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Association of Retired Senior IPS Officers (ARSIPSO)

This is with reference to my letter No. ARSIPSO/GS-BSD-4/2023 dated. 10/08/2023 on the 4th B.S. Das Memorial Lecture, which had to be rescheduled for unavoidable reasons.

The 4th B.S.Das Memorial Lecture to be delivered by Shri Anil Kumar Sinha, IAS (Retd.), on the subject Disaster Management: Creating Safer Communities, has now been rescheduled for October 14, 2023 as per the following:

Conference Room No. 2, India International Centre, Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi, October 14, 2023 (Saturday)



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Zulfi, The man in the waiting room

 
 

One morning in early January 1965 the newspapers carried a startling piece of news. A serving Air Force Officer had been caught red handed passing secret air force documents to the Pakistan High Commission, New Delhi. The reports claimed this was the first ever arrest of a defence service officer for espionage.

Credible information was being received by the Govt. from 1963 that the Pakistan Govt. was in regular receipt of all the vital information about the Indian Air Force. A high level leak was suspected. Counterintelligence was under pressure to locate the Pakistan agent in the Indian Air Force.

Counter intelligence had a fair idea about the goings on in the Pakistan High Commission. It was well aware about the surreptitious visits of shady characters, but had been unable to place a name and address on any one of them. The suspected leak had to be one of these characters. The question was how to break through the security barrier, provided to all such individuals, in order to identify.

After several trials and errors a new plan was put into place. As the visits of all such persons to the Pak High Commission were invariably nocturnal, the plan provided for special surveillance of all the exit points of the High Commission between 8PM and 6 AM next day, continuously for three months. The teams had to report by walkie talkie in coded language to an outpost nearby, specially created and housed in a rented space. Contacts in the High Commission, on the payroll of the Counter intelligence, were instructed to seek night duty shifts and were briefed to telephone their handlers from any neighbouring public phone about the suspicious visit of any outsider to the High Commission during these hours. On receipt of a call from a contact, the case officer of the contact was required to fix a rendezvous immediately with the contact in the neighbourhood to debrief him and plan further action.

The operation yielded many leads but all proved false when suddenly a clue came to a case officer late on a Friday night that January month. His agent reported that an individual in his thirties had arrived at the High Commission around 9PM in a taxi with a heavy suit case. The visitor had been taken to the office of the Air Attaché of the High Commission where he was being served drinks; Food had been ordered for him from a nearby Hotel Ambassador and was yet to arrive. The suitcase was full of documents which were now being serially photocopied.

The case officer asked his agent to meet him again after half an hour with the latest information. Meanwhile, he alerted the mobile surveillance teams to be especially vigilant for vehicles leaving the High Commission very early in the morning. It was felt that the documents, considering their numbers, would easily take 5 to 6 hours to copy. Thereafter, the visitor would be taken out by a High Commission car since no taxi could be relied upon to be secure enough. The case officer met his agent hourly to know the latest about the visitor.
Around 3AM he reported that the visitor had had his dinner but the document copying had not been completed since the volume was enormous. However he seemed to be getting anxious to leave. A vehicle had been readied to drive him out of the High Commission and to drop him at a place of his choice.

The mobile teams were immediately put on maximum alert. They were also cautioned to expect a decoy car since the High Commission would like to be sure that no surveillance was in place. The decoy car was to be ignored.

Around 4 AM a vehicle, with diplomatic number plates, emerged from the main gates of the High Commission. Besides the driver the vehicle was seen to have two more persons. As this vehicle was suspected to be a decoy, it was ignored. Within 15 minutes it returned to the High Commission, convinced that the High commission was not under observation at that unearthly hour. If this vehicle came out again after about 10 minutes or so, it would be certain to have the elusive visitor within.

Sure enough the vehicle re-emerged from the High Commission, with just one occupant besides the driver. The trail was picked up by three mobile teams. Communicating through walkie talkie. They kept changing the order in which they followed the High Commission car, so as to dispel any suspicion that it was under observation.
The visitor wanted apparently to reach his destination while it was still dark. The High Commission car did not try many manoeuvres to throw away any surveillance and sped towards the Old Delhi Railway Station. The unknown man got out. He was carrying only a brief case. He entered the Upper class waiting room and sat down in a chair.
The surveillance team surmised that he would soon be catching a train when he would get lost since his identity still remained unknown. It also appeared, as members of the team were repeatedly checking on his presence within the room, that he had become suspicious of being under observation.

All these developments had been in the meanwhile reported to the Counterintelligence HQrs. They had in turn got in touch with the police to depute an officer to meet the case officer at the Railway Station for organising investigations and coordination.

