The revelations in the Samjhauta bombing case have brought the spotlight back on Arif Qasmani,a Lashkar-e-Toiba financier,who has been designated a global terrorist for facilitating the Samjhauta attack as well as the 2006 Mumbai local train bombings.
Now that investigators are convinced that Samjhauta was attacked by Hindu extremists led by Aseemanand,South Block officials are wondering about Qasmani.
Pakistan had always pointed a finger at India-based groups for the attack,but its voice became feeble after the US Treasury Department designated Qasmani a global terrorist in June 2009. This was followed by the UN placing Qasmani under the 1267 Al-Qaeda and Taliban sanctions list.
In return for Qasmanis support,Al-Qaida provided him with operatives to support the July 2006 train bombing in Mumbai,India,and the February 2007 Samjota Express bombing in Panipat,India. Qasmani also facilitated the movement of Al-Qaida personnel out of Afghanistan in 2001, states the UNs narrative summary justifying the action against Qasmani. The US justification is similar.
Senior government sources now say US agencies linked Qasmani with the Samjhauta case on their own,and that India had nothing to do with it. Unlikely as it may appear that the US did not share this detail with Indian authorities,the fact is that New Delhi did not reject this either and,in fact,used it to tell Islamabad that Samjhauta was plotted in Pakistan.
Qasmani last came on the radar of Indian interrogators some time in 2004-05,during the interrogation of one Abdul Razaq,a Hyderabad resident who,inspired by extremists,went to Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. Razaq revealed that he had first seen Qasmani in Muzaffarabad,while he was in the service of Lashkar-e-Toiba founder Hafiz Saeed.
Saeed had introduced Razaq to Qasmani,and after discussions,it had been decided that Razaq would travel to Karachi with Qasmani and work for him there. According to US agencies,Qasmani was close to Dawood Ibrahim,through whom he plotted the Mumbai train attacks.
According to Razaqs interrogation,Qasmani was a wealthy Karachi businessman who owned several vehicle showrooms. He was also a key LeT financier but as Razaq revealed,Qasmani had begun having serious differences with Saeed by 2003-04.
Qasmani apparently wanted LeT to actively participate in the Taliban-Al Qaeda campaign against the West. Under ISI patronage,Saeed firmly rejected this line.
That,however,did not stop Qasmani,who had begun to strengthen his links in North and South Waziristan. Razaq has admitted that he was routinely assigned to accompany vehicles with all kinds of aid to Pakistans northwestern parts.
Soon,the differences with Saeed became unmanageable and Qasmani split from the LeT and formed a group called Khair-un-Nas.
Razaq,who is now in Hyderabad prison,maintained that most of the aid was humanitarian in nature but he would provide logistic help and shelter to Al Qaeda and Taliban members. This was believed to have irked the ISI which leaned on Saeed to move against Qasmani. When these attempts failed,the agency seems to have moved against him on its own.
Subsequently,it came to light that Qasmanis family had filed a police complaint some time in November 2005 that he had suddenly gone missing. They later alleged that he had been picked up by security agencies. The Mumbai train attacks happened in July 2006 and Samjhauta in February 2007 and Razaq could not explain in whose care Qasmani was at that time.
He had left a little before that,Razaq said,after an Iraqi mujahid,who worked for some time in Af-Pak,called him to wage jihad in Iraq.
Razaq was held by Iranian officials on the Iraq border and sent back to India,where he was arrested on arrival. He is the last man to have spoken about Qasmani to Indian interrogators.