IB explains to govt about CBI hurdle to counter-terror operations
Sources said the role of the IB team in Gujarat in the Ishrat case stopped at collecting, processing and sharing of inputs.
NEW DELHI: With the possibility of their senior officer Rajinder Kumar being prosecuted by the CBI in the Ishrat Jehan “fake encounter” case growing by the day, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) has cautioned the government that the yardstick being applied by the CBI to fix the official’s culpability can imperil counter-terror operations in future.
Sources said that top IB officials have bluntly told the home ministry that the CBI’s approach towards Kumar and four other IB officers does not take into account either the nature of their job or the operational requirements of the shadowy war against terrorism.
They assert that the role of Kumar was limited to passing on the intelligence inputs about aLashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) module that was on the prowl, and IB officials from now would be wary of associating themselves with counter-terror operations if he were to be prosecuted for murder when he was only doing his duty.” We have conveyed our view to the home minister and the home secretary as candidly as we could,” said a senior official.
“This is an asymmetric war waged against an enemy who does not play by the rules. Government has to appreciate that no counter-terror operation can succeed if the officials were made to follow the rules which are applicable in the case of common criminals,” said sources that the role of the IB team in Gujarat in the Ishrat case stopped at collecting, processing and sharing of inputs.
“They did not do anything different from what was done in the Batla House case or the Ansal Plaza case, which pertained to passing on the intelligence inputs on terror plots,” said the official, stressing that the IB cannot be held responsible for what the Gujarat Police personnel might have made out of the inputs passed on to them.
While distancing the agency from the alleged fake encounter, he claimed that the intelligence gathering in the case had the makings of a successful counter-terror operation and would have been appreciated had it not been for alleged extra-judicial killings.
Giving details of the case, he said, the IB worked on the breakthrough made by Gujarat Police’s Crime Branch when the latter managed to zero in on two Indian youth who had returned to India after training in a LeT camp in Pakistan. Identified as C1 and C2 in CBI’s chargesheet, the duo disclosed, IB sources claimed, to the Crime Branch about LeT commander Muzammil’s plan to target five senior Sangh Parivar leaders in mid-May, 2004.
Interestingly, the plan had been made on the assumption that the BJP was going to win the election and that there would be a huge victory rally in Ahmedabad around May 15 when Lalaji (LeT’s code name for L K Advani) and Mubarak ( Narendra Modi) would be present, perhaps because Advani, who represents Gandhi Nagar in Lok Sabha, would be on a thanksgiving visit.
The Crime Branch shared the information with the IB and they together managed to get CI and C2 to agree to lure a LeT sleeper cell to Gujarat.
On his part, Muzammil did not abort the plot despite noting that the BJP had “failed” at the hustings, and dispatched a Pakistani LeT operative, Zeeshan Zohar, to Gujarat. Zeeshan, one of the two Pakistanis killed in the alleged encounter, was taken by CI and C2 to an accommodation which the IB and the Gujarat Police were keeping under 24×7 surveillance.
Muzammil also arranged for the delivery of a weapon through another Indian operative of Lashkar who was subsequently killed in an encounter in Uttar Pradesh. The delivery of the weapon occurred near a place of worship in Ahmedabad with the officials of IB and Gujarat Police watching from a distance. They did not intervene because they wanted to catch the entire module, though they took the precaution of ensuring that the weapons remained in the possession of C1 and C2. “This was because we were not sure what the Pakistani would have done with the weapons”.
Shortly afterwards, Amzad Ali Rana, another Pakistani who was killed in the “fake” encounter also arrived. Rana who was earlier active in J&K and had even suffered a bullet wound for which he was treated here, found something amiss about the accommodation that CI and C2 had arranged, and insisted on moving out with Zeeshan.
C1 and C2 promptly passed on the information to Gujarat Crime Branch who took the Pakistani duo to a farm to be kept in illegal confinement. Rana and Zeeshan were made to have “controlled conversation” — pistols pointing at their head — with Muzzamil where they were told, as coached by Crime Branch officers, by the LeT commander that one more Lashkar operative would be needed.
The LeT agent who was to set out to join them was Javed Sheikh. According to sources, the IB team and Crime Branch officials had already homed in on Javed, — helped by the conversation he had with Muzamill on the terrorist leader’s satellite phone from Ernakulum — they did not interrupt him until he reached Gujarat to meet Zohar and Rana. “The idea in such operations is always is to nab the entire module,” explained IB sources.
Javed, however, didn’t come alone. Accompanying her on that trip was Ishrat, a teenager from Mumbra in Mumbai, who was killed along with others in the encounter which, according to CBI, was “fake”. ” We don’t know whether she was also a Laskhar fidayeen as another Lashkar commander Zaki-ur Rahman Lakhvi claimed to US jehadi and 26/11 plotter David Headley. May be she just happened to be at the wrong place at a wrong time. But whatever happened to her can be pinned on Rajinder Kumar only at the cost of setting a precedent which would deter the IB from using covert tricks without which you cannot win against the terrorist,” said IB officers