NEW DELHI: Months before Ishrat Jahan and three other Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) operatives were killed in an alleged fake encounter in Gujarat on June 15, 2004, Indian intellience agents were listening to their chatter with their handlers in Pakistan.
This fine example of spy craft was overshadowed by the UPA’s political witchhunt. This was followed by the Ministry of Home Affairs’ surreptitious move to change an affidavit to allegedly ‘fix’ the political opponent. G K Pillai, who was home secretary when changes in the affidavit were made, has confirmed that it was done at the political level.
The Sunday Standard dug up the calls recorded by intelligence agencies, which were shared with the UPA government. Among the tapes is a conversation between an LeT handler in Pakistan and its asset in India.
Indian intellience agents were listening to Ishrat Jahan and three other LeT operatives chatter with their handlers in Pakistan. Among the tapes is a conversation between an LeT handler in Pakistan and his India asset, discussing the arrival of a terror operative in Ahmedabad.
LeT handler: He has reached there. I have told him about you but he doesn’t know the area.
Module in India: Did you give him my number?
LeT handler: Yes, I gave him. I have asked him to get down at Ahmedabad. He will introduce himself as Abdul Gani.
Module: Abdul Gani. Ok.
Assuming a false identity is not new for terrorists. In the Ishrat case, Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh Pillai and Ishrat Jahan had checked into Mezbaan International Hotel in Lucknow in May 2004 as Abdul Rehman and his wife Ayesha. Another LeT operative, Amjad Ali, had introduced himself as Rajkumar. All three spent at least 12 days in Uttar Pradesh. Javed rented an accommodation in Pune as Sayeed Abdul Wahid. On May 26, 2014 Javed and Ishrat had checked in Hotel Ajanta as Rajesh Kumar and Geeta.
Chatters reveal that the LeT handler arranged a SIM card and phone for Abdul Gani and tasked him to lie low for couple of days. The LeT cell that was helping the operative was asked to carry out tasks after confirming with the handler.
Pillai’s claim in the Ishrat encounter case may change the entire course of investigation as a cornered UPA is finding hard to defend filing a censored affidavit when P Chidambaram was Union Home Minister. Pillai also said the operation was an example of excellent intelligence coordination in which the IB had enticed and trapped the terrorists, and then targeted them. He said that the spy agency used a source who LeT thought was theirs.
Pillai also confirmed a story that appeared in June 2013 in this newspaper that the intelligence operative’s morale had come down after the UPA exposed agents’ cover and gave sanction to prosecute them. The Sunday Standard had reported that angry intelligence officials had snapped the communication channel with security agencies for a day, bringing the process of dissemination of top secret actionable intelligence to grinding halt.
Pillai, was Union home secretary from July 1, 2009 to June 29, 2011, when the two contradicting affidavits (August 2009 and September 2009) were filed by the UPA government. Later, 26/11 accused David Headley told NIA officials in 2010 that Ishrat was recruited by LeT terrorist Muzammil, but that portion was removed from the agency’s interrogation report.