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Sindbad, The Spy

Really? Now, that depends on which side of the Indus you live.

Sindbad, The Spy
Tribhuvan Tiwari
Sindbad, The Spy
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+0553
Claims, Counterclaims
  • Pakistan has provided five bulky folders detailing evidence of India's role in fomenting unrest in Pakistan
  • Listed names of those publishing anti-Pak pieces in their newspapers, websites-with Indian protection
  • Indian high commissioner in Kabul accused of paying money to Balochis; Indian consulates in Afghanistan, Iran fanning the Balochi militant movement
  • India has provided the name of a Pak visitor gone missing: Sattar Khan of Lahore is a Samjhauta blast suspect
  • India's Most Wanted list swells to 41

***

The man in the photograph accompanying this story is Dr Ghansham Das G. Hotumalani. He took his basic degree in medicine in Larkana, a place he repeatedly describes as being in "Pakistan-occupied Sindh". It is, he adds helpfully, "on the right bank of the Indus river, 40 km from Mohenjodaro". The Pakistanis cited Ghansham as an example of how India shelters those who are either agents or have links with Indian agencies responsible for stoking unrest in Sindh and Balochistan.

When the Indo-Pak joint terror mechanism met for the first time in Islamabad on March 6-7, Pakistan handed over a thick set of five folders, lavishly detailing, from its perspective, proof of New Delhi's interference in that country. Ghansham's name figures in the first folder. For, he publishes a bilingual (English and Sindhi monthly) called Sindhyun Jo Sansar (The World of Sindhis). Also because on September 11, 2006, he marched from Delhi's Jantar Mantar to the Pakistan High Commission and handed over a memorandum of protest to a Pakistani official "concerning gruesome murder of Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti and kidnapping of hundreds Sindhi and Baloch nationalist leaders by ISI" (sic). He did this in his capacity of chief coordinator, Sindh and Balochistan Society, New Delhi. Around the same time, coincidentally, the Indian ministry of external affairs condemned the Bugti murder, declaring, "The unfortunate killing...is a tragic loss to the people of Balochistan and Pakistan.... Military force can never solve political problems". No prizes for guessing why Islamabad thinks Ghansham is an agent fomenting trouble in Pakistan.

The curiosity of meeting an 'agent', and understanding the threat he poses to Pakistan, prompted Outlook to contact Dr Ghansham. He readily agreed to meet in his first-floor office in Nehru Nagar, a cramped colony adjoining the Ashram flyover in Delhi. The front room is sparsely furnished: three sofas, not even upholstered; a yellow cloth banner on a wall declares, in red letters, Indus Valley Research Institute (Regd) New Delhi. Below it the word: Welcomes. On another wall is the cardboard map of Pakistan's Sindh province; its edges are frayed, at places broken—the A of the Arabian Sea has disappeared. A Vidya Chitra Prakashan political map and road guide of India dominates the third wall. In the corner of the room floor, carpeted in grey colour, sits an empty 350-ml bottle of Royal Challenge whisky.

Is this the man who is a threat to Pakistan? Could he be the agent on the payrolls of intelligence agencies, earning a living through shadowy activities in the neighbouring country? Dr Ghansham smiles and says, "Unfortunately, I am a good doctor, though my first love is politics." His clinic is downstairs; he charges Rs 50 a consultation. It took him 10 long years to obtain an MBBS degree. Not that he was poor at studies—his activities in the Sindh secessionist movement compelled him to go underground between 1978-82; thereafter he was put in the cooler for the next six years. Then military intelligence picked him up and declared him "missing" for seven months.

It was in February 1994 that Ghansham, armed with an MBBS degree and a valid Indian visa, winged his way to India. From the airport, he went straight to Delhi's Nehru Nagar colony where his relatives lived. His wife and four daughters followed him later. From his adopted country, a year later, Ghansham began publishing Sindhyun Jo Sansar, a monthly. Assisting him financially in this endeavour are a few friends and well-wishers in Europe—and elsewhere in the West.

It isn't a mass-circulating magazine; he prints only a thousand copies. It's a one-man show. Ghansham trawls the internet for articles already published in the Pakistani press. He particularly favours those critical of the Pakistani establishment—or espousing the Sindhi cause. (Every December the magazine cover prints the famous picture of the Pakistani surrender after the Bangladesh war in December '71.) Authors are not paid, they and their publications are merely credited. A 100 copies are mailed to Pakistan as well. Most of these, he explains, are confiscated on arrival.

So, how's Ghansham a threat if the articles in his magazine are the ones that have already appeared in the Pakistani media? Perhaps it's because of the website (www.sindhyunjosansar.com) he has been running for the last three years. When Outlook visited it on March 14, the website announced we were visitor number 4,925. In other words, on an average a little less than 4.5 visitors visit the site a day. Positioning itself as the "first Sindhi online news magazine", the bulk of the website is still under construction and most of its content consequently remain inaccessible. It belies Islamabad's claims of Ghansham and his magazine or the website posing a threat to Pakistan.

Perhaps this perception is based on the value Pakistan erroneously attaches to Dr Ghansham. He narrates a delightful story dating back to 1997 or 1998, when he was legally still a Pakistani citizen—he doesn't remember the exact time. (He was given an Indian passport in 2001). Then he received a call from one Khoso in the Pakistan high commission in Delhi who wanted to meet him. At nearby Wimpy's restaurant, Khoso and another Pakistani tried to recruit him as an agent. Dr Ghansham laughs and adds, "Khoso was declared a persona non grata and sent out of India."

Ghansham apart, the folders handed over to Indian officials attending the joint terror mechanism include names of announcers of external services of the All India Radio. Pakistani sources describe as "clinching" the evidence about India's anti-Pakistan activities through the various Indian consulates in Afghanistan and one in Iran (Zahedan). There's even an accusation, say sources, against the Indian ambassador in Kabul handing over money to the Bugti clan. Similar charges have been levelled against other Indian mission staffers.

Both sides have maintained a judicious silence on the details of the charges. New Delhi realises that to pooh-pooh the voluminously documented claims of Pakistan would automatically unravel the much-touted anti-terror mechanism. New Delhi's challenge is to keep alive the mechanism and yet effectively dismiss the Pakistani charges. A challenging task indeed, considering that Pakistanis, from President Pervez Musharraf downwards, have been claiming to possess telling evidence about India's activities in Pakistan.

 

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