was involved in espionage.

Having got an Indian, and that too a former naval officer in their custody, Pakistan thought it may reap political dividends by accusing India of fomenting terrorism inside Pakistan. However, India has resisted this and till date has been exerting diplomatic pressure on Islamabad without resorting to a tit-for-tat. India made it known that it sought consular access to Jadhav on thirteen occasions and Pakistan refused to grant access to the prisoner; he was not permitted to legal representation and his sham trial was conducted in secret by a Field General Court-Martial. How New Delhi hopes to attain its objective of getting one of its citizens illegally detained by a rogue state with only diplomatic means is anybody’s guess. Pakistan is an entity which has scant respect for international law or any law for that matter; it does not give a damn for human rights of its own citizens much less of Indians accused of espionage in its custody. Alleged Indian spies like Ravindra Kaushik, Sarabjit Singh and many others have died in Pakistani jails in the past several decades. Expecting Pakistan to hand over Jadhav is like chasing a chimera.

If Jadhav ought not to meet the same fate as that of the legendary Israeli spy Elie Cohen, India needs to change track in dealing with Pakistan. India needs to pay Pakistan back in the same coin. One of Pakistani Army’s own needs to end up in Indian custody. Indian agencies have the wherewithal to make this happen. There already have been unconfirmed reports of the “disappearance” of a retired Pakistan Army Lieutenant Colonel Mohammad Habib Zahir, a Pakistani artillery officer who may have worked as an undercover ISI agent runner in Nepal from Nepal’s Lumbini on 6th April. It is also being reported that this Pak officer was involved in the abduction of Jadhav. If India is not thinking on these lines it needs to start building its capabilities to conduct snatch operations not only in South Asia but beyond. Instilling fear in Pak’s military establishment is the only way in which India and Indians can be kept safe. In the meanwhile Pakistani subterfuge continues.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

An Attack Foiled in Antwerp

Belgium thwarted a repeat of Nice in Antwerp a day after Westminster was attacked by an Islamist terrorist. A French-Tunisian Islamist was arrested after trying to drive a red Citroën with French license plates loaded with liquid gas, a shot gun and knives into a crowd of shoppers in an attempted terror strike.

The suspected attacker named as Mohamed R, 39 year old French-Tunisian tried to mow down pedestrians on Meir, Antwerp's main pedestrian street on 23rd March 2017.

Source: Daily Mail

It was not immediately clear if the car contained any explosives.

The car was driven down the Meir street in Antwerp - the city's busiest pedestrian streets. 

Shoppers had to dive out of the way of the speeding car to avoid serious injury.

Belgian soldiers then forced the driver to stop, but he fled by running a red light as he made his way towards the Scheldt river.

He tried and failed to knock people down in the busy shopping area and fled the scene towards the city's port where he was arrested, according to Le Soir. 

The man was detained on St Michielskaai in Antwerp which is less than a mile away from the Meir, according to VTM.

The gas liquid was found in a canister, and as a result the case was handed over to the federal prosecutor's office, which usually deals with terrorism cases in Belgium. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Westminster 22/3

In 2016, it was Brussels 22/3 and one year later it is Westminster 22/3. A terror attack in the heart of London left five dead and nearly 40 injured

The London terror attack is a developing story and is reminiscent of the 2001 Indian Parliament attack though on a relatively lesser scale. The incident has taken place on the first anniversary of the Brussels attacks carried out by by Islamist militants that killed 32 people.

An assailant believed to be an Islamist (owing allegiance to ISIS) stabbed a policeman and was shot by police just outside Britain's parliament building in London on 22nd March around 2.40 pm in what police described as a "terrorist incident." It was later announced that the policeman Keith Palmer, 48 succumbed to his injuries.  It was reported earlier that two people died in the incident, according to Sky News, but the total number of casualties was unclear. Later it was reported that five persons including the police officer and the assailant were among those dead and around 40 were injured.

Amid confusing scenes, it appeared the incident may have unfolded in several locations, including on the nearby Westminster Bridge where eyewitnesses said a car had crashed into pedestrians. 
A 4x4 vehicle ploughed into the railings near Westminster Hall after mowing down pedestrians on the bridge.

