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23 May, 2011

Goof-up on terrorism front

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

With multiple threats from domestic and foreign militant outfits, India is at the top of the list of terrorism-affected nations of the world. Reports that cast doubts on the efficiency of its security agencies and the efficacy of its counter-terrorism strategies are, therefore, a source of worry.

In March India had given Pakistan a list of ‘50 most wanted men’ which it claimed were hiding in that country. It included the names of Feroz Abdul Rashid Khan, who was said to be wanted in connection with the Mumbai blasts of 1993, and Khan Wazhul Kamar, said to be wanted in connection with the Mulund train blast of 2003.

When the report was being drawn up Feroz Abdul Rashid Khan was in Mumbai’s Arthur Road prison and Wazhul Kamar was living in Thane after having been arrested and released on bail. When Kamar’s presence in Thane was reported, the Central Bureau of Investigation, the premier investigative agency, sought to lay the blame for the goof at the door of the Maharashtra police, which, it said, had failed to inform it of the arrest of the man, for whom the Interpol had issued a red corner notice.

When Feroz Abdul Rashid Khan’s presence in jail came to light, the CBI was left with no escape route. For, it was the CBI which had arrested and lodged him there. It will be wrong to assume that the mistakes that crept into the list of wanted men are a sign of incompetence. They are more likely the result of lack of effective co-ordination among the many police forces under the state and central governments.

The CBI, which was set up as a special police establishment directly under the Centre with authority to investigate any case referred to it, has a pivotal role in tracking fugitives who flee the country as it is the agency that liaises with Interpol.

The faulty list of wanted persons given to Pakistan was drawn up on the basis of red corner and lookout notices the CBI had sent to Interpol. Every member country of Interpol has an obligation to arrest a person against whom a red corner notice has been issued if he is found in its territory.

About 550 red corner notices issued by the CBI are currently pending. Only a few of them relate to cases it is investigating. Most relate to cases being investigated by various states. When a state government has reason to suspect that a wanted person has left the country, it informs the CBI, which, as the nodal agency, issues a red corner notice or lookout notice to Interpol.

The first to come on the scene when an act of terrorism takes place is the state police. If it is felt necessary to entrust the investigation to a central agency, the CBI or the recently established National Investigation Agency may take over.

Apart from the investigative agencies of the central and state governments, intelligence outfits are also involved in the fight against terrorism. Among them are the Intelligence Bureau, which is under the Home Ministry, and the Research and Analysis Wing, which is under the Prime Minister’s office. The IB is concerned with domestic intelligence and RAW with foreign intelligence.

There have been occasions when central intelligence officials overstepped their authority and intruded into the area of investigation. An IB officer played a dubious role in the sensational espionage case in which two scientists of the Indian Space Research Organisation and two women from the Maldives were among the accused. Even after the Supreme Court upheld the CBI report absolving the accused, he had tried to revive the case.

The Home Ministry has initiated corrective measures in the light of the revelations of the past week. But there is nothing to indicate that the government is ready to review its counter-terrorism strategies which have been criticised for their likely counterproductive results.

In a report, published early this year, Human Rights Watch documented many instances of rights violations committed by state police and other authorities, including arbitrary arrest, torture, and religious discrimination. HRW South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly pointed out that such unlawful responses could alienate the people and allow the real perpetrators of crimes to remain free and pose an ongoing threat to public safety. -- Gulf Today, Sharjah, May 23, 2011.

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