As the two met at the station and were conferring on the step to be taken next, word was brought in that the man in the waiting room suddenly came out of the room, headed towards the taxi stand, and had left in a taxi in the direction of the Red Fort. The number of the taxi had been noted. There was no time to be lost now. The case officer and the police officer together speeded in the direction of the Red Fort. As their luck was in, the taxi was spotted just after the Red Fort. Racing ahead, they overtook the taxi and forced it to halt.
Inside, a young man in thirties was sitting. The police officer identified himself to him and asked him to identify himself in turn. The man started stuttering. The police officer took over his brief case and opened it. Inside lay wads of currency notes, packs of duty free 555 state express cigarettes and a bottle of whiskey, with a stamp of duty free import. The man was asked to explain how he got the stuff and where was he headed, All he could mumble was that he was going to the Pakistan High Commission. By this time the mobile teams had also reached the spot. Three men from the team seated themselves in the taxi which was then brought to the Police Station.

On interrogation at the Police Station the man identified himself as Wing Commander Malik, posted at an IAF station. He confessed that he was working for the Pakistan High Commission for Rs. 5000 per month as an espionage agent since more than a year back. He would visit Delhi once a month, arriving Friday night with a bagful of documents and return to Ambala Saturday morning by train from Delhi. Thus he would not be missed at Ambala. The documents brought by him would be copied and returned immediately. On this occasion the papers brought by him were voluminous and could not therefore be copied all. He had left them at the High Commission to be collected next week on a similar visit. On enquiry he told that he was in need of money and himself had gone to the High Commission, offering his services against payment.

Part II
Malik was in a panic and was ready to cooperate in whatever manner required. With his assistance, it was decided to launch another operation, then and there, to retrieve the documents and arrest the man from the High Commission who would bring them to give to Malik. Since the person would have diplomatic immunity, clearance at the highest level from the MEA was taken within minutes to arrest the courier whoever he might be.
Malik was kept in protective custody the whole day and late in the evening was shifted to Hotel Pearl, which enjoyed a good standing with the police. At about 10 PM Malik was asked to telephone the Air Attaché at his residence. Malik had been given the code name of Zulfi by the Air Attache, to be used in an emergency for urgent contact.When the Air Attache came on the line identifying himself as Zulfi, Malik informed him that he had to return immediately as the stuff he had left behind was needed urgently at home. The Air Attache asked him where he was. Malik replied “Pearl Hotel”. The Air Attache asked him to hang up and he would call him up. Almost immediately Malik was called up by the Attache who wanted to check on the identity and whereabouts of Malik. On receiving the call Malik informed the Attache that a senior officer had asked to see some of those papers on Monday and if he got them back by the evening he would be able to replace them by returning to his place by an evening train.
Malik’s message was a shock to the Air Attache; He understood the catastrophic consequences of the whole thing blowing up and readily agreed to return the whole lot. He told Malik to meet at 6 PM next day at Delhi Railway Station when his number 2 would hand over the suitcase with documents to him near the bookstall at platform no. 1
The next day at 5.45 PM the same High Commission car was seen entering the Delhi Rly. Station. It parked at the VIP area where cars’ with diplomatic number plates were allowed to park. Out came two people, one the driver who carried a suitcase, and another, obviously a senior person. Together, they moved towards the bookstall on platform number 1.
Malik had not been brought to the scene but the place was unobtrusively manned by nearly a dozen policemen from the CID, all in civilian clothes. Their leader asked the two men as they reached the bookstall, whether they were from the Pak High Commission. They were taken aback but admitted they indeed were. One of the CID men took hold of the suitcase and snapped it open since it was not locked. Inside were scores of documents with IAF markings. The two were told that they were under arrest and had to accompany them to the Police Station. The two claimed diplomatic immunity and said they could not be arrested. The CID team leader gave them no choice and said that all that they were saying could be stated to their senior officers at the Police Station.

The two High Commission employees were escorted to the Police Station where they were asked to produce their identity cards. They had none. They were also not ready to explain how these documents came into their possession. They were told that under these circumstances they had to wait till they were identified by a suitable representative of the High Commission. All these proceedings were duly recorded in the daily diary of the PS.
The Counter intelligence conveyed all these details, omitting operational particulars, to MEA who in turn got in touch with the High Commission, informing it that two individuals with incriminating official secret documents, had been picked up by the Delhi Police. The two individuals had claimed to be employees of the High Commission and would a diplomat of the High Commission come to the named PS to identify and take charge of the two individuals. The High Commission first denied that any of its personnel could be involved, They relented when their names, as given by them, and their designations were provided. They were also permitted to talk to them over the telephone.
At about 11 PM a First Secretary of the High Commission arrived at the PS. On his identifying the two they were handed over to the First Secretary after taking a written acknowledgement.

Diplomatic immunity saved the two but Wing Commander Malik was to pay for his treachery. He was court marshalled and sentenced to 14 years rigorous imprisonment.


The views and facts stated above are entirely the responsibility of the author and do not reflect the views of this Association in any manner.

 
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