November 2000 News

Pakistani convicts offered road to freedom through Kashmir

11 November 2000
The Hindustan Times
Saurabh Shukla

New Delhi: THEY WERE jailed Pakistani murderers till yesterday. But now they''ve got a new lease of life. At India''s expense. In a scenario straight out of Hollywood blockbuster The Dirty Dozen, convicts from across the border are being offered ''official'' contracts to become militants in Kashmir. Based on reports, tip-offs and wireless intercepts, Indian intelligence had suspected that the ISI and Pakistani Army had been running such an operation for quite some time now. In fact, sources said they had estimated the number of ''criminal-militants'' currently operating in the Valley at 500. But now, with the recent capture of Nadeem Hussein, one such criminal-militant, India has confirmed its apprehensions and also got details of how the whole thing works. Hussein, a resident of Rawalpindi, was serving a 14-year sentence in Lahore jail for murder. He told the Indian interrogators that ISI officials approached him with a job-offer that came with a freedom tag. He was offered Rs 2.50 lakh for a two-year stint in Kashmir and the assignment entailed, you guessed it, shooting, bombing, arson and whatever else a militant is expected to do. There was also a chance to earn some extra bonus. He was told that he would get anything between Rs 5,000 and Rs 50,000 for every officer of the Indian Army and the paramilitary forces he killed. If he died on ''duty'', a Rs 5 lakh compensation package awaited his family. And if he lived to complete the contract term, he would be a free man when he returned home - the sentence would be suspended. A dream offer for anyone facing the prospect of having nothing to do but stare at prison walls for 14 long years. Hussein reportedly told his captors he grabbed the offer. The fact that Hussein was good with guns pleased his recruiters immensely and the deal was clinched. After a week''s training in Kotli in Pakistan occupied Kashmir, the Pak Army helped him to sneak into India. Such offers are being made, and accepted, by other jailbirds as well. Such as ex-servicemen, who make for ideal recruits. Intelligence sources say they are favoured because of their expertise in handling arms and explosives. Some of them can even handle Stinger missiles. Once they cross the border and begin work, they are not entirely on their own. A very close watch is kept on them and instructions pour over the wireless given to them by their handlers, who never seem short of cash. Intelligence agencies recently intercepted a message in which a criminal-militant holed up in the mountains was getting a dressing down for not having done anything over the last eight days. ''He was told his family in Pakistan would suffer if he did not deliver,'' said the source. However, the wireless isn''t all that bad, for it is a source of comfort for them. They get in touch with their families through them.


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