Six days after the UN Security Council proscribed and froze the assets of Pakistani national Arif Qasmani — along with three other Pakistanis charged with providing direct support to the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and Al Qaeda in executing terror attacks including the July 2006 Mumbai serial train blasts — Indian counter-terror agencies are still trying to figure out just who this shadowy figure is.
Qasmani (65), alias Memon Baba of Karachi, according to the Research & Analysis Wing’s former additional secretary Bahukutumbi Raman, was a man for all seasons and switched sides effortlessly in his jihadi past.
Raman described him as a “double agent” who worked for the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) to facilitate funding for Lashkar attacks in India, and as the US State Department’s man to broker since 2005 an elusive truce with the so-called “Good Taliban”, and finally as an arms/funds supplier for the Qaeda-backed Pakistani Pashtun Taliban group Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Pakistan’s Waziristan region.
“He was one of four Pakistanis who reportedly held a clandestine meeting with the visiting American Undersecretary of State for Public Affairs Karen Hughes and other senior US officials at Serena Hotel in Islamabad on November 14, 2005, to broker a deal between the Taliban and the US and is believed to have been kidnapped by Pakistani intelligence agencies later,” Raman said.
“The State Department had known about him at least since 2005. Has the US government now decided belatedly to act against him because he failed to deliver on the question of a peace deal with the so-called good Taliban,” he asked.
The Maharashtra Police Anti-Terrorism Squad’s chief K P Raghuvanshi, when asked about Qasmani, said: “Funds for the blasts were brought to Mumbai and Pune from Riyadh through hawala channels by two local Lashkar operatives, Faisal Sheikh and Sohail Sheikh, who are in custody. When we nab the two absconding accused, software professionals Rahil Sheikh and Rizwan Daware, who funnelled the money from Riyadh, then we could know of Qasmani’s role and the origin of that fund.”
Former joint director of the Intelligence Bureau Maloy Dhar suspects Qasmani is “actually Arif Qaswani, a Dawood gang smuggler who was staying in Mumbai’s Bhendi Bazaar (Ali Ahmed Road) till the early ’90s before fleeing to Pakistan.”