Pakistani spy’s dead wife’s life was a mystery like her death, say neigbhours
New Delhi: Until Saturday morning, when the decomposed body of a 51-year-old woman in the Chandni Mahal area was found inside her house, not many in this busy Walled City neighbourhood knew who she really was. For most residents, Mumtaz Parveen was a temperamental woman who lived alone and kept to herself, fed cats regularly, and fought with neighbours over trivial issues.
It was only after her mysterious death last week that people got to know that she was a Pakistani national who was once arrested for spying, circulating counterfeit currency, and helping operatives of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence. She was also convicted in related charges in 2007, but was released from the jail a year later on health grounds.
A little after midnight on Saturday, Delhi Police broke open house number 480 in Chatta Lal Miyan bylane where Mumtaz lived and found her decomposed body inside. The nature of the injuries on her body suggested that she was murdered. Police have registered a case of murder but are yet to arrest anyone.
Locals are curious as to how nobody knew that a convicted prisoner with links to Pakistani intelligence lived in their midst, and who murdered her and why.
“I have seen her for 10-15 years but knew nothing about her past, especially her Pakistan connection. She lived alone and did not interact with anyone. We always saw her feeding cats. She would buy meat from a butcher here nearby and feed cats outside. Her kids lived in Meerut but did not visit her. This was also strange,” Fahim (45), who goes by a single name, said on Tuesday afternoon.
Other neighbours said Mumtaz fought over trivial issues like water flowing outside her house or people dumping garbage outside her house.
“Maybe our elders knew about her past but no one viewed her with suspicion. She appeared harmless,” said another neighbour, requesting anonymity.
A copy of Parveen’s 2000 interrogation report after her arrest by Delhi Police’s Special Cell said she was born in Meerut and studied up to Class 5. She reportedly told the police that she dropped out and started doing daily chores “because of financial constraints”.
At 15, she married a man named Sultan from Meerut and had three children with him. But by 1989, they had separated. “She was divorced by her husband because he did not like her hi-fi lifestyle,” the interrogation report said.
The report said Parveen first visited Pakistan with her mother around 1990 to meet her maternal aunt in Karachi. There she married a man named Abdul Wahab Khan, a senior leader of the Muhajir Qaumi Movement-Haqiqi. In 1993, she got Pakistani citizenship. But that marriage also lasted only six years because she was unable to have a child.
In 1996, while visiting India, Parveen met Kamran Gawhar, an ISI spy deported twice from India, onboard the Samjhauta Express. The police report says Gawhar, during this trip, convinced her to stay with him.
When she returned to Pakistan, she filed for divorce and Khan paid her a sum of ₹10 lakh as alimony. She later confessed to the police about helping Gawhar pass off as an Indian national and circulate fake currency.
On January 24, 2000, when she was arrested with Gawhar, police had also found fake currency of the face value of ₹8,000 on her. Police records show that Gawhar had entered India in 1994 and was deported in April 1999. He re-entered India under a false name in July 1999 and was deported in late 2000.
“They were arrested by the Special Cell. She was a key operative of the ISI. She was even convicted by a court. We had all forgotten about this woman until Sunday when we heard the news of her murder. The murder is certainly not connected to terrorism. For Pakistan, she was of no use,” said an officer, who asked not to be named.
While most of her neighbours said they knew nothing about Parveen’s past, Mohammed Ahmed Saifi (age), a social worker and resident of the area, claimed she had once divulged details of her past. “Maybe there are a few like me, who knew she was a Pakistan national. She treated me like her own brother. Maybe she wanted to share her life story,” said Saifi who knew her for the past 15 years.
He also recalled her telling him once that Khan was a “high-ranking officer” in Pakistan. “They separated when he found out that Mumtaz had undergone tubectomy after having three children at a young age. I also have faint memories of Gawhar, who lived with her, in another house nearby. She was not always a Pakistan national but she died as one,” Saifi said.
While police are yet to arrest anyone for her murder, Saifi suspected that the murder could be the result of a property dispute or enmity.
“I spoke to her during the lockdown. There was a man named Wakil Ahmed who visited her. She had told me that Ahmed was murdered earlier this year and that her life is also in danger. But she also told some other neighbours that the man died of Covid-19. She was mysterious all her life. Her death is also one,” Saifi said.
According to police, Gawhar was deported around nine years ago after completing his sentence. They said Gawhar and Mumtaz were married and initially lived in Karol Bagh area.
Pakistan High Commission officials said they have not been informed of the reported case. “ Once they inform us about the case, we will ascertain if the deceased was indeed a Pakistan national or not,” an official, who asked not to be named, said.