by Iftikhar Gilani
DELHI: While India’s external intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW)’s intercepting a telephonic conversation between former Pakistan Army chief Pervez Musharraf from Beijing and his chief of staff Lt. Gen. Mohammed Aziz during the Kargil crises is well-known, not much is known of a 1991 RAW intercept that led to the release of former union minister Professor Saifuddin Soz’s daughter Naheed (28), who was abducted by terrorists in Srinagar.
RAW sleuths had recorded conversation of the then Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during his Beijing visit, speaking to his information minister Maulana Kausar Niazi, asking him to convey to people concerned that the act of kidnapping was “un-Islamic act and Naheed should be released”.
In a forthcoming book, Kashmir: Glimpses of History and the Story of Struggle accessed exclusively by DNA, former minister and author Prof. Soz mentions that the then Prime Minister Chandrashekhar had confided to him that RAW had intercepted Sharif’s call.
“The PM had told then chief of RAW that he was happy to know that India’s communication system was in good shape and complimented the RAW for having done its duty,” records the book. PM Chandrashekhar had asked the minister of state for home Subodh Kant Sahai not to make any statement related to the kidnapping in the Parliament, till he spoke to Pakistan high commission in India, Abdul Sattar. The PM summoned Sattar to his own office and told him to convey to Sharif, who was in China to ensure Naheed’s release. Next morning, RAW chief came rushing to the PM with transcripts of Sharif’s telephonic conversation with his minister Niazi, who was made points man to seek Naheed’s release.
While making public the famous telephone conversation between General Musharraf and his chief of staff did earn India’s sympathy and exposed Pakistan’s complicity in the Kargil war, many RAW sleuths believe that it led to drying up of such intelligence later. Major General V K Singh, who headed technical division of the RAW said that after the communication was made public, Pakistan closed satellite link between Beijing and Islamabad. “It is impossible to estimate the value of intelligence that would have been obtained, if the link had continued to be used,” he said.
In 994 too, the RAW had picked by conversation between former Pakistan President Farooq Leghari and Interior Minister Naseerullah Babar, who with the help of then DGMO Pervez Musharraf were raising Taliban. One of the key officials involved in the project Col. Imam was later brutally killed in February 2011 by Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
Naheed was abducted by the Jammu & Kashmir Students’ Liberation Front (JKSLF) to seize the leadership of the secessionist movement. Former bureaucrats recall that meeting the kidnappers’ demands by releasing their accomplices would have meant a disturbing replay of the events of celebration by terrorists as was done a year earlier following the release of Rubaiya, daughter of then home minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. What surprised analysts was that groups like the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and the JKLF had condemned Naheed’s abduction and asked for her release. To give a face saver to the terror group, the administration released Mushtaq Ahmed, who the police said was not wanted for any heinous crime. Even JKLF chief Amanullah Khan, who in April 1990 had announced the killing of Kashmir University Vice-Chancellor. Mushir-ul-Haq, this time made an appeal for Naheed’s release.
(Author is Strategic Affairs Editor with DNA. This report appeared first in DNA)