Harmeet’s killing in Pakistan linked to fight over drug money

Khalistan Liberation Force leader was wanted in 17 cases by Indian agencies

Published - February 03, 2020 04:13 am IST - NEW DELHI

Avtar Singh, Harmeet Singh’s father, speaking to the press in Amritsar.

Avtar Singh, Harmeet Singh’s father, speaking to the press in Amritsar.

The killing of Harmeet Singh “PHD”, the alleged Khalistan Liberation Force leader who was gunned down in Pakistan’s Lahore this past week, is the fallout of a rivalry between three groups over control on drug money, suspect enforcement agencies.

“There is an ongoing rivalry between Pakistan-based Khalistani groups led by Harmeet Singh, Khalistan Zindabad Force’s Ranjit Singh Neeta, and Paramjit Singh Panjwar of the Khalistan Commando Force. Initial reports suggest that drug money has been a major factor,” said an official.

Harmeet Singh was wanted by various Indian agencies, including the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Punjab Police, in 17 cases.

“The CBI is pursuing a case registered in August 2016, while the NIA is probing seven cases. Provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Explosive Substances Act, and the Arms Act, have also been invoked against him,” the official said.

Heroin trafficking

The official said the recent spurt in trafficking of Afghan-origin heroin through traditional sea routes via Pakistan had led to generation of huge money for the syndicates that were also being used to push weapons into India for terror activities.

Preliminary investigations into the seizure of about 200 kg of heroin worth close to ₹2,000 crore in the international market in Amritsar’s Sultanwind village earlier this week have indicated that it was part of a bigger contraband consignment that landed at Mandvi in Gujarat last year via a sea route.

Punjab’s Special Task Force has arrested six persons, including an Afghan national, for their role in the smuggling. “The latest case also shows that Punjab has also become a destination for large-scale consumption of heroin,” the official said.

The agencies have come across several instances that establish sea routes taken earlier by gold smugglers in the 1970s are now being used for the trafficking of heroin.

Mozambique transit

While such drug seizures were recently made from Gujarat in India, and in Maldives and Sri Lanka, the latest case was reported from Mozambique, which is now said to have become a major transit point for the smuggling of Afghan-origin heroin via Pakistan to Europe.

In December, off the coast of the northern province of Cabo Delgado, Mozambique’s Navy and National Criminal Investigation Service (SERNIC) forces arrested 13 Pakistani nationals. They were allegedly attempting to smuggle more than 430 kg of heroin on a boat.

Earlier, in the same month, the Mozambican agencies had detained 12 Iranian nationals in a similar operation.

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