Source: NYT Terrain and aerial imagery by Google
The yellow arrow indicates the route taken by the terrorist on Westminster bridge; the two yellow circles are the places where the car crashed and where the assailant was shot and the red spots show where the pedestrians were wounded.

Reuters’ reporters inside the parliament building heard loud bangs and shortly afterwards saw two people lying on the ground in a courtyard just outside, within the perimeter of the parliamentary estate.

A Reuters’ photographer said he saw at least a dozen people injured on Westminster Bridge, next to parliament.

His photographs showed people lying on the ground, some of them bleeding heavily and one apparently under a bus.

Witness reports suggested the assailant and the stabbed policeman were the people seen lying on the ground just outside the parliamentary building by Reuters reporters.

The House of Commons, which was in session at the time, was immediately suspended and lawmakers were asked to stay inside.

Prime Minister Theresa May was safe after the incident, a spokesman for her office said. He declined to say where May was when the attack took place.

Journalist Quentin Letts of the Daily Mail newspaper told LBC radio that he had witnessed the stabbing of the policeman and the shooting of the assailant from his office in the parliament building.

"He (the assailant) ran in through the open gates ... He set about one of the policemen with what looked like a stick," Letts said. 
Letts, said he saw a man in black attack a police officer outside Parliament before being shot two or three times as he tried to storm into the House of Commons, the Press Association reports.

"The policeman (Keith Palmer) fell over on the ground and it was quite horrible to watch and then having done that, he disengaged and ran towards the House of Commons entrance used by MPs (members of parliament) and got about 20 yards or so when two plain-clothed guys with guns shot him." 
He added: “As this attacker was running towards the entrance two plain clothed guys with guns shouted at him, what appeared like a warning, he ignored it and they shot him two or three times and he fell.” 

Reuters’ reporters inside parliament saw a large number of armed police, some carrying shields, pouring into the building.

In Edinburgh, the Scottish parliament suspended a planned debate and vote on independence as news of events in London came in.

Britain is on its second-highest alert level of "severe" meaning an attack by militants is considered highly likely.

The identity of the suspected Islamist militant has not been released by the London Police for reasons best known. It is rather stupid on part of the authorities to suppress the identity merely because of suspected ISIS links. Suppression of essential information leads to speculative reporting. The attacker was briefly identified by Channel 4 News as a prominent British-born Islamist extremist but the broadcaster later reversed its report after other journalists disputed it on Twitter. BBC Pakistan correspondent Secunder Kernani said a “reliable source” told him that the man Channel 4 named was in jail.

The Islamist link was apparent from the choice of weapons, namely using a vehicle to plough into a crowd as in Nice and Berlin and a knife for stabbing which has been used in the past by Islamist terrorists in Israel and elsewhere. The ISIS link is further reinforced by the choice of the target, namely, the heart of democracy, the British Parliament and a street with a lot of pedestrians. ISIS, the Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Toiba choose high value targets and public places frequented by a lot of people at any given point of time.

The police again had no business to refer to the attack as a "Lone Wolf Attack" or that only a lone attacker was involved in the absence of detailed investigations.

In May 2013, two British Islamists stabbed to death soldier Lee Rigby on a street in southeast London.

In July 2005, four British Islamists killed 52 commuters and themselves in suicide bombings on the British capital's transport system in what was London's worst peacetime attack.

Update: The identity of the assailant was released by the authorities. The name of the assailant is Khalid Masood, 52 from West Midlands who had a  criminal record but was not considered as a terror threat. According to sources, the terrorist was killed by the protection officers of Defence Secretary Michael Fallon.

Update 25th March: According to security officials, the terrorist Khalid Masood was not a “lone wolf” and others had played a key part in indoctrinating him and helping him to carry out the deadly attacks in Westminster on 22nd March.

The disclosure that the British-born Muslim convert was likely to have been part of a wider conspiracy came as armed police detained 11 people in raids across the country with two of the arrests, including that of a woman, Rohey Hydara, a Gambian woman with whom he was living, described as “significant” in the investigation.