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 Ali Kamran Chishti , Praveen Swami | 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.

Also read: Navy calls off Porbandar base inauguration event

“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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First Published on: January 5, 2015 3:16 am
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    GODISONE
    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.
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      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!
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        Aban
        Jan 6, 2015 at 7:34 am
        Good work by Coast guard, good that the entire crew was killed. Why Congress is against????????
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          Abhishek
          Jan 5, 2015 at 5:57 am
          But the question remains unanswered- even if they were narcotic smugglers, would they have blown themselves up?
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            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.
            Reply
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              Salil
              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....
              Reply
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                Salil
                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...
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                1. S
                  Salil
                  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...
                  Reply
                  1. S
                    Salil
                    Jan 5, 2015 at 8:24 am
                    even haven't heard of terrorist killing themselves without killing anyone else? din't they had a option of colliding with Coast guard vessel and exploding themselves....? Just a taught...
                    Reply
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                      Salil
                      Jan 5, 2015 at 8:26 am
                      sorry Fakir.... Defense Minister said Suspected terror boat.... and Maybe they were terrorist... never said he has confirmed news about it.. is this how the Defence Minister of any country talk and leave the topic open for interpretation....
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                        Salil
                        Jan 5, 2015 at 8:31 am
                        sorry, when did Coast Guard said this was a terror boat? it is only BJP and Defence Ministter saying and that too they "Suspect" and "IT may be" ... no concrete statement yet..
                        Reply
                        1. S
                          Salil
                          Jan 5, 2015 at 8:21 am
                          what are the evidence for it to be a terror boat? MoD has issued statement like a small kid child "Maybe it was a terror boat or why would they blow themselves up".. Is this how Defence Minister talk and leave the topic open for interpretation?
                          Reply
                          1. S
                            Salil
                            Jan 5, 2015 at 8:28 am
                            when did Coast guard said it was a terror boat? its only Defence Minister saying using the word like "Suspected" and "May Be" and "Seems"... no concrete statement...
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                              neeraj agrawal
                              Jan 5, 2015 at 5:07 am
                              i think me swami is the same reporter who claimed that the soldiers who were beheaded by pak army have gone to pak territory on their own. such reporter beleive the pak version more than their own country.
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                                Alok Asthana
                                Jan 6, 2015 at 6:07 am
                                I do. Not sure, but a lot of things simply do not add up. Till they do, I'll remain suious.
                                Reply
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                                  Aks
                                  Jan 6, 2015 at 11:24 pm
                                  The authors are correct. The ship contained innocent Baloch tourists who were merely selling drugs and were hence ok to enter India. Kudos for such investigative reports.
                                  Reply
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                                    Shrikant
                                    Jan 7, 2015 at 5:49 pm
                                    you are lier PRAVEEN SWAMIyou think we indians are fools.how much mony isi gave for this artical.they were terrorists not drug mafia.s:www.youtube/watch?...
                                    Reply
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                                      Amar Sachan
                                      Jan 5, 2015 at 4:41 am
                                      Very good to see that some people in the name of journalism threshing the image of India & It cost gourds good works. Those who deals with drugs item, they can deals with the Arms & ammunition & terrorism. they are not the Prophet of piece.
                                      Reply
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                                        Abhishek Anand
                                        Jan 6, 2015 at 5:17 am
                                        What does Praveen Swamy means when he says "the boat was destro in controversial cirstances".What a shame that Indian Express has chosen to believe its "stani sources" and not Indian intelligence agencies and coast guard. And then you have the balls to publish such an artice.Such a shame. Such a shame.
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                                          Playfair
                                          Jan 6, 2015 at 6:38 am
                                          Praveen Swamy must be made head of Indian Intelligence! A few phone calls here and there and you get the gospel truth! The bloody needs to needs to interviewed by real journalists.
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                                            Playfair
                                            Jan 6, 2015 at 11:15 am
                                            Praveen swamy must be made the Head of Inteligence. A few phone calls here and there, bingo, mystery solved!
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