Wednesday, March 31, 2010

brush with intelligence -- II

the brigadier was v keen on attending some of the seminars and i told him politely thaty he knew where they were held and was welcome to going to ASR and attending them -- the meeting attended uneventfully and needless to say i never forwarded the brig or the good col any stories that my newspaper did not carry -- or carry

the second time was when i was going to India to attend a seminar at the Centre for Science and Environment in New Delhi -- this was in 2002 when the neighbours came close to war -- india had deployed its army at the border with pakistan and the latter had responded -- the NGO that sent the invitation was obviously well connected because i got a call from the indian embassy informing me that my visa had been approved -- the situation was so bad that when i got on to the shuttle in islamabad (which one takes from the convention centre, to go to various embassies), the driver wasnt even willing to stop at the indian high commission -- he kept on saying 'yeh log visa naheen deh rahay' -- i had to almost force him to stop -- i got off and i walked to the gate with a backpack in my hand -- and quickly walked in -- around 50 or so yards away i could see two men -- one in shalwar kameez and the other in jeans and a shirt gesturing to me to stop -- i knew these were intelligence people who approach every visa seeker at the indian high commission -- i ignored them and went inside -- there i was ushered into a waiting area -- a large bronze statue of gandhi was there looking right at me -- i sat down and then was taken to a larger room -- a man with a trimmed moustache walked in -- he introduced himself as vipin handa and he was in charge of visas at the embassy -- now the general assumption is that people associated with visa operations in any embassy are usually, because of the nature and scope of their job, associated with intelligence services -- this man was very well spoken and said that he was a good friend of the publisher of the paper i was working at (dawn at that time) -- he said his parents were from gujranwala and that he had fond memories of visiting that town though he himself was born in india -- he talked to me about politics in sindh and in particular wanted to know my opinion on why the MQM had announced a boycott of the local government elections that had been scheduled just then -- he talked about many other things as well and we had to indulge in this chit-chat because my passport was being stamped with the visa --

visa given (thank god it was non-reporting) i was led to the gate -- i walked out and one of the intelligence men -- the one in shalwar kameez -- came to me and very angrily said 'tum andar kiyun gaye thay jab hum nay tumhain roka tha?' -- i tried not to lose my cool and told him that he should get on with his 'job', which basically was to go through my passport and jot down my visa details -- he did this all the while huffing and puffing and eventually i told him to, more or less, shut it telling him that he shouldnt complain because he was getting to do what had been assigned to do in any case -- this made him only angrier but luckily for all of us he had to rush somewhere -- presumably to Aabpara -- as he left the other intelligence man came and spoke to me -- he was far more polite and said that the other guy was a hawaldar and that this was to be expected of 'people like him' -- this man was from the civilian IB --

a few weeks later, tensions escalated further and pakistan and india both expelled each other's diplomats -- the indian man to go was vipin handa, who was shown in several pakistani newspapers (including dawn) walking with his two labradors and children across to India at Wagah --

a couple of years later i was trawling the internet and i came across an obituary in the hindu -- it was of a man called vipin handa who it said was killed in a 'freak accident' at an office situation close to the prime minister's secretariat -- mr handa was said to be one of the service's best officers who died prematurely when the lift he was travelling in malfunctioned and fell from a higher floor -- Mr Handa was said to be working of India's Research and Analysis Wing, the report in The Hindu said further.

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