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

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - Ananya Bhard­waj let­ters@hin­dus­tan­ Ke­taki Ghoge ke­taki.ghoge@hin­dus­tan­ HT Cor­re­spon­dent ht­metro@hin­dus­tan­

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.

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