Botched ISI operation led to clerics’ detention in Pakistan


NEW DELHI, Mar. 26: The detention of two clerics from Delhi's famous Nizamuddin Dargah in Pakistan was likely to have been the result of a botched ISI operation as there was nothing remotely suspicious or out of place in their visit to Lahore.

The account now available suggests that the uncle-nephew duo of Asif Nizami and Nizam Nizami were detained by Pakistan intelligence operatives earlier this week on the suspicion that Nizam's frequent visits indicated an underhand agenda. Sources said that the "khadims" were only visiting Pakistan as the Nizamuddin Dargah attracts a sizeable following and that the men had not deviated from their visa permits. The duo did not travel to Sindh or make any attempt to establish contact with MQM activists as was suggested.

The detention was preceded by a convenient "report" in a local publication raising doubts over the khadims being in Pakistan and the possible purpose of the visit. The detentions were possibly spurred by the suspicion that the frequent trips of Nizam to Pakistan had probably been "facilitated" by the Indian government. Asif Nizami, the older of the two, seems to have become a collateral victim as he had genuinely travelled to Pakistan on the invitation of his sister and was not as frequent a visitor as his nephew. The visits of Nizam Nizami to Pakistan were apparently motivated by a desire to meet followers and raise funds, said sources.




The Pakistan intelligence's questioning of the two did not yield anything substantial and, meanwhile, diplomatic heat had mounted leading to the clerics being set free and allowed to return to India. There is also a view that the Sufi affiliations of the two may have raised hackles in Pakistan as orthodox sections do not see such traditions to be in conformity with sanctioned religion. Sufi shrines have been attacked in Pakistan by extremist groups who see them as heretic outgrowths and intelligence agencies also reflect a fairly orthodox mindset, it is felt.

However, the unilateral operation, perhaps carried out without the political authorities being kept in the loop, seems to have backfired. As heat over the incident rose following external affairs minister of India Sushma Swaraj's strong intervention, the agencies involved had no option but to find reasons for the detentions and subsequently release the clerics.




Pakistani authorities had initially denied any knowledge of the whereabouts of the two men.(TOI)



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