Increasing footprint of Pakistani smuggling networks in Myanmar

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LOOKEAST EXCLUSIVE

The arrest of two Burmese nationals Khin Maung Win and Kar Mar Din, in Bangkok on October 9, for their involvement in drug trafficking and the fake documentation racket has revealed that Pakistan is increasingly using Myanmar as the ingress point to pump fake Indian currency notes (FICN) into India.

During their questioning, the two suspects informed the Thai police that they were being used as couriers to transport large consignments of FICN from Bangkok, via Myanmar, into India. The suspects named two Pakistani nationals, Muhammad Salim and Muhammad Nadeem, as the main operators of this network.  Based on the information provided by the suspects, raids were carried out at two locations in Bangkok and FICN worth Rupees 3.6 million recovered.

ISI, has been pushing FICN into India through countries in South and South East Asia like Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia and Myanmar. Lately, it has come to notice that FICN is also been routed through China

Pakistan’s involvement in the production and circulation of FICN has long been established, and the country’s intelligence agency, the ISI, has been pushing FICN into India through countries in South and South East Asia like Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia and Myanmar. Lately, it has come to notice that FICN is also been routed through China.

What should be a matter of concern for Myanmar is that usually FICN networks are also closely linked to terror groups. According to David Coleman Headley, the key Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) operative linked to the Mumbai attacks of November 2008, the ISI has been funding these terror groups from its trade in FICN, while also using them for distribution of FICN. During his interrogation by US authorities, Headley has admitted that he was given FICN worth Rs. 250,000 by his handlers in Pakistan for his visit to India, for reconnaissance of targets for the attack.

Meanwhile, the links of Pakistani terror groups like the LeT with groups in Myanmar is also increasingly coming to notice. According to our security agencies, the recent attack against Myanmar police personnel in  Maungdaw, that resulted in the death of 8 policemen, was carried out by cadres of Aqa Mul Mujahideen (AMM), an offshoot of  Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami-Arakan (HUJI-A), having links to the LeT. The leader of AMM, Hafiz Tohar, was trained in Pakistan.

Fortunately, the common threat posed to countries in the region from the growing presence of Pakistan-based terror groups, and their use of cross-border criminal networks to funnel money and arms/explosives, have also pushed their intelligence agencies towards greater coordination and intelligence sharing. In the recent past, this increased cooperation led to the detection of many such cross-border criminal networks.

On a tip-off by Indian intelligence agencies to their counterparts in Colombo and Beijing, Pakistani national Faiz Muhammad was arrested in Guangzhou (China), carrying FICN worth Rs 2.5 million from Pakistan. During interrogation, Faiz revealed that at the behest of his ISI masters in Pakistan, he was engaged in smuggling FICN through China for quite sometime, and on this occasion, had arrived in China via Colombo on August 19, 2016.

As amply demonstrated by recent events, given the complex network of terror groups and criminal syndicates working across borders, the only way to defeat them will be through real time sharing of intelligence between security agencies of all responsible countries in the region.

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