Pakistan spying case: Aide of Samajwadi Party MP arrested Fadnavis hints at city police failure in Sheena case
Parliamentarian sacks associate, who is fourth person to be arrested so far
The aide of a Samajwadi Party parliamentarian was arrested in an espionage ring involving a Pakistan high commission staff, police said on Saturday, the fourth person to be held in a case that has sparked a fresh spat between New Delhi and Islamabad.
Police said the politician’s personal assistant — identified only by his first name Farhat — was arrested on Friday night on the basis of information provided by Mehmood Akhtar, who was on deputation at the trade section of the Pakistan high commission.
Investigators probing the case said Akhtar was working for his country’s spy agency, the InterServices Intelligence (ISI).
The busting of the racket has spiked tensions between the neighbours, who have been trading charges and artillery shells along the border since the militant attack on an Indian army camp at Uri in Jammu and Kashmir left 19 soldiers dead.
Islamabad retaliated to the action against Akhtar by expelling an official of the Indian embassy in Islamabad, saying Surjeet Singh’s activities were against diplomatic norms. New Delhi has rejected Pakistan’s accusations.
Rajya Sabha MP Munawwar Saleem said he has sacked Farhat, who was remanded in police custody for ten days by a Delhi court.
“I will cooperate with the investigating agencies. If he is guilty he should be punished,” said Salim, an MP from UP.
Sources said Farhat was selling information to the ISI for the past 10 years. He is said to have been was associated with political leaders since 1996 and served as personal assistant for four MPs since then.
“His job was to photocopy documents of national interest, Farhat (centre), PA of Munawwar Saleem, was detained on Friday. standing orders, strategy papers or pages from the ‘confidential’ files, and sell them to the ISI. For the job, he used to get amounts between Rs 10,000 and Rs 4 lakh, depending on the sensitivity of the document,” a police source said.
Sources said Akhtar has named four other people, all of them ISI agents and posted at the embassy, as members of the spy ring. Police said Akhtar is a noncommissioned officer in the ISI and is part of a core team tasked with gathering security-related documents from India.
Police had detained Akhtar on Wednesday and arrested two Indian citizens at the Delhi zoo where they had met, allegedly to exchange defense-related documents. A third Indian was arrested on Thursday from Jodhpur.
Just days after it was revealed that former Mumbai police commissioner Rakesh Maria was called in by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for questioning in the Sheena Bora murder case, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis — also the state’s home minister — indicated that he was not convinced with the way the probe had been conducted by the Mumbai police in the case.
As the city police commissioner, Maria was supervising the investigation in the case last year, when he was promoted and thus transferred even before his tenure ended.
“It is strange that Peter Mukherjea’s role could not be established earlier [in the Mumbai police probe],” said Fadnavis on Saturday, while interacting with some reporters, at his official residence, Varsha. He added that soon after the CBI took over the probe, Mukherjea’s role came under scanner and he was arrested.
“Mumbai police are not incompetent,” said Fadnavis, without elaborating further. Maria’s ouster as city’s police commissioner had put the Fadnavis-led home department on the back foot.
After a delay of nearly three months, the dates for the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) and Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) examinations were announced on Saturday by the Maharashtra state board.
The SSC exam (Class 10) will begin a week later than usual, on March 7, 2017, as the board doesn’t want it to clash with elections in certain parts of Maharashtra and conclude on March 25. Usually, the examstartsfromMarch1.TheHSC exam(Class12)willbeheldbetween February28andMarch27nextyear.
Around 14 lakh to 17 lakh students appear for both the exams every year. Mumbai division, including Thane, Palghar and Raigad, accounts for more than three lakh students. The board has been announcing the exam timetable in July for the past three to four years, so that students get sufficient time to plan their studies. However, this year, it was delayed as the board was consulting the state election commission before fixing the dates, so that the exams don’t coincide with the polls.