Pakistan boat trail allegedly linked to Karachi-based drug mafia

On December 31, Indian Coast Guard said it had tracked vessel using coordinates transmitted by Thuraya satellite phone set of crew.

Written by Praveen Swami , Ali Kamran Chishti | Karachi/london | Updated: January 5, 2015 10:43 am
Pakistan boat, Pak boat explosion, Porbandar boat explosion, Karachi, The vessel, Qalandar, was captained by a Karachi resident.

Investigators in Karachi have identified the fishing boat destroyed on New Year’s Eve during an Indian Coast Guard operation as a vessel allegedly linked to a drug mafia based in Pakistan, highly-placed police sources said.

The sources told The Indian Express that the 25-foot vessel, named Qalandar, was captained by Yaqboob Baloch, a resident of the gang war-torn Lyari town in Karachi. They said that Pakistani counter-narcotics investigators believe the boat often carried contraband for the Balochistan-based drug cartel of Mir Yakub Bizenjo, a fugitive named by the US in 2009 as a leading player in the trans-border trade of narcotics.

When contacted, captain Baloch’s mother, Ayesha Bibi, told The Indian Express that she had heard “rumours” of the destruction of her son’s boat after it was intercepted by the Indian Coast Guard. She added, however, that she had received no information that her son had been killed.

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“My son had nothing to do with terrorists,” she said, adding that her family belonged to the Zikri, or Mahdavi, sect that has been targeted by jihadists for their belief that the 15th century religious activist Muhammad Jaunpuri was the Imam Mehdi, the prophesied redeemer.

Intelligence sources said that a Pakistan Navy frigate, PNS Babur, had spotted the boat loitering close to Pakistan’s exclusive economic zone, some 200 nautical miles off the coast of Karachi.

The fishing boat, the sources said, slipped further south, likely to avoid being searched by Pakistan’s coastal authorities.

Authorities in Karachi have only been able to partially identify the three other crew members on the boat, currently tagged by their first names or aliases ? Yaseen, Ibrahim and “Dhobi”.

Saeed Baloch, head of the Pakistani Fisherfolk Federation, said it could be days or even weeks before the three could be fully identified. “Fishermen go out on long tours, and are often away for months on end,” he said. “Families will only report them missing when they have reason to suspect something has gone wrong.”

The boat, police sources said, had set out from the Balochistan coast near the port of Gwadar, likely carrying a cargo of dates, as well as cases of bootleg alcohol, allegedly brought in from the Gulf ? and a consignment of heroin.

Few details were immediately available on the crew, but one police source said the men are thought to have worked for multiple criminal groups, running alcohol, diesel and drugs allegedly from and to ports from Dubai to Karachi.

Ibrahim Baloch, a Karachi-based fishing industry agent, said, “Drugs and alcohol are sometimes smuggled with the knowledge of accomplices in coast guards… In some cases, Pakistani fishermen sell it to Indian fishermen, who take the cargo into their country.”

After the boat was destroyed approximately 365 km south-west off Porbandar, India’s National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) had said that it intercepted satellite phone conversations saying the boat’s handlers were planning an unspecified illicit operation involving a valuable cargo, and interpreted this to be terrorism-linked.

The Intelligence Bureau and Research and Analysis Wing, as well as the Directorate of Military Intelligence, have since disputed this conclusion, Indian government sources said.

On December 31, the Indian Coast Guard said it had tracked the vessel using coordinates transmitted by the Thuraya satellite phone set of the crew.

After the boat was destroyed in controversial circumstances, the Defence Ministry said in a press release that “the Coast Guard ship managed to stop the fishing boat after firing warning shots.”

The release added, “Four persons were seen on the boat who disregarded all warnings by the Coast Guard ship to stop and cooperate with investigation. Soon thereafter, the crew hid themselves in a below-deck compartment and set the boat on fire, which resulted in explosion and major fire on the boat.”

The Indian Express had first reported on Saturday that Indian intelligence agencies had not established any terror link to the boat that blew up in suspicious circumstances. Forensic experts contacted by The Sunday Express noted that photographs of the burning boat showed its structure was intact, a fact inconsistent with the explosions burning munitions would normally set off.

Pakistani security sources, meanwhile, seemed sympathetic to the Indian operation. “I don’t blame the Indians with their Mumbai 26/11 experience… These looked to be petty criminals who were at a wrong place at a wrong time,” a source said.

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  1. G
    Jan 5, 2015 at 5:08 pm
    Are Drug mafia less dangerous than Terrorists? and they blown the boat, Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar was also Mafia lord and close to Sharad Pawar Maharasthra Congress.
  2. P
    Paramasivam Natarajan
    Jan 5, 2015 at 8:56 am
    When the persons have not heeded to the warning, warning shots were fired. It is correct. Coast Guard cannot risk people life's, especially after 26/11 experience. Well done CG!
    1. A
      Jan 6, 2015 at 7:34 am
      Good work by Coast guard, good that the entire crew was killed. Why Congress is against????????
      1. A
        Jan 5, 2015 at 5:57 am
        But the question remains unanswered- even if they were narcotic smugglers, would they have blown themselves up?
        1. P
          Proud Indian
          Jan 5, 2015 at 2:40 am
          Where are the BJP spokespersons now? They are in a hurry to conclude! In the last elections I voted for BJP on its development agenda. Today the same party has become a closed party. They treat all Indians except BJP workers as 'anti-national. In reality, more than these self styled patriots, we, the ordinary citizens of this country, have been living patriotism in our lives and actions from the moment of our birth.
          1. S
            Jan 5, 2015 at 8:19 am
            But Coastguard never said it was a Terror Boat, it was only BJP and now GOI is telling this and that too with the words like "Suspected", Like, and Maybe.. no concrete evidence yet....
            1. S
              Jan 5, 2015 at 8:23 am
              Coast Guard did a great job but never said it was a Terror Boat, Its Manohar saying with word like "Suspected" and Maybe?..... Morover the two pictures issued showed the boat one in daylight and other at the time of explostion which is 03:30am... and coastguard said they chase the boat for one hour before they blew up... So now the question is how did the daylight turned into night 03:30am in an hour time? and its just a photoshop for which BJP is famous for...
              1. S
                Jan 5, 2015 at 8:27 am
                Gujarat Fishermen has confirmed they haven't seen any explotion or fire or smoke... And thats the reason for there worry because now stan will try to take the revenge out on them...
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