Agent Used Ferry Service To Photograph VesselsMumbai: An alleged Pakistani secret service agent, Qamar Shafi Afghani, who was held last week in Mumbai, had carried out a recce around the coast off the Gateway of India and clicked 52 photographs of naval vessels stationed off the local base, investigators said on Tuesday.
Afghani (29)—who was arrested by the state’s anti-terrorism squad (ATS) and booked under the Official Secrets Act—had used the ferry service near the Gateway while on the mission.
Investigations have revealed that Afghani along with other material had sent copies of magazines including Sainik Samachar and Forbes to Pakistan. “He was asked to send copies of Force, a defence newsmagazine, but by mistake he sent Forbes,’’ said an officer.
Interestingly, the clarity of the photographs of the ships clicked by Afghani has stumped the police, who suspect the involvement of more people in providing some form of technical back-up. Afghani is likely to be subjected to a narco analysis test this week.
Afghani, who was employed as a zari worker in the city, was arrested on a tip-off from the Intelligence Bureau (IB) which had been keeping tabs on his activities since his return from Pakistan in February last year. Afghani had gone back to Pakistan in February this year. IB officials were surprised when they spotted him clicking photographs of ships, sources said.
In February last year, Afghani had visited Pakistan on the pretext of watching the India-Pakistan cricket matches; he had mentioned in a visa application that one of his uncles lived in Karachi. “Pakistani secret service agents had assigned him the job of recruiting youths who could work for them and collect intelligence on defence bases. He was trained for a month during his second visit,’’ said ATS chief K P Raghuvanshi.
“Afghani would roam around CST and the Dock area to get in touch with some retired officers so that he could befriend someone and get information about naval ships. However, his attempts went in vain,’’ stated an officer.
The police have seized eight SIM cards, a CD, ration card and five credit cards of international banks from Afghani. His passport has also been seized. Afghani had withdrawn Rs 2 lakh using the credit cards in the last one and half years. The police are also in touch with the Foreign Exchange Management Authority (FEMA) to verify if any rules were violated while using the foreign credit cards.
Afghani, who has six siblings including five sisters, suffered severe losses a few years ago while running his own zari unit at Govandi. Later, he began working on a monthly salary of Rs 2,500 at a zari unit and also enrolled for a course in computer hardware at a local institute. “He learnt to operate the internet and would e-mail information to his mentors. He was asked to get intelligence about the Western Naval Command in Mumbai since it’s the biggest in the country. His bosses wanted to get detailed information of ships and the naval base. Also, it is easier to click photographs here by travelling on boat which is not possible in other naval areas,’’ sources said.
However, ATS sources said it is unlikely that Afghani may have been of much use to his ISI handlers. He is believed to have repeatedly demanded money from them though.
Meanwhile, sleuths of the Anti-Narcotics Cell (Mumbai) have arrested Afghani’s brother-in-law, Rizwan, in connection with a drug case and seized one kg charas from him. Rizwan is being questioned if he had any information on Afghani’s activities.
The Times of India, October 17, 2007