Amid the bloodshed that Partition brought along, two among the hundreds of thousands who crossed over to the newly created country of Pakistan were the grandparents of Zia-ur-Rehman alias Waqas, who is the second Pakistani national arrested for alleged links with the terror outfit Indian Mujahideen.
Waqas’ grandparents were from Phagwara in Punjab’s Jalandhar district. The family settled down in the Pakistani side of Punjab where Toba Tek Singh Waqas was born in 1989. From his formative days, according to the Delhi Police, he was exposed to anti-India rhetoric spread by extremist groups that recruited youngsters for terror.
Yasin Bhatkal, during interrogation, described Waqas as over six-feet-tall and weighing 100 kg. He also described him as “lazy”, with “silky blackish hair, a round face, pointed nose and sharp facial features.” He knows Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu.
Foreign tourists, particularly Jewish ones from Israel, coming to Rajasthan, Delhi, Maharashtra and Goa were his prime targets, Yasin purportedly revealed. At a later stage, sources said, Yasin and some other members of the outfit had developed differences with Waqas. However, his expertise in bomb-making made him indispensable.
Waqas’ first major brush with extremist ideology was at 17, while at college, when he was introduced to the hate speeches by the fugitive Maulana, Masood Azhar. He resolved to “wage war against India.”
“Subsequently in 2009, one Taj Mohammed who collected donations for the Lashkar-e-Taiba front Jamat-ud-Dawa arranged for his training at a Naushera camp,” said Special Commissioner of Police S.N. Shrivastava.
At another camp in the Waziristan Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) of Pakistan, Waqas specialised in making bombs using hydrogen peroxide, potassium chloride and ammonium nitrate. He was then sent to Karachi where he met the IM’s founder-brothers, Riyaz and Iqbal Bhatkal. During interrogation, he purportedly disclosed that he then went to Samastipur in Bihar via Nepal, where he met Ahmad Siddibapa Zarar alias Yasin Bhatkal and other members of the IM’s Bihar module.
When Improvised Explosive Devices planted by the module in the Jama Masjid attack in September 2010 failed to make an impact, Waqas allegedly offered to employ his bomb-making expertise for other projects, including what culminated in the explosions in Varanasi the same year. However, one of the bombs being made by Waqas went off prematurely, injuring two fingers.
Waqas was then sent to Mumbai to prepare for the blasts that took place at Opera House and Zaveri Bazar in June 2011. In the Pune serial blasts about a year later, he along with Asadullah Akhtar aka Haddi and members of the Maharashtra module of the IM joined hands. Then Waqas and Haddi fled to Mangalore
The outfit’s next target was Hyderabad. After Yasin and Haddi were arrested by the National Investigation Agency at Raxaul in Bihar last August, Riyaz directed Waqas to leave the Mangalore hideout. He then moved to Munnar in Kerala where fugitive Tehseen Akhtar met him.