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Friday, July 19, 2024  
12 Muharram 1446  

Indian govt ordered killings in Pakistan, claim intelligence officials

An officer says India drew inspiration from intelligence agencies such as Israel’s Mossad

The Indian government assassinated individuals in Pakistan as part of a wider strategy to eliminate terrorists allegedly living on foreign soil, intelligence operatives from the two nuclear-armed neighbours told the Guardian.

The British newspaper report while quoting interviews with intelligence officials in both countries and documents shared by Pakistani investigators stated how India’s foreign intelligence agency allegedly began to carry out assassinations abroad in view of national security after 2019.

Such claims relate to almost 20 killings since 2020, carried out by unidentified gunmen in Pakistan.

Earlier this year, Pakistan sought action against India for assassinations of nationals on Pakistani soil and claimed that the modus operandi was ‘quite similar’ to that used in Canada and the United States. Islamabad accused Delhi’s intelligence agency Research & Analysis Wing (RAW), directly controlled by the office of India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, of killing Shahid Latif and Muhammad Riaz in 2023.

The recent report weighed in allegations that Modi-led government has implemented a policy of targeting those it considers hostile to India. Last year, Canada and the US accused India of involvement in the murders of dissident figures including a Sikh activist in Canada and of a botched assassination attempt on another Sikh in the US last year.

Pakistani investigators claimed that such deaths were orchestrated by Indian intelligence sleeper-cells mostly operating out of the United Arab Emirates. They are accused of paying millions of rupees to local criminals or poor Pakistanis to carry out the assassinations. Indian agents also allegedly recruited militants to carry out the shootings, making them believe they were killing “infidels”.

According to two Indian intelligence officers, the spy agency’s focus on dissidents abroad was triggered by the Pulwama attack in 2019, when a suicide bomber targeted a military convoy in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, killing 40 paramilitary personnel.

“After Pulwama, the approach changed to target the elements outside the country before they are able to launch an attack or create any disturbance,” one Indian intelligence operative said. “We could not stop the attacks because ultimately their safe havens were in Pakistan, so we had to get to the source.”

To conduct such operations “needed approval from the highest level of government”, he added.

The officer said India had drawn inspiration from intelligence agencies such as Israel’s Mossad and Russia’s KGB, which have been linked to extrajudicial killings on foreign soil.

Senior officials from two separate Pakistani intelligence agencies said they suspected India’s involvement in up to 20 killings since 2020. They pointed to evidence relating to previously undisclosed inquiries into seven of the cases – including witness testimonies, arrest records, financial statements, WhatsApp messages and passports – which investigators say showcase in detail the operations conducted by Indian spies to assassinate targets on Pakistani soil.

Former state minister for foreign affairs Hina Rabbani Khar had also accused RAW of terrorist activities in India. At her press conference, she used the term “chronic terrorism syndrome” for India.

In 2020, Pakistan handed over a dossier on India’s terror campaign to United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and urged him to prevail on New Delhi to desist from its “illegal and aggressive” activities.

Intelligence sources claimed India was involved in suspected deaths of about 15 people, most of whom were shot at close range by unknown gunmen.

It added that millions of rupees were allegedly paid to Afghan nationals to carry out the shooting in Karachi in March 2022. They fled over the border but their handlers were later arrested by Pakistani security agencies.

According to the evidence gathered by Pakistan, the killings were regularly coordinated out of the UAE, where RAW established sleeper cells that would separately arrange different parts of the operation and recruit the killers.

Investigators alleged that millions of rupees would often be paid to criminals or impoverished locals to carry out the murders, with documents claiming that payments were mostly done via Dubai. Meetings of RAW handlers overseeing the killings are also said to have taken also place in Nepal, the Maldives and Mauritius.

“This policy of Indian agents organising killings in Pakistan hasn’t been developed overnight,” said a Pakistani official. “We believe they have worked for around two years to establish these sleeper cells in the UAE who are mostly organising the executions. After that, we began witnessing many killings.”

In September 2023, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told parliament there were “credible allegations” that Indian agents had orchestrated the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a prominent Sikh activist who was gunned down in Vancouver. Weeks later, the US Department of Justice released an indictment vividly detailing how an Indian agent had attempted to recruit a hitman in New York to kill another Sikh activist, later named as Gurpatwant Singh Pannun.

According to one Indian intelligence official, Delhi recently ordered the suspension of targeted killings in Pakistan after Canada and the US went public with their allegations.

Before the US and Canadian cases, a high-profile Khalistani leader, Paramjit Singh Panjwar, was shot dead in Lahore last May.

According to an investigation by the Pakistani agencies, Panjwar’s killer, who was later caught, allegedly thought he was working on the instructions of the Pakistan Taliban affiliate Badri 313 Battalion and had to prove himself by killing an enemy of Islam.

They have claimed the assassin was Muhammad Abdullah, a 20-year-old from Lahore. He allegedly told Pakistani investigators he was promised he would be sent to Afghanistan to fight for IS if he passed the test of killing an “infidel” in Pakistan, with Ahmed presented as the target. Abdullah shot and killed Ahmed during early morning prayers at a mosque in Rawalkot, but was later arrested by Pakistani authorities.

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