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India & the Struggle for Tamil Eelam

Pakistan Intelligence Base in Colombo

B.Raman in SAAG, June 2004
Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Distinguished Fellow and Convenor, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Chennai Chapter.

 "Now that the Sri Lankan Government seems to have confronted India with a fait accompli by agreeing to the appointment of a die-hard anti- Indian sponsor of terrorism  against India  (Col. Wali) as the head of the Pakistani diplomatic mission in Colombo, India has to carefully analyse the implications of his presence in Colombo and take the necessary follow-up action. His presence in Colombo will pose a threat not only to India's national security, but also to stability and law and order in Sri Lanka's Eastern Province."

[see also the View from China:  Xinhua Report in Chinese People's Daily Online, 15 August 2006 "Indian government strongly condemned terrorist violence in Sri Lanka and hoped it will not be repeated, said the spokesman of Indian Ministry of External Affairs on Monday 14 August 2006. "The Government of India has all along strongly condemned all incidents of terrorist violence and this incident is no exception. We deplore the targeting of a diplomatic convoy by terrorist elements and we hope that such terrorist incidents and attacks would not be repeated," said Navtej Sarna, spokesman of Indian Ministry of External Affairs. A blast took place in Colombo, Sri Lankan capital, on Monday, killing seven people, and was said to aim at Pakistani high commissioner Bashir Wali Mohammed. He narrowly escaped unhurt.]

Part I (12-06-2004)

For its intelligence-collection and covert action operations directed against India, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) uses four external bases - Kathmandu, Dubai, Bangkok and Colombo.

2. While Kathmandu and Dubai are used by the ISI for intelligence collection as well as covert actions, Bangkok is used as an alternate sanctuary and as a clandestine meeting place to brief and debrief its agents in India. After the Mumbai blasts of March,1993, the ISI had the perpetrators of the terrorist attack shifted to Bangkok from Karachi and kept them there for some time in different hotels in order to prevent the detection of their links with the ISI by the US diplomatic missions in Pakistan, which were enquiring into Indian allegations in this regard.

3.Past evidence indicated that the main interest of the ISI in using Colombo as a base was to collect intelligence about developments in sensitive Indian nuclear and missile establishments, many of which are located in South India, particularly in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

4. For collecting intelligence about these establishments, the ISI generally uses Sri Lankan Tamil-speaking Muslims visiting India as well as South Indians visiting Colombo. Colombo also serves as a convenient transit point for arranging clandestine visits of Indians co-operating with the ISI to Karachi by the flights of the Pakistan International Airlines without any entry of their visits in their passports.

5. There has been no evidence so far of the ISI using Colombo as a base for covert actions directed against India. However, the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) has been showing increasing interest in taking jihad to the Muslims of the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka. There have been persistent reports of the beginning of a radicalisation of small sections of the Tamil-speaking Muslim youth of the Eastern Province. During the riots in the Eastern Province in the middle of 2002, pamphlets in the name of a so-called Osama Brigade came to notice. The Chennai media had reported subsequently that some members of an organisation called the Muslim Defence Force (MDF) arrested by the Chennai Police had been in touch with one Abu Hamza of the LET based in the Gulf and that they were to meet him clandestinely in Sri Lanka. However, the meeting did not materialise as Abu Hamza did not come.

6. The LET is very close to the ISI and it would not have taken its initial moves to explore the possibility of using Sri Lanka as a clandestine base for its activties and for creating sleeper cells there without the knowledge and prior clearance of the ISI.

7. The recent investigations into the clandestine nuclear proliferation activities of A.Q.Khan, the so-called father of the Pakistan atom bomb, have revealed that Bukhary Seyed Abu Tahir, a Sri Lankan Tamil Muslim of Indian origin, married in Malysia and with business interests in Kuala Lumpur and Dubai, was one of the external kingpins of Pakistan's clandestine nuclear procurement network. In a speech at the National Defence University of Washington DC in February last, President Bush had described this Sri Lankan Tamil-speaking Muslim as the "chief financial officer and money-launderer" of A.Q.Khan's clandestine operations.

8.In the past, the ISI had posted its officers in junior and middle level clerical posts as well as in diplomatic posts in the Pakistani High Commission in Colombo.While it had never posted its officers as the head of the Pakistani diplomatic mission, Hussain Haqqani, a journalist who was then allegedly close to the ISI, was posted as the Pakistani High Commissioner to Sri Lanka during the first tenure of Nawaz Sharif as the Prime Minister (1990-93).

9. The "Jang", the Urdu daily of Pakistan, has now reported that the Pervez Musharraf regime has decided to post Col (retd) Bashir Wali, former Director of the Pakistani Intelligence Bureau (IB), as the new High Commissioner to Sri Lanka. It is not clear at what stage is the proposal. Has his name been already sent to the Sri Lankan Government for agrement? If so, has the Sri Lankan Government given its consent?

