Counterterror swoops: Dozens of spy collaborators in custody, says official

Published: May 18, 2015
Suspects detained in raids in Balochistan, FATA, Karachi. PHOTO: AFP

Suspects detained in raids in Balochistan, FATA, Karachi. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: Some 140 out of nearly 30,000 suspects rounded up in nationwide swoops under the new counterterrorism plan have been “aiding and facilitating hostile foreign spy agencies”, a senior official at the interior ministry said on Sunday.

“These suspected spies had been caught during raids in Balochistan, tribal regions and Karachi,” the official, who is responsible for monitoring progress on the National Action Plan (NAP), told The Express Tribune. The official, however, did not wish to be named in the report due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Giving a breakdown, the official said the civilian enforcement agencies, aided by the country’s intelligence agencies, have rounded up 29,612 suspects – including 16,813 from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 5,720 from Sindh, 2,650 from Punjab, 3,466 from Balochistan, 747 from Islamabad, 9 from Azad Kashmir, 28 from Gilgit-Baltistan and 179 from the tribal regions.

The arrests were made on the basis
of 742 reports gathered by the intelligence agencies from all the provinces, the official added.

The revelation came two days after army chief General Raheel Sharif urged the country’s intelligence agencies during his visit to the ISI headquarters to counter the moves of “hostile agencies that are trying to destabilise Pakistan”. It also coincided with Defence Minister Khawaja Asif’s statement that “India is supporting terrorism in Pakistan”.

Earlier this month, Pakistan’s top military commanders had also blamed India’s top military spy agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), for fuelling terrorism in Pakistan via Afghanistan. Subsequently, the issue was taken up with Afghan officials by Pakistan’s civil and military leadership during a recent daylong trip.

On Sunday, Defence Minister Asif said that India was stoking terrorism in Pakistan – but Islamabad wanted good friendly relations with all its neighbours, including New Delhi.

He was speaking at a public meeting in the Kingra village of Sialkot district. “Pakistan is well aware of the situation and is committed to weeding out terrorism from its soil,” he said, adding that the country’s armed forces had been playing an excellent role in rooting out militancy, insurgency and terrorism from the country.

A senior cabinet minister told The Express Tribune that the government is considering a two-pronged strategy to tackle the alleged activities of ‘hostile agencies’ in Pakistan: 1) revamping the country’s intelligence operating system, and 2) mounting a diplomatic offensive at the international level.

“RAW’s involvement in Pakistan’s affairs is more of a warning for us. We also have a plan of advancing laws to close down all ‘undesirable’ operations of foreign organisations by revamping our intelligence operating system,” the minister said.

Currently, the prime minister is conferring with his senior cabinet ministers on how to engage friendly countries to take the issue at international front, particularly the UN Security Council. The Foreign Office has been directed to engage friendly countries like China for putting diplomatic pressure on the countries whose agencies are allegedly stoking unrest in Pakistan, the minister said.

The role of the Military Intelligence and the Intelligence Bureau will also come under discussion at the meeting, he added.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan is scheduled to visit Karachi this week where Karachi Corps Commander Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar, DG Rangers Maj Gen Bilal Akbar and the provincial home department will brief him on the ongoing surgical operation in the city, another interior ministry official said.

Security analyst Lt Gen (retd) Talat Masood, however, questioned why the country’s top military intelligence agency had been unable to stop RAW’s infiltration in the country. “How is infiltration taking place?” he said while speaking to The Express Tribune.

“Since the role of foreign agencies has been detected, the militants appear to have changed their strategy,” Masood said. “There is a very tricky situation and one should remember that the military operation is one part of the solution to this troublesome situation either in the port city or in Balochistan.”

Published in The Express Tribune, May 18th, 2015.