10. The IB is part of Pakistan's Ministry of the Interior. Like its Indian counterpart, it used to be a largely Police organisation, but since the days of the late Gen.Zia-ul-Haq, there has been a gradual militarisation of the organisation. Musharraf has made it for all practical purposes a wing of the ISI, with Lt.Gen.Ehsan-ul-Haq, the Director-General of the ISI, exercising powers of supervision and co-ordination over it.

11. It was reported in the Pakistani media last year that Musharraf had tried to send Brig. (retd) Ejaz Shah, who used to handle Omar Sheikh, the accused in the kidnapping and murder case of Daniel Pearl, the US journalist,in the ISI as the Pakistani High Commissioner to Australia, but the Australian Government did not reportedly give its agrement. He then tried to send him as Ambassador to Indonesia, which also did not give its agrement. It has recently been reported that he has since been posted to the IB to supervise operations relating to India.

12. If the "Jang" report is correct, the posting of a former Director of the IB to Colombo as High Commissioner could have serious implications for India's national security. The Government of India should immediately express its concerns to the Sri Lankan Government and oppose his being based in Colombo.

Part II (18-6-2004)

"The Island", a daily of Sri Lanka, has reported as follows on June 17,2004: "Pakistan with the concurrence of Sri Lanka has appointed Colonel (retd) Bashir Wali as Islamabad's top envoy here, Sri Lankan and Pakistan High Commission officials said. "He is expected to take over the mission before end of this month," an official said."We don't see any reason to disagree with Pakistan's choice," the official said, dismissing concerns over the planned appointment among a section of political analysts in India."

2. For Col. Wali, this would be the second posting in the Pakistani High Commission in Colombo. He had earlier served as the head of the Pakistani intelligence set-up in the High Commission in the 1990s and then as an intelligence officer in the Pakistani High Commission in London.

3. It was during his previous stay in Colombo that Al Ummah, the terrorist organisation of Tamil Nadu, expanded its activities in Tamil Nadu and Kerala and , during his stay in London, the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) set up secret cells in the UK to recruit volunteers for its jihadi terrorist operations from amongst the members of the Muslim community in the UK. This ultimately led to a ban on the LET by the British Government.

4. It is reported that Col. Wali was and still is an active member of the Tablighi Jamaat (TJ), which acts as the cover organisation of Pakistani jihadi organisations such as the LET, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) and helps them in their recruitment of cadres not only in Pakistan, but also in other countries of the world. During his earlier stay in Colombo, he had reportedly sent a number of Tamil Muslims from the Eastern Province to Karachi to study in the Binori madrasa on scholarships provided by the TJ. Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai of this madrasa, who was considered the mentor and god father of the Taliban, Al Qaeda and the Pakistani jihadi and anti-Shia organisations, was assassinated by unidentified elements in Karachi on May 30,2004.

5. While in Pakistan, Col. Wali used to attend regularly the annual conventions of the LET at Muridke, near Lahore, and was also attached to the Taliban as an adviser for some months in the 1990s. He was considered a protege of Brig (retd).Imtiaz, who headed the political division of the ISI during the tenure of the late Gen.Zia-ul-Haq, and had helped Imtiaz in running the ISI operations for training the terrorists from India's Punjab in Pakistani territory and arming them.

6. When Benazir Bhutto came to power in 1988, she sacked Imtiaz, who was taken by Nawaz, the then Chief Minister of Pakistani Punjab,as his intelligence adviser. After the sacking of Benazir by the then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan in 1990, Nawaz, on taking over as the Prime Minister, appointed Imtiaz as the Director of the IB, a post which has since been upgraded as Director-General. Imtiaz took Wali into the IB and made him responsible for assisting the terrorists in Punjab and J&K. The training of the terrorists from Mumbai, responsible for the blasts of March,1993, was allegedly organisded by him on behalf of the ISI in association with Dawood Ibrahim, the mafia leader, who was designated by the US in October last year as an international terrorist because of his linkages with Al Qaeda and the LET.

7. Before the appointment of Wali as the DG of the IB, the "News", the prestigious daily of Pakistan, wrote on him as follows on December 23, 2002: " Lady luck seems to have been smiling over the head of a career intelligence officer Col (retd) Bashir Wali, who is believed to have delivered half a dozen tribal MNAs to Prime Minster Jamali for government formation, owing to his present posting as the deputy director-general of IB Azad Kashmir and the Northern Areas with offices in Rawalpindi.

8."Col (retd) Wali's intelligence career speaks volumes of controversy as on the one hand he is considered as one of the controversial intelligence officers, who believed In intrigues, while on the other there are many who are very fond of his intelligence 'pursuits' and considered him as an asset for the IB. Amid these allegations and counter-allegations, Col Wali after serving the Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) ultimately landed in the IB with the help of Brig (retd) Imtiaz Billa allegedly in violation of rules and regulations. For quite some time he was made OSD upon change of the first Nawaz Sharif government but as soon as Nawaz Sharif returned to power for the second time, Col Bashir Wali was posted to Sri Lanka over and above the head of the then DG IB Ch Manzoor Ahmed, who never liked him. Later on, he managed his posting to London allegedly by influencing the next DG IB Col (retd) Iqbal Niazi and stayed in London for over three years before the present DG Maj-Gen Tallat Munir brought him back after great efforts.

9."Similarly, Col Wali's promotion in 2001 also remained a questionable issue since his latest ACR was carrying adverse remarks of the former DG IB Maj-Gen Rafiullah Khan Niazi, at present, posted as GOC Log Area, Multan. The most amazing aspect of his promotion was that even the incumbent DG Maj-Gen Tallat Munir, who attended the board meeting that approved Col Wali's promotion, was not aware of this fact. Soon after realising that his promotion has been materialised despite adverse remarks by the former DG IB, Maj Gen Munir raised the issue with the Establishment Division for reversion. The reply is still awaited on the part of the Establishment Division, making the issue more and more complicated. Even Gen Niazi has reportedly raised the same point with the incumbent DG Gen Munir.

10."During Nawaz Sharif's second stint, when Saif-ur-Rehman was playing havoc with the crude intelligence business over the heads of the then two DGs IB, Ch Manzoor and Col (retd) Iqbal Niazi, through Col (retd) Mushtaq Tahir Khaili, the political secretary of the then Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, Col Wali managed to get himself adjusted with Col Tahir Khaili. The naked interference of Col (retd) Mushtaq Tahir Khaili in the IB was so prominent that he even single-handedly managed to obtain orders of the then Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, for the promotions of Col (retd) Bashir Wali and Col (retd) Hikmatullah Khatak without involving the Establishment Division and the administration of the IB. These orders had only been reversed when Ch Manzoor raised the issue with the PM house, which replied that Nawaz Sharif was under strong impression as the orders had reached to him after passing through the traditional channels.

11."Col Wali appears to be an intelligence officer, who is equipped with the skill to survive despite inviting the wrath of the top men of the agency and at the same time managing good postings by keeping goody-goody relations with those who ultimately matter. Neither Ch Manzoor nor Gen Niazi or the incumbent DG Maj-Gen Munir were fans of Col Bashir but he successfully sustained the tenure of all these DGs, which included two serving major-generals.

12."His reported 'liaison' with the Premier (My comments: the present Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali)) goes back to the dates when Jamali was the Minister in (late) Gen Zia's cabinet and Col Wali was serving with an ISI detachment in Peshawar. When Col Wali was posted in London, he reportedly helped Jamali on certain occasions, when Jamali landed in London some two years back for plantation of his elder son's affected liver. This goodwill gesture on the part of Col Wali earned him the appreciation of Jamali." (Citation ends)

13.It is not clear whether the Sri Lankan Foreign Office consulted India before conveying to Islamabad its agrement to the appointment of the former head of the Pakistani Intelligence Bureau (IB) and a former senior official of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), who used to co-ordinate the activities of the Pakistani jihadi terrorist groups in Jammu & Kashmir and other parts of India, as the new Pakistani High Commissioner in Colombo.

14. If it had, India should not have agreed to his being based in Colombo, which would pose a threat to our national security.If it had not, it speaks disturbingly of the insensitivity of the present Government to India's concerns over likely threats to its security. It may be recalled that it was the late Indira Gandhi's unhappiness over the insensitivity of the then Government in Colombo in the early 1980s to New Delhi's concerns over the security implications for India of a proposal of the Voice of America (VOA) to expand its presence in Sri Lanka and another proposal to let out the petrol storage tanks of Trincomallee to a Singapore firm with suspected links to the USA's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) which was one the factors that contributed to her decision to help the Sri Lankan Tamils, whom she viewed then as the natural allies of India, in achieving their aspirations.

15. Now that the Sri Lankan Government seems to have confronted India with a fait accompli by agreeing to the appointment of a die-hard anti- Indian sponsor of terrorism against India as the head of the Pakistani diplomatic mission in Colombo, India has to carefully analyse the implications of his presence in Colombo and take the necessary follow-up action. His presence in Colombo will pose a threat not only to India's national security, but also to stability and law and order in Sri Lanka's Eastern Province